Have you ever thought of wearing underwear made of lemon, corn, and sugar? Two sisters and entrepreneurs, Heli and Neli Kools, are making it possible. Beyond their blood relation, a common thread tying them together was the difficulty of finding lingerie that did not cater to diverse body types. One is heavy on the bust, and one heavy on the butt. This personal demand led them to explore the gap in the lingerie industry. With the idea of launching one-size underwear that fits women of different sizes, they also had sustainability or the eco-friendly aspect at the back of their minds. And came up with Intimate Queen, a body inclusive lingerie brand made of vitamin-rich plant waste!
Health Shots spoke to Heli and Neli about their journey of introducing sustainable lingerie that also caters to the specific challenges women face while choosing comfortable and long-lasting innerwear.
Heli and Neli are two sisters who were born and brought up in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. Heli, 37, has an engineering background but followed her passion for music and studied contemporary music and performance in Los Angeles. Later, she did an MBA. Neli, 40, is an architect and has a Master’s degree in Urban Planning.
Their entrepreneurial spirit had already sprouted roots back in 2009, when they started their first business venture – an advertising agency – in Mumbai, India, and in 2010 in Los Angeles, US. But their true calling lay elsewhere.
“Heli and I grappled with personal challenges—Heli with bottom-heavy issues and I, Neli, with chest-heavy concerns,” says Neli. This personal demand led them to explore the uncharted waters in the lingerie industry.
Their journey was fueled by a desire to make a meaningful difference in the lives of women. They scoured the lingerie world for gaps and discovered a common problem–brands claiming to offer the best fit, lift, and support, but with varying sizes and fits. Heli and Neli decided to redefine the game by developing underwear that adapted to the body, making conventional sizing irrelevant.
Sustainability was at the core of their brand. In a market that had witnessed significant changes, Heli and Neli kept in mind the growing awareness of comfort, size, and fit issues. They also wanted to offer sustainability as an added feature for the conscious consumer. After developing a few prototypes, Neli says, “We conducted in-depth interviews with around 50 women, including friends and family, affirming the need for a brand that understood and addressed the specific challenges women faced.”
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She adds, “Then we explored the world of fabrics and our search led us to wellness fabrics with various benefits such as odour absorption and temperature regulation. Our intimate wear products have a sustainable design that eliminates the need to change lingerie frequently due to size or fit issues. The use of robust materials ensures the longevity of the product and the design makes them body-adaptive between a range of sizes, reducing waste and lowering production.”
For example, their Yew Tree Undies have a mix of cotton and taxol from yew trees. The Lemon Bae Undies have vitamin C from lemon waste in the lining. Corn bae undies use cotton and a special fiber from corn and sugar beets. These fabrics are renewable and biodegradable, reducing the ecological footprint of intimate wear production.
According to Heli and Neli, the Intimate Queen product’s body is adaptive and one size. They even have a certification called Oeko Tex, which means our fabrics are free from harmful chemicals, very breathable, and gentle on the skin. But their mission extended beyond comfort—their pH-balancing underwear was designed to maintain and promote the natural acidic pH of the vagina, contributing to overall vaginal health and well-being.
In fact, Neli says, “It also includes wellness features such as regulating temperature, moisture wicking, quick-drying, ultra-soft, and lightweight, making it feel like wearing nothing. In every way, you can’t relate to your current everyday wear. They’re also great for people with sensitive skin.”
Heli and Neli say that during their research, they found out that 80 percent of underwear are discarded only because of worn-out elastic or lace and size and fit issues despite intact fabrics. This creates more waste that can’t be upcycled for hygiene reasons, ultimately leading to landfills. Hence, they created intimate wear that is made of plant-based material, which is sustainable, promotes body positivity, and reduces the frequency of waste creation. It would be right to say that they were thinking of the user’s emotional well-being along with the planet’s health during their prototyping phase.
How is it to be sisters and business partners? “We are part of the same team,” quips Neli, adding that they divided their responsibilities and maintained a harmonious balance between work and personal life. The power of working towards the same goals was their driving force.
As young businesswomen with a niche idea, these are the learnings they would like to share with other young girls who want to follow a similar path:
We would like to end this by saying that their journey was challenging but rewarding!