Steph Korey Embraces Growing Adaptive Apparel Market via New Investment
Adaptive lingerie brand Intimately recently announced it raised $1 million during its November 2021 seed round. The company intends to use the funds to expand its operations, products, and business reach. Steph Korey, entrepreneur, and early-stage investor was one of the primary backers in the seed round, supporting the brand’s mission to provide lingerie for disabled women.
Intimately was founded in 2019 by Emma Butler with the hope of providing disabled women with lingerie that helps them feel confident and beautiful. Traditional bras and underwear can be difficult to put on and often do not support diverse bodies. Intimately, on the other hand, was created to offer intimates for disabled women that are both functional and fashionable.
Prior to the creation of Intimately, this population of women often viewed shopping for lingerie as dehumanizing. The adaptive clothing previously available was generally limited, offering only full coverage and drab colors. Intimately broke the barrier, enabling women from all backgrounds and in all lifestyles to embrace their beauty and support their sense of fashion. Using magnets and loose grips, Intimately has revolutionized the lingerie industry, empowering more than 600 million women globally who have a disability that affects the way they dress.
Currently, Intimately offers five bras, ranging from $49.95 to $60 per unit, that includes the Intimately Bra (a front-opening, wireless bra); the Elba Essential Bra; the Convertible Plunge Bralette; the Slick Chicks Velcro Front-Fastening Bra; and the Slick Chicks Wireless Zip-Front Bra. The company also offers seven underwear options, ranging from $22 to $39 per unit, that include the Cheeky Tanga (side-opening underwear with Velcro); the Everyday Bikini (side-opening underwear with magnets); the Slick Chicks Hipster Panty; the Slick Chicks Tanga Panty; the Slick Chicks Incontinence Underwear; the Slick Chicks Brief Panty; and the ClipKnix Classic Clip & Hook Underwear. Plus, Intimately now offers the Slumber PJ Tank and Shorts.
Every garment is designed for ease in dressing, support, and comfort.
Growth of the Adaptive Apparel Industry
Intimately was inspired by Butler’s personal experience. When she was twelve years old, her mother was diagnosed with chronic illness. She witnessed first-hand how the diagnosis impacted her mother’s everyday life.
Butler’s mother is not alone. Disabled people constitute the largest minority in the world. Unfortunately, they are also the most underserved and underrepresented community. Major apparel brands design for mainstream consumers and generally leave disabled people behind, forcing them to fend for themselves. However, this population is growing, and a new industry – the adaptive apparel industry – has emerged.
“With adaptive clothing, a disabled or elderly patient can [maintain] dignity, provide some level of self-care, and experience the added comfort of quicker access to medical appliances and [their physical] needs for both them and a nurse or physician.”
According to recent research, increasing demand for adaptive clothing is expected to propel growth in the industry around the globe, a prediction supported by Steph Korey.
“Among regions, North America is expected to witness significant growth in the global adaptive clothing market during the forecast period … [due] to the high rate of disabled people across the region. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2018, around 61 million adults, i.e. 25% or one in four, were living with disabilities across the United States. Moreover, the presence of robust healthcare facilities is expected to boost the regional market growth in the near future.” Likewise, “Europe is expected to [see] lucrative growth in the global adaptive clothing market over the forecast period … [due] to the rising geriatric population across the region. According to Eurostat, in 2019, around 90.4 million people living in EU-27 were aged 65 years [or older].”
As of 2019, the global adaptive clothing market was valued at $250.1 million. By the end of 2026, the market size is expected to reach $294.3 million, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 2.3% from 2021 to 2026.
The growth in the global adaptive clothing market is part of a larger customization revolution that is impacting industries across the globe. Spurred by the growth of the Internet and related technologies, many leading companies are starting to deploy customization on a large scale. The new trend in customization involves not only aesthetics – choosing the red SUV instead of the black one – but also features that are unique to an individual’s degree of ability. Therefore, it makes operational and financial sense for Intimately to capitalize on these changes.
The Importance of Inclusivity
Companies looking to target market share through customization, however, must have inclusivity at their core, reveals Steph Korey, a leader in the growth of the adaptive apparel industry. Inclusivity is a practice or mindset that purposefully attempts to involve all types of people.
Inclusive fashion aims for the acceptance of all people without exception, including those with disabilities. The great challenge for the future of the industry is genuine inclusion. Long gone are the fashion shows and magazine editorials with plus-size or racialized models who were used to tick the diversity box. This is no longer enough; today’s consumers demand more. Companies need to raise visibility and representation so that customers with disabilities feel reflected in the fashion industry and identified as a part of society.
Steph Korey’s recent investment in Intimately supports her goal of changing economic platforms to support diversity and inclusion. In the past, the majority of brands that have targeted the disabled population have missed the mark due to misunderstanding the true experience of their target audience. Intimately, on the other hand, was built on the thoughts and suggestions of disabled women from all around the world.
Intimately targets a niche market for adaptive intimates that is virtually white space. The company uses new technology and patents to create complex garments and mobilizes a community of disabled women to demand change in the fashion industry to include disabled shoppers.
Intimately Looks Forward
Intimately’s recent funding will support the ongoing growth of the company, as it looks to change the experience of disabled shoppers across the globe. The hope is to expand the current line of available products, developing a solution for everyone who faces daily struggles.
Butler spoke on the recent seed round: “Lingerie shopping is an intimate experience that defines a woman’s femininity, personal identity, and self-assurance. Everyone, including disabled women, deserve to have an empowering shopping experience. Intimately takes a wholesome approach, bringing confidence to disabled women. It’s more than just a sexy bra and underwear; it’s also the unique support of a community of women who understand what you’re going through.”
Steph Korey added, “When I first learned about Intimately and its strong mission, meaningful market opportunity, and visionary founder, it was clear that this was a special company, and I would be lucky to have the opportunity to become an investor. Butler’s passion is boundless, and I’m excited to see where she and her team take this big opportunity from here.” More recently, Steph Korey expanded on her excitement via a LinkedIn post. She shared, “Proud to be an investor in the newly launched Intimately, led by visionary founder Emma Butler!”
Intimately’s seed round, led by Venrex and the first-ever investment by the British Fashion Council, also included investors Michelle Kennedy, founder, and CEO of Peanut; Sarah Drinkwater on behalf of Atomico; and Alexandra Fine, founder, and CEO of Dame Products.
Steph Korey Supports a Brighter Future
Every investment Korey makes provides an opportunity for a new future – one that better supports diversity and inclusivity and expands the current demographics of successful entrepreneurs and investors. In addition to Intimately, Steph Korey has invested in Veracity Selfcare, a platform that creates a personal skincare experience based on real data about a user’s hormones and biofactors through its Skin + Health test; Starday Foods, a healthy and sustainable food products company; Front of the Pack, pure and simple dog supplements that are delivered directly to homes; Lovevery, an early learning platform that offers a state-based system of information for parents and products for children; Parade, an underwear company that creates designer and eco-friendly fabric undergarments; Calibrate, a digital metabolic health business that is changing the way the world treats weight; Modern Fertility, a women’s health company that attempts to close the fertility information gap by letting women test key fertility hormones at home; and Great Jones, a modern kitchen company that equips, encourages and inspires people to cook more frequently.
As the company’s name suggests, Intimately strives to create a more personalized relationship with the entire spectrum of lingerie shoppers, regardless of their ability. Having raised $1 million during its seed round, thanks to the support of early-stage investors like Steph Korey, the company is poised to experience great success in the upcoming months and years and will serve as an example for other adaptive apparel companies around the world.
About Steph Korey
Steph Korey is a well-established entrepreneur and early-stage investor who focuses on companies and brands that support underrepresented communities. She is the founder of a $1.4 billion business that has been named Fast Company’s “World’s Most Innovative Company” twice since its inception. She previously served as head of the supply chain at Warby Parker, where she built and led a team that handled the development, manufacture, and fulfillment of physical products.
Korey earned a B.A. in international relations from Brown University and an M.B.A. from Columbia Business School. She has been named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for retail and eCommerce and recognized as an EY Entrepreneur of the Year. Korey was also honored as one of Goldman Sachs’ 100 Builders and Innovators in 2018 and 2019.
This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or management of EconoTimes