This month we spoke to Emma Rutherford Ward, the Melbourne based beauty and brains behind VEE underwear. Em created VEE when she realised breathable, beautiful bamboo underwear that was good for not only her body, but also the environment, didn't exist anywhere in Australia. We spoke bags, bodies and the business of "vagina friendly underwear". Enjoy. (And read to the end for a special gift from VEE)
So, what’s in your VESTIRSI Bella Backpack right now?
LIFE. Because it fits SO much. In order of priority (of course): phone, laptop, chargers, lip balm, water bottle, umbrella (Melbourne things), tampons and a notebook.
Em at VEE HQ with her Black Bella Convertible Backpack
What is “vagina friendly” underwear?
Vagina friendly underwear is something I prepared earlier, Vee Underwear. Vee weaves hygienic undies from organic bamboo, which is three times as breathable as cotton, but also antibacterial, antifungal, odour-resistant and moisture-wicking. All of these properties help to support a healthy lower region, reducing the risk of vaginal irritation and exposure to yeast and fungal infections.
What is “eco-friendly” underwear?
For us, eco-friendly underwear isn’t just about the product itself but it’s about the end-to-end impact. Our goal as a business is to minimise our impact on the environment overall. But speaking to the sustainability of our underwear, all of our suppliers are both ECOCERT and FSC accredited. This means that our underwear is made from organic bamboo that has been harvested sustainably and responsibly to deliver positive environmental, social and economic impacts to the environment, staff and community. Our finished product is certified by the OEKO-TEX Standard 100 which means that it has been tested and found free of any harmful substances. And last but not least, our fabric is 100% biodegradable, as is all of our packing. Of course, we’re not perfect and our environmental footprint is something we are committed to continually innovating and improving, always.
How did you come to discover this gap in the market?
I went through a grim period in my life, where I was experiencing recurring yeast infections. And it turns out I’m not alone and 75% of women will experience thrush in their lifetime, 50% of those being recurring. After a few visits to the GP, I learnt that my synthetic underwear were the root of the problem and was advised to invest in breathable underwear. To my surprise, this ‘simple task’ quickly became impossible. Breathable underwear that fit comfortably, were sustainable and still fashionable, just didn’t exist. Further to this, underwear designed specifically to support female health absolutely didn’t exist.
And, what inspired you to “do something about it” and launch Vee?
With my background in brand and marketing, I’ve always had an itch to build my own brand. The clear opportunity for a progressive brand to shake up the underwear industry and champion the uncensored female health experience got me really excited.
What advice would you give other prospective “lady start-ups” who have an idea but are unsure what to do with it?
Talk about it. I spent over a year developing the idea and brand in secret because you know, impostor syndrome. But the second I started talking to people about it, I was committed and accountable.
What was the hardest part about launching Vee?
Product development and production. I naively thought that underwear would be a relatively easy product to develop and produce… but I was wrong, it’s highly technical. I’d recommend engaging people with the right experience and expertise from the outset, it will cost, but well worth it.
What are your top tips for managing stress and maintaining positive mental health?
Oh gosh, this is honestly an ongoing journey for me. I’m a type A personality and love everything 110%. But, the business journey will quickly teach you to lower your expectations and become excited by progress, not perfection.
My biggest tip is to set yourself business boundaries. What are you willing to sacrifice for the success of your business and where do you draw the line? What are your work hours, free hours and me hours to ensure you’re filling all of your cups?
What is success to you, and what needs to happen this year to consider the year a success?
Success is helping women to live a healthier, happier life. We’ve hit the ground running with our overachieving knickers. But next year the focus will be on building a community that can facilitate informative conversations around female health, this gets me excited.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given that you’ve integrated into your life, and seen a great outcome?
Don’t worry about things that haven’t happened yet.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given that you didn’t follow, but wish you did?
If I’ve been given good advice, I’ve followed it.
Who inspires you?
Women who speak unapologetically about their bodies.
If you could go back to a young 21 year old Emma, and give her one piece of advice, what would it be?
“You’re doing great” and “take the damn sick day”
Emma and the team at VEE would love to offer VESTIRSI customers a 10% discount of VEE products, with code VESTIRSI10 at checkout. You can shop VEE here.