Kristy Chong is the founder and CEO of Modibodi, the original protective apparel brand and it’s on a mission to get everyone mentioning their unmentionables, and to save the planet one pair at a time.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
I’m the CEO and founder of Modibodi, a high-tech, leak and period proof apparel brand, we make sustainable, reusable and fully leak-proof underwear, maternity and activewear. I like to describe myself as a mum on a mission, a fash-tech entrepreneur and a social advocate for women’s health issues and rights.
Before Modibodi was born, I spent over 13 years working with big name brands, managing their public relations. It was great experience for me working with globally renowned businesses such as McDonalds, really harnessing brand values and driving messages directly to consumers. Nowadays, as a busy mum of four, I dedicate myself entirely to Modibodi and making it the best brand it can possibly be.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
I never sat down and planned until the idea for Modibodi came to me. The best ideas often come unexpected which is exactly what happened with Modibodi. The concept of launching my own business ignited in 2011 after my personal experience of light bladder leaking, following the birth of my second child. I was wanting to run a marathon, yet I was worried about leaking, I couldn’t find a good solution, something that would protect me without looking like a giant nappy or a huge pad that stuck out, all whilst doing further damage to the planet. This led me to wondering how many other women must have shared a similar experience. I felt there was a necessity to offer a solution in response to what must be a need for millions of women world over. Protective undies, that looked and felt stylish still. Women’s personal hygiene products had stayed the same for centuries and despite huge advances in tech, women’s underwear and the function of it was the same.
It took 2 years of development before we were able to launch with our first product and my career took a total change of course!
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
It was never going to be easy launching a brand-new concept to market and the challenge for us was to invent a whole new category within an underwear sector which had been at a standstill for many years.
Though the idea for Modibodi came in 2011, it wasn’t until late 2013 that I had developed the patented Modifier technology that makes up the special way our underwear and swimwear work. I spent a lot of those first 2 years working with both scientists and top lingerie designers, blending their ideas into prototypes, testing and altering before we were sure we had a product which was functional, wearable and looked great.
To put this into numbers; we consulted around 100 textile engineers and fibre companies in both Australia and America, and we conducted close to 1,000 scientific tests. Getting Modibodi exactly right was so important to me and I wasn’t willing to compromise.
The biggest challenge we faced was breaking down taboos and mentioning the unmentionables. In recent years, conversations surrounding periods and leaks have seen a huge shift towards normalisation, but 7 years ago this just wasn’t the case. It’s amazing to see how far we, as women, have come with talking openly about periods and leaks, and it’s inspiring to grow our brand alongside these conversations. But it wasn’t always easy. We gained confidence after more women joined the Modibodi movement, and after gaining a steady following, we were able to launch in America and then in the UK in 2018. We are now all over the world, bringing sustainable and easy solutions to women.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
Developing our very first pair of Modibodi still remains one of my greatest personal achievements and as a business being able to expand the range has been a huge achievement for us. Finding that there was demand for not only new styles and colours including the RED range for teenage girls, but swimwear and activewear too, was an amazing sense of achievement. The team and I are immensely proud that we’ve been able to provide solutions for women and girls which previously didn’t exist. We’ve been able to deliver these solutions not only to women and girls through our website, but in schools and through our give a pair scheme which helps thousands of women enduring period poverty to have a dignified period. This is huge for us and we will continue to find new ways to get Modibodi into the hands of an increasing number of women, world over. With a totally new range for the UK to be announced soon, we’re excited about the expansions we’ve been able to make.
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
It’s difficult to pinpoint, as the success of Modibodi is a holistic effort from a number of influences. One thing that has been major for us and I think ultimately, has allowed us to grow, is our no-airbrush policy on images, we only use real women, real bodies. It’s something I feel so passionately about, as another taboo we are trying so hard to break down. Our images are of women who use and love Modibodi, that authenticity and organic love for the brand is what really makes us different. It’s been instrumental to building our brand and we continue to garner a consumer base of women who genuinely love the brand and want us to reach new heights. Real life, real bodies is what we’re about and it’s what makes us unique from other underwear brands.
A factor which we have evolved alongside is the growing movement of eco-conscious individuals and communities. With the initial concept being to offer easy everyday solutions to women, it quickly became apparent to us that there was a wider movement we wanted to play a part in, by helping to drastically reduce the use of disposable sanitary products. Sustainability has become integral to our brand and a couple of years ago we took the decision to ditch the plastic entirely with all new cardboard packaging. Going totally eco.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
I am a big believer in seeking advice from others, and have been fortunate to find a few people who have been wonderful mentors throughout the Modibodi journey. I believe you should look wide and far first and seek many opinions rather than trust just one. As for mentoring others, I have had many business women and students approach me for advice, and have helped where I can, but right now where the brand is at and having 4 kids I unfortunately cannot commit to a longer term mentoring program
If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?
At Modibodi we’re working towards positive change for gender equality. We recognise that there are still so many taboos across genders which need to be talked about, broken down and ultimately bought into normal conversation. Our upcoming launch will clearly show gender equality in its best light. We can’t wait!
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?
The choices you make now are not finite, they are purely experiences that will help shape who you will be in the future
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
We’re hoping to eradicate disposables as soon as possible. Conventional disposable period products are made from 90% plastic and along with their packaging this generates 200,000 tonnes of menstrual waste per year in the UK. With a single pad taking up to 500 years to break down, it’s easy to see how quickly using such products can have a hugely detrimental effect on the environment. When you think how many years, we’ve been using these and do the maths, it’s shocking.
An ongoing goal of ours is to ensure that women have access to solutions to everyday leaks, allowing them to feel confident and not feel limited by their leaks, it’s all about breaking down those taboos.
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