Inside the $1.1 Million Quest to Build the Ultimate Sports Bra
Startup Knix Wear raised $1.1 million on Kickstarter during its quest to build the world’s most advanced bra. Why the hell did it take the industry so long?
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In 1977, three Vermont women made the first sports bra by sewing together two jockstraps. Today, we have more options to choose from than ever before—seamless constructions, bespoke fits, higher-performance materials—but brands have yet to perfect the formula. Plenty of bras are little more than a rectangle of stretchy fabrics cobbled together.
Women athletes are looking for something better. Proof: the recent record-breaking Kickstarter campaign to fund “the world’s most advanced bra.” Knix Wear’s $55 Evolution Bra raised $1.1 million in 30 days to become Kickstarter’s best-funded fashion project.
“It surpassed all of our expectations,” says Knix Wear founder Joanna Griffiths. “We approached the campaign strategically, tapping into our loyal customer base, and we teased the product six months out.”
The plan worked, spurred on by pages of media coverage. (George Takei of Star Trek fame posted about Knix Wear on his Facebook page, and the company raised $100,000 within 24 hours.)
Griffiths’ goal was to invent a bra for 24/7 use. She turned to her employees, customers, and friends for field testing. “We tackle one problem at a time, and we involve our customers in even the earliest prototypes,” says Griffiths. “There is so much money going into innovation in other apparel categories, but the first thing we put on and the last thing we take off every day has been relatively ignored. That’s why we decided to tackle it.”
“There is so much money going into innovation in other apparel categories, but the first thing we put on and the last thing we take off every day has been relatively ignored,” says Knix Wear founder Joanna Griffiths.
During bra development, women streamed through the Knix Wear offices and gave real-time feedback on samples. Using that data, Knix Wear would make new prototypes and then repeat. The three designers on the Evolution Bra were nimble and able to work closely with testers.
They discovered that women were in desperate need of a low-impact sports bra for activities like hiking and gym sessions that breathed well and transitioned from the office to the gym. The Evolution’s patented bonded construction uses a special mold for every cup and band size. It has great wash durability and is as supportive as an underwire—without the underwire. You get lift, separation, and support from a material that doesn’t stink, wicks sweat, and dries quickly. Knix Wear calls the Evolution eight bras in one because it’s reversible—buy one bra, get two colors—and can be worn eight different ways, from straight back to cross back, with matching or contrasting straps.
Skeptical about the hype, I got one to test. I wore it to work, to the gym, back to work, and for six consecutive days of sweaty backcountry skiing. It wasn’t compressive—an issue I’ve had with every other sports bra I’ve tested or owned—which means I won’t wear it running or biking.
But it’s good for skiing because it’s comfortable and dries quickly. I tend to sweat a lot when I’m hiking for my turns, and most bras get so damp that I freeze. That didn’t happen with the Knix Wear. My only other complaint: after six days, the fabric had stretched out a good deal, although the company tells me this issue has been fixed in the newest iterations.
This spring, the company will relaunch its website with new fitting tools. It’ll build a photo and measurement database of at least 1,000 women. Potential customers can enter their own measurements—under the ribcage, under the armpits, and across the bust—and the system will filter possible matches.
The Evolution is for low-impact activities only, but Knix Wear is using the fit data it collected through the Evolution launch to develop a bra for runners, mountain bikers, and other athletes who need a high-impact bra. The company has also developed a padded version and added three more sizes, up to 42F, since the campaign ended.
“We just want to find a way to serve women better,” says Griffith, “to get them what they need, whether they’re going for a run or just going to the grocery store.”