The Tirupur company’s Unmoda brand promises an eco-friendly solution to disposable menstrual supplies
At last year’s Australian Open, NC John and Sons’ apparel made from recycled PET bottles were worn by ball boys, girls, and courtside statisticians. Now the Tirupur-based garments company is back with a new eco product for women and girls — reusable and washable period underwear. Branded as Unmoda (‘moda’ means fashion in Spanish), the founders say it is “fashion that will reverse the impact on the environment”.
Alexander Neroth, CEO of NC John and Sons and founder of Unmoda, explains that over 6% of India’s entire municipal waste comprises sanitary pads, which is plastic waste. “That’s 1.3 billion pads disposed in a year and a single pad takes more than 500 years to decompose. When I found out that there was such massive waste that could not be recycled, I started researching,” says Neroth, who started product development about eight months ago.
Making it foolproof
Given that there are a few similar products available in the US, Middle East, and Australia, he’s quick to add that “it is not as if we invented this [period underwear]. We looked into existing ones and bettered it”. For example, Unmoda’s stain release and anti-bacterial finish is an upgrade. “Normally, it is very difficult to remove the stains but with our product, all you need to do is run it under tap water before putting it in the washing machine. Just don’t put it in a dryer,” says Neroth, adding that there are a couple of other companies in India who sell period underwear but they import it. “They are not 100% foolproof as they do not have the layers we are using in our products. We’re also going to apply for a patent.”
While the underwear itself is made from organic cotton, bamboo, or Lenzing Modal (created from the bark of a tree, usually eucalyptus, and popular in garments), the strip — stitched from the front to the back — has four layers: moisture-wicking, soft terry, polypropylene on a fabric layer, and natural fabric. Neroth says the product is rash, odour and stain-free. “The first two layers are highly absorbent, and the third layer [OEKO-TEX certified, meaning no harmful chemicals are used] prevents leakage. The fourth layer can be any of the three natural fabrics mentioned,” he says.
The product (sized from XS to XXL) was sent to about 350 women for testing and “the feedback was awesome”. Neroth also found that most women did not realise that the plastic in sanitary pads is one of the main reasons for rashes. “The antibacterial finish on our product will last for 50 washes after which the effectiveness will start reducing.” The biggest challenge, he admits, is changing the public mindset that Umoda can be a replacement to sanitary pads and tampons. The product is also available in smaller sizes, for 12 to 16-year-olds, as Neroth believes that “teenagers won’t have this block [of shifting from sanitary pads to period underwear]” because he has addressed the issue of leaks, possibly one of the biggest fears of the age group.
The website, however, suggests that new users continue with pads and other products on heavy flow days and switch to the period underwear for lighter days. They also suggest changing the underwear — that comes in the usual styles such as hipster, boy shorts, with/without lace detailing — every six hours.
Between ₹799 and ₹1,499. Available on unmodaglobal.com, and on Amazon and Flipkart from next week.
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