In this month’s sustainable founder Q&A, we catch up with the founders behind sustainable underwear brand Pantee, to find out more about their journey to create Pantee.
Let’s jump in!
Hello! Who are you, what brand do you run, and what kind of products do you create?
I’m Katie McCourt, one half of the sister duo behind Pantee – a sustainable underwear designed to support you and the planet from top to bottom.
Why did you start Pantee? What inspired you?
Amanda and I brought Pantee to life during the Pandemic. We couldn’t find underwear that ticked all our boxes – comfy, functional, stylish and sustainable – so we set out to create our own.
We launched Pantee – the world’s first underwear brand made from deadstock t-shirts – on Kickstarter in November 2020. Since then, we have expanded into using a range of deadstock fabrics, become proud members of the 1% For The Planet Community, and planted over 450 trees with One Tree Planted.
Can you tell us more about why you chose deadstock t-shirts as a material for your underwear?
After learning about the sheer amount of waste produced by the fashion industry, we wanted to bring Pantee to life on a mission to take waste fabrics and give them a second lease of life.
We chose t-shirts as they have a great composition for soft and comfortable underwear. All of our sets are made from 95% cotton (for super soft comfort) and 5% elastane (for stretch and recovery).
Can you tell us a bit more about how you found the right suppliers to partner with?
Our production facility is run by Erdem, owner of a Buying House and Sampling room in Dhaka. Once we came to a dead end with factories due to low minimum order quantities, Erdem kindly offered us his sampling room and team of skilled machinists to help kickstart our business. We co-bought a specialist underwear machine and the rest is history.
Since day one we have had a great working relationship with Erdem, with strong communication and transparency we feel proud to manufacture in a facility where we can guarantee fair wages, healthy conditions and zero forced or child labor. In fact, Erdem’s team are paid above the average living wage and receive a bi-annual bonus.
We have recently launched socks which are made in a SEDEX approved factory in Portugal.
What do you think are the main challenges around starting a sustainable company today? How do you approach these on a day-to-day basis?
Growing your audience and reaching new customers can be a challenge! As an underwear brand, we struggle time and time again with getting ads blocked across social media channels due to them being considered ‘sexual content’.
A few months ago, we launched a campaign called the Comfort Revolution that was designed to promote female empowerment and body positivity. Sadly, we were unable to promote it as an ad due to it being blocked – we were so gutted.
Another challenge we face is keeping our audience engaged and reaching new customers without a constant stream of new products. We try to overcome this by showing our audience how versatile Pantees are. They were designed to be worn as underwear or outerwear so we have so much fun with styling videos!
In your eyes, what’s the biggest achievement or milestone of Pantee so far?
It’s been surreal to see Pantee featured by the likes of Vogue, Drapers and Stylist Magazine within months of launching. We were also thrilled to be selected as a recipient of the Klarna Small Business Support Package and named as a ‘Top Sustainable Underwear Brand’ in The Independent.
However, I think the highlight for us is really seeing how much our customers love the products. We have been racking up 5* reviews and seeing customers returning again for more products just weeks after buying their first sets. That’s definitely the most incredible part.
How do you ensure your company stays true to your mission as you grow?
This is such a good question! We are still very early on in our journey and we are producing at very low order quantities, so I can’t say that we have been faced with any decisions that would compromise our values at this stage.
However, we have had many discussions around our sustainability commitments as we grow. We have clearly defined the non-negotiable areas where we are not willing to compromise and are all aligned internally to hold these as our guiding light as we scale.
We often ask our community for their feedback on our products and try to be as transparent as possible about the way we are doing things. I personally believe that people really respect this stance, and it also keeps you accountable beyond your own team.
Have you tried a product from another sustainable/ethical brand that you think our audience should know about?
Yes! We absolutely love the team at Reboxed who sell refurbished tech to fight e-waste. If you are looking to upgrade your phone, look here first. They also sell beautiful biodegradable phone cases in a range of colours.
If you are looking for a new water bottle, check out S’wheat who sell reusable water bottles made from plants. These make fab stocking fillers for Christmas!
Finally, for anyone who isn’t yet a user of Olio, make it the next app you download. Olio is an app that helps you to share more and waste less. Couldn’t recommend it more for those looking to make more conscious choices when it comes to consumption!
What does the future hold for Pantee?
We have huge ambitions for Pantee, and our vision is to become a go-to brand for sustainable basics that don’t compromise on style, comfort or functionality.
As our first year in business comes to a close, we are excited for the year to come and will be focussing on further refinements to our product, expanding our range, growing brand awareness and amplifying our message via certifications.
We have some very exciting things in the pipeline and we can’t wait to share them!
We’ve loved catching up with Katie, and wish her all the best with Pantee. You can check out their incredible products over on their website.