For any woman who’s ever confronted the age old problem of pantyhose that tears easily, one start-up is using technology to come to the rescue.
Sheerly Genius, a company based out of San Francisco, has created what it calls the world’s first “indestructible” pair of sheer tights. Hundreds of people are buying into the concept, with The Y-Combinator-backed venture has a Kickstarter campaign that’s already more than $100,000 over its fundraising goal.
The start-up created its own material by partnering directly with a fiber manufacturer. A caveat: The tights aren’t actually bulletproof, but they use a ballistic grade fiber that claims to be up to ten times stronger than steel, while still making the hosiery sheer. A pair can hold up for decades, Sheerly claims.
“The strongest material I could think of was kevlar,” Katherine Homuth, CEO of Sheerly Genius, told CNBC recently. “Ultimately I found a fabric that was 100 denier, but was ridiculously strong.”
Pantyhose fibers are measured in denier, a unit that determines fiber thickness. To qualify as pantyhose, the fabric needs to be 100 denier or less; to be sheer instead of tights or jeans, they need to be 30 denier or less.
After years of seeing entrepreneurs tackle products like connected pens and water bottles, she wanted to focus on a problem that really frustrates people, but is often overlooked by the retail and technology industries.
“When we got our first prototype I gave them to my husband and some of his friends and said okay, can you guys try to tear through these? Ultimately we were able to get through them with a fire poker” said Homuth. She added the tights can’t be cut with scissors, and certainly hold up against everyday sourges like rings and velcro.
The process of making the tights came with their fair share of drawbacks, she explained. “It had some problems, it was white and not dyeable, it wasn’t stretchy, and if you mixed it with something stretchy it would tear right through that fiber.”
Though the tights promise to be indestructible, it became apparent that the company’s hosiery machines were not. As the team started manufacturing their first tights, the fiber was so strong it actually broke their machines.
For Homuth one of the hosiery’s biggest attractions was its environmental sustainability. She mentioned that every year, more than $2 billion worth of U.S. pantyhose sales eventually end up in landfills. Each pair takes more than 50 years to decompose, she said.
“We’re using real chemical engineering and material science to take what is seen as just as this commodity where there is no room for innovation and really fundamentally disrupt it.” said Homuth, “There’s so much opportunity for innovation in more traditional industries like apparel.”
This isn’t Homuth’s first venture. Prior to Sheerly Genius, she co-founder ShopLocket, an e-commerce platform which she sold to PCH International in 2014, as well as Female Funders, an online education platform which was acquired by Highline Beta last year.
The company is focusing on just pantyhose for now, but Homuth told CNBC that the fabric could be applied to something like athletic wear, or other forms of apparel that need lightweight fiber fabric but with durability.
The pantyhose will cost $79 for early-bird Kickstarter buyers, then retail for $145 after that. The tights also come with a 30-day money back guarantee…just in case.