This year has been Thigh Society’s most successful to date and we’re taking a moment to look back at how far we’ve come. We’re sold worldwide, have been featured in some of the world’s biggest publications including New York Magazine, Nasdaq and Refinery29, and just hit our biggest sales record. But once upon a time, the brand was just an idea to solve a, literally, burning problem. Find out, in her own words, how our founder Marnie Rabinovitch Consky parlayed an uncomfortable chafing situation into a global business.
2008: Saying Goodbye to Chafing, Forever
It was the first hot day of summer in June 2008 and I was walking, wearing a dress for the first time that season. In Toronto, it often feels like there’s no spring; it just goes from winter into summer. I wore a dress without the old bike shorts that I’d been wearing under skirts and dresses every summer. Because it had been so long, I completely forgot. After a few blocks, I started to feel burning between my thighs on this nice sunny day. I ran to the nearest pharmacy and grabbed some baby powder and went straight to the bathroom when I got back to the office. I was wearing a black dress and the powder got everywhere; it was very annoying. I proverbially shook my fist in the air and thought, There has to be a better way! I really didn't want to go back to wearing my old ratty bike shorts that were thick and spandex-y.
My gut instinct wasn't actually to create anything new, it was to find something on the market already that I could wear. But that path unfortunately, or fortunately [laughs], didn't lead anywhere.
I didn't see anything I wanted — something thoughtfully designed to be invisible, lightweight, comfortable and sweat-wicking, so I had to essentially design my own product. I did that with some inputs from online forums and learned we’d all been doing the same things: shapewear, cutting leggings, cutting long johns, wearing men's underwear, all of that stuff.
2008: A Design Is Born
Our first short wasn’t seamless like it is today. I wanted to bootstrap the business and had to buy fabric in bulk from a local fabric importer. Then I hired a patternmaker who sewed our first prototype.
Back then, the design was quite low-rise by today’s standards, but we branded it as a mid-rise because that was the style back in 2008. It certainly wasn't low-rise like Britney Spears’ outfits in the 90s, but it was a lot lower-rise than it is today. We made it in two fabrics: bamboo, cotton and spandex fabric, and then just a cotton spandex.
I tested a bunch because I wanted to make sure the waistband wouldn't roll and that the thread was stretchy enough across the whole short. I was the product fit model, and once we got to the best one on my body, the patternmaker graded the sizes. From there I actually started shipping samples out to product testers. It was February and very cold in Toronto so I ended up asking friends and friends of friends in Mexico, Florida and Las Vegas for feedback about fit things like the legs riding up, waistband rolling down and waistband height. I knew we had “the one” when the feedback that came back was very minimal, and that was the one we ended up going to production with.
2009: Thigh Society Goes to Market
Sales were very slow in the beginning and that was fine with me. I was working full-time and had low expectations since I launched in mid-July, the middle of the summer. It was still really exciting and fun to see a few sales trickling in, especially when they were people that I didn't know.
Initial feedback was really positive. I knew what people were looking for at the time, something comfortable, not shapewear, breathable, moisture-wicking, lightweight and with minimal seams so as to not show under clothes. We've been listening to customers ever since, as we've iterated on the product over the last 14 years to where we have five products today.
2015 to Today: Media and Revenue Milestones
Some notable milestones for me have been getting featured in Forbes Magazine written by Virgie Tovar, an activist in weight-based discrimination who I really respect. Making our first $1 million and recently $10+ million were major milestones, especially since we’re fully bootstrapped to this day. And getting featured on “Today with Hoda & Jenna” to an audience of millions when Bobbie Thomas included our shorties in her top 5 summer must-haves.
Bringing on one of my first freelance contractors as a social media manager was also really cool — the idea that I could take money out of the business and pay somebody to do work that wasn't me. In fact, anytime we add someone new to our team, it’s a major milestone as far as I'm concerned. It's a pinch-me moment because it's like I can vividly remember doing this business myself and not having anyone to lean on for help.
Going to our first fulfillment center was a really big milestone because I was packing things in my own house for years. It reached a point where it was no longer a good use of my time, so moving to our first fulfillment house was major!
More Than Chafewear
When I started the business, I had no idea that our long-leg underwear would be used for so many things beyond chafing. Women want fabric coverage underneath their skirts and dresses for modesty. Some women are a bit self-conscious about spider veins and cellulite (which we think are totally okay by the way). Others want underwear to sleep in that's cooling.
Some just want comfortable, stretchy shorts, too, that don't pinch or bind, like for after surgery or while they’re pregnant. We have chefs who wear our shorties in kitchens and nurses who wear them under scrubs because of the dropped inseam that gets really sweaty.
The bottom line is that our shorts help people feel better about their bodies. Compare and contrast that to shapewear. Putting on shapewear was a terrible experience for me. You have to wriggle and contort your body and, when you finally get it on, you're super uncomfortable. It's redistributing things all over the place. It presses into you and you're basically conscious of the undergarment being on you the entire time you’re wearing it. You feel tight, constricted, nauseous, sucked in and hot. Whereas our shorties are basically just giving you permission to live the life you want and wear whatever you want in the body that you're in. We’re freeing up people’s minds to focus on whatever it is that they're doing and not self-objectifying their bodies in our shorts.
The Future of Thigh Society
I don't want to give away everything, but I’d love Thigh Society to be synonymous with slip shorts the way Kleenex is synonymous with tissues. I’d love it if when people think about their thighs, they associate the words comfortable, lightweight, breathable and sweat-wicking with Thigh Society.