Gina Kuyers is the founder of Luxeire, a women’s innerwear brand. She is a practicing school psychologist but recently made the leap to become an entrepreneur when she couldn’t find clothes with the fit and comfort she was looking for. She discusses her process of developing a product idea, persisting to find the right factory, and building a brand.
Frustration and Ideation
To my ten-year old eyes, Chicago’s Magnificent Mile was the most extraordinary place I had ever seen. As a high school exchange student in Europe, I explored inspiring design destinations like Harrods and V&A Fashion Gallery. My fascination with clothing and fashion led me to pursue graduate school (albeit in school psychology) in New York City.
New York did not disappoint. The plethora of thrift and consignment stores in Manhattan encouraged me to become a collector of unique and vintage designer apparel, although on a grad student budget. I had a ball. However, I discovered that most of these beautiful garments were not necessarily comfortable. Wool and cashmere made my skin itch. Metallic threads were chafing. I also worried about the effects of wear and frequent cleaning on these often delicate fabrics. I couldn’t afford regular dry cleaning bills.
My quest for the perfect daily innerwear garment was born. I knew I wanted a smooth-fitting, ultra soft, lightweight, inner layer that could be worn with different types and styles of clothing. The innerwear garments needed to provide enough coverage yet be inconspicuous beneath my clothing.
I imagined innerwear styles that included:
- » A subtle but high neckline to buffer my turtleneck sweaters
- » An elegant scoop neck to complement crewneck style tops
- » A low-cut “V” to sport beneath button-downs, wrap dresses and tops, and other V-neck styles
I have spent many years and a lot of money buying less-than-ideal products that I subsequently cut up and tweaked to try and fit my needs. Still, they were never the right fabric, showed through my other garments, were bulky, or squeezed my body uncomfortably tight. I tried making homemade prototypes by taking panythose, for example, and cutting out four-inch strips to fit under my turtleneck. These would often bunch up into a choker.
Hustle and Persistence
In the spring of 2014, I read the New York Times business article, “Can’t Find it in the Mall? Make it Yourself,” about Megan Gessel, a high school junior who was dissatisfied with the choices of bras available for her 13 year-old sister. To address that problem, she founded her own company, Yellowberry, and began making age-appropriate bras for tweens. I decided that if I wanted better innerwear products, I needed to make them myself. Surely, there were many other women who shared my frustration with the current innerwear options and would be grateful for an alternative.
At 47 years old, I was pounding the pavement back in New York to learn everything I could about manufacturing apparel. I scoured Women’s Wear Daily for any mention of a mill. I walked up and down many stairwells in the Garment District in search of factories. I couldn’t believe my good luck when I stumbled upon Maker’s Row. What a relief to know I didn’t have to navigate the world of manufacturing on my own.
With the help of the online factory network, I spent the next eighteen months searching for pattern-to-production partners, and worked to secure the perfect fabrics. Now, I have finalized the styles and finishes and am eager to share them with the world. The Luxeire fabric is a lightweight, wicking material and the garments are proudly American-made, manufactured in New York.
Funding and Awareness
After investing in product development, securing production partners in New York, and ordering fabric inventory, I still need to do a full run of production to share it with the world. I’m currently launching a Kickstarter campaign to build awareness of my product and raise money for launching my business.
I have full faith in my products because they have a smooth fit without being constrictive, bulky, overly warming, or conspicuously visible under my clothing. They keep perspiration and products from damaging my clothes. I wear them all the time – it’s innerwear, so it’s needed everyday. I’ve shared samples with many friends and have received encouraging feedback. My husband loves the fabric too, so there will be a men’s line in the future.