Fashion

Near and Dear

Brown alum Julie Sygiel is part of Providence's next generation of entrepreneurs

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Julie Sygiel is the founder and CEO of Dear Kate, a local lingerie company. The Brown alum founded her company out of college as Sexy Period, a line of special, leak resistant underwear for that time of the month. The company recently rebranded itself in an effort to reach a customer base that has been broader and more enthusiastic than even Sygiel herself anticipated. Though Dear Kate is quickly gaining a national reputation, Sygiel remains in Providence and is part of the next generation of the city's entrepreneurs. She sat down with us for a little chat about the rebranding, and even offered to give away a pair of her "revolutionary underthings."

Tell us a little about your company and products.
Dear Kate is a new line of underwear that not only looks pretty, it also works to keep women prepared for anything. Our underthings are made with performance fabric that has three special layers: the inner layers are stain-releasing and wicking, while the outer layer is leak-resistant. All three are breathable, soft and stretchy. We started from a business plan in an entrepreneurship class at Brown, and when we realized so many women were dying to buy a pair of our undies, so we decided to give it a shot.

What types of women are using your product?
New and expecting mothers love it, especially given that one out of three women experience stress incontinence for the first five years or more after giving birth. In addition, 40% of postmenopausal women experience urinary incontinence which can greatly affect their quality of life. To act as backup during that time of the month, Dear Kates are a great gift for teen girls, and many fashionistas consider the underwear insurance for their designer dress.

Your company was once named Sexy Period. What led you to the rename?
We found that we were unintentionally limiting our market size by only selling underwear under the name Sexy Period. Many mothers asked for a line they could buy for their daughters that didn't have the word "sexy" in the title. Users also indicated it was confusing to them that our product was a solution to light bladder leakage given the name.

We hear you use local suppliers. Tell us about the importance of supporting other local businesses.
We love working with local businesses. It makes everything faster and easier when we can meet with a supplier in person because we can explain exactly what we're looking to make and also more easily hear their suggestions. Our pretty matchbox packaging sleeves are made by Fuller Box Company in Central Falls and some of our fabric materials come from Darlington Fabrics in Westerly. It's great to know the money we spend with both of these suppliers goes into our local community and it's nice to take a trip to see exactly where our materials are manufactured to see it with our own eyes.

Tell us what it's like being a young, female entrepreneur.
Where do I even start? It's hard to describe but I can't imagine doing anything else right now. The hours are crazy, the pay is cheap and our office is small. On the flip side, I'm learning a ton, have incredible freedom and have met so many amazing people who help us out. I think now is a great time for young, female entrepreneurs in Providence. [Check out the PVD Lady Project, an organization Julie co-founded.] We're a community that is growing, we're ready to help a fellow lady out, and we're going places.

What is your favorite Dear Kate style?
My personal favorite is the Ms Moxie hipster. It's distinctively our own style and is super comfortable.

What can we expect from Dear Kate in the future?
Right now we're focusing on our basics and fancies underwear collections and if all goes well you can expect a few new styles in the spring. The response from women of all ages has kept us on our toes the past few weeks and we're excited to continue growing.