It’s hard to start a blog this way without smiling, but: imagine having no underwear on.
No, seriously. I mean it. Imagine that you didn’t have any underwear at all. Because, well… you literally didn’t have any. You didn’t have money for any. Or access to any. This is what Sarah Jordan came across in 2016, whilst visiting Africa to run the Uganda marathon, and she decided to do something about it.
Hence she chose to create Y.O.U Underwear – a 100% organic cotton underwear company that has a buy-one-give-two promise so that more women don’t need to go pantless. Y.O.U., which stands for Your Own Underwear (because everybody deserves that, don’t they?) are committed to sustainable sourcing with no pesticides. They dye everything naturally, everything is fair trade, vegan and certified, and plastic use is minimised wherever possible. The result isn’t just pants that make your conscience feel good but are seriously comfortable too.
As Sarah explained to me: “We were living in and supporting local communities with different projects. One of the things I was doing was working with group of women making sanitary towels and nappies to sell. They were struggling because lots of women didn’t have any underwear to put them in.”
The girls were missing 12 weeks of school each year because every month, during the time they had their period, they couldn’t attend. Similarly, the women couldn’t go to work at this time. The knock-on impact of this was huge, in terms of their future.
“I felt I had to do something about it,” says Sarah. “I came back from Uganda annoyed and fired up – and started looking into underwear production. I wondered how could I create something that might help but soon discovered some of the issues with conventional cotton. We’re becoming more aware of the problems of the fashion industry but cotton itself is a very polluting crop that causes a lot of damage to the environment, and the pesticides used are connected to high levels of cancer in those growing. There is the equivalent of one suicide every 30 minutes amongst Indian cotton farmers because of the pressures and illnesses they are facing.”
Sarah’s view wasn’t to set up a business, but rather to do something about the situation. “My background in charity was very present. The internal message I had was: don’t do this yourself; find the right people on the ground who can do it locally and need to be targeted.”
Y.O.U. began with a kickstarter / crowdfunding campaign at the end of 2017 and started selling directly through their site in 2018. None of the images you see on the website are airbrushed. “We flatly refuse,” says Sarah: “As a woman you see all these images of unrealistic women in adverts and that’s just not right. Sure, we wanted the pictures to be a bit aspirational, but not unrealistic.”