17 May 2024

Nifty knickers designed to deal with women’s ‘everyday annoyance’

| Kellie O'Brien
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Luckies Knickers Bek McAlister

Bek McAlister with a pair of Luckies Knickers. Photo: Supplied.

Kiama woman Bek McAlister had long wondered why women’s underwear gussets were plain coloured when nothing that landed there was exactly plain, so decided it was time for a change.

Bek launched the innovative Luckies Knickers this month (May), bravely confronting the taboo topic of stains left by ladies’ natural body secretions.

“It’s something I’ve always worried about, but it’s actually a dinner party conversation that the business idea stemmed from,” she said.

“We were with mates of ours and were all sitting around talking about being parents and how much laundry there was.

“Then one of the husbands made a comment about his wife’s knickers, saying ‘Oh, you and your snail trails in your knickers’.

“My immediate response was shame, because it’s something that’s true for me.”

She said the comment stuck with her, leading her to realise stains were a problem related to design – not women.

“Discharge is a healthy cleaning function of the uterus,” she said.

It led her on two trips to India and “researching like crazy”.

“I went to India as part of a group of other fashion entrepreneurs – some newbies like me and some seasoned professionals in the rag trade, as it’s known.

“My mum had passed away a couple of months prior and I thought, ‘You know what, I’m going to just go for my life on this.’”

Travelling with her husband, she was encouraged to stand in boardrooms pitching to manufacturers about what her needs were.

From that trip, and two years and countless samples, she created four styles with patterned fabric in the gusset to mute stains.

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“I know a lot of people wear panty liners – I know my mum did, she was obsessed with them – but they’re really bad for the environment,” she said.

“So rather than just having the pattern in the gusset to deal with stains, I sandwiched bits of absorbent material in there.”

She said she used a hidden merino liner to absorb sweat and “everyday indiscretions”, minimising scent and moisture issues.

“We women are busy – I know I don’t have time for unnecessary stain treatments in the weekly washing,” she said.

Made in Melbourne, she said each collection featured female-designed prints from Australian artists.

The range also focuses on being inclusive, with a design for transgender women who were pre-op or wanting to keep the body they were born in.

“Trans women are women and should have a home alongside their peers in every setting,” she said.

As they say in the infomercials, “but there’s more”, with each pair incorporating a pocket.

“I hated the handbag rumble for a tampon at work, so I included a pocket in the design for stowing tampons, condoms or your dog poo bag,” she said.

Bek said working full time while mostly self-funding her side project with no prior experience had been challenging at times but rewarding.

“When my mum passed, she did leave us some money,” she said through tears.

“She wanted to be my first investor when she was quite ill, so in the end she has.

“I think she’d be really proud of what I’ve done.”

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That pride is not just in the product but the marketing too, with Bek and her fitness group participating in the City2Surf in Sydney last year, donning samples and a “Got Discharge, Get Luckies” shirt.

“I wanted to find a way to get the brand name out there,” she said.

“I plan to do it again this year but add ‘Knickers’ to the slogan – that was a bit of a fail,” she said, laughing.

“We got a lot of weird looks.”

She admitted she was no marketing genius, but she was pushing herself to be bold.

“I walked streets in Newtown and Bondi one day when I was feeling brave and got some recording equipment out and asked some women whether I could talk to them about discharge,” she said.

“It’s really interesting, because women recoil, and a lot of women said, ‘You can record my voice but not my face’.

“One response was, ‘I’m a 50-something year old single mum and I live with two boys and I make sure I keep my washing separate so the boys don’t see it’.

“Or women said they were hanging their washing strategically on the line by the gusset because they don’t want their partner seeing it.”

Bek said while women were treating it as a “common taboo”, for her it was an “everyday annoyance” that needed to be solved.

She’s now working on ways to make the items more sustainable, using leftover material to make tank tops that match the knickers.

You can purchase Luckies Knickers through the website.

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Bek McAlister1:43 pm 19 May 24

Big thanks to Kellie O’Brien for such a wonderful chat and bringing my story to life.

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