The sustainable underwear is “designed with vaginas in mind.”
When Alexa Suter was plagued with a series of recurring UTIs in 2017, she became hyperaware of the products she was putting on her body. The Vancouver-based marketer began replacing the conventionally crafted soaps, lotions and detergents in her routine with more natural alternatives. But there was one particularly intimate swap that she says made the biggest difference for her health down there. “I noticed that if I was wearing underwear made from a natural fibre like cotton, I would feel much better than if I was wearing a synthetic nylon or polyester,” Suter says.
That observation led Suter down a rabbit hole of research, where she discovered that synthetic textiles like nylon and polyester are far from breathable and a breeding ground for odour-causing bacteria. Such man-made fabrics are also often treated with toxic compounds like formaldehyde, resins and flame retardants, some of which may trigger allergic reactions, disrupt the body’s hormonal functions and have even been linked to cancer. And while no scientific research has found a connection between these potentially harmful substances and vaginal health, Suter felt uneasy knowing synthetic fibres made up the bulk of her — and many other women’s — underwear drawers. “I kind of saw it from the viewpoint of, like, ‘Why would we use these chemicals if we know that they’re bad for our health?’” she says.
Opting for cotton skivvies, however, wasn’t enough for Suter. A serial entrepreneur, she spent the next two years developing Huha, a soon-to-launch women’s underwear line that aims to shake up a market where, aside from the emergence of period-proof panties and Rihanna’s inclusive Savage X Fenty in recent years, there’s been little women-led evolution.
Available in cheeky and thong styles, Huha’s streamlined undies are crafted from Tencel, a natural fibre produced from eucalyptus trees that’s known for its comfy, moisture-wicking and anti-bacterial properties. The liner fabric in each pair, meanwhile, is infused with zinc, a mineral that’s been shown to combat odour, bacteria and itch.
The result is underwear “designed with vaginas in mind” — a concept that’s been embraced by women with such keenness that Huha reached its crowdfunding goal of $10,700 less than a day after launching on Kickstarter in October 2019. Huha is on track to deliver its mineral undies to its loyal backers by March, by which time their products — available in utilitarian packs of three ($75) and six ($129) — will also be available online. “Underwear is something that’s so personal,” says Suter. “It’s intimate; it’s the first thing you put on your body every day. And a lot of women that we talked to and surveyed [during our research] were kind of tired of the lace and the bows and the sexy underwear that seems to be designed primarily by men.”
The sustainably produced and biodegradable nature of Tencel makes Huha an environmentally friendly choice, too. The textile is OEKO-TEX certified, which means it’s free from formaldehyde, pesticides and other harmful substances. Huha’s first run is ethically made in Hong Kong, though Suter says she’s hoping to move future production runs to Taiwan, where Huha sources its zinc-infused linings. She’s confident women will love Huha as much as she’s come to — not least because she’s now UTI-free. “I’m sure that’s due to a variety of factors,” she says. “But I know, from my own comfort, my underwear is no longer a barrier to my vaginal health.”