It’s not every day that getting married leads someone to start a lingerie brand.
But that’s the story of Caitlyn Overell, who founded The Unseen after an unsuccessful hunt for comfortable, colour-appropriate underwear to wear under her wedding dress.
For her big day, she wanted her underwear to be completely unseen, and she wanted to feel like her best self. Enter, The Unseen. Caitlyn’s answer for comfortable, supportive and inclusive basics, designed for a life without restrictions or inhibitions.
The local Brisbane-based brand, not only focuses on supporting your privates, but also focuses on supporting the community and environment too. (When you shop The Unseen, you’re contributing to those struggling with their own unseen crises, with 5% of profits being donated to support those impacted by domestic violence, homelessness or personal trauma).
We chatted to Caitlyn on starting her own brand, the slow-fashion movement and her tips for getting the right fit for your bits.
How did The Unseen brand come about?
It all started with some nude dilemmas and a balmy summer wedding. My partner and I were getting married and we both were after nude undergarments for our wedding day. My husband was after an undershirt that would be ‘unseen’ under his white shirt, and I, underwear for under my sheer white dress. We were totally shocked by the lack of options available in the nude space.
How, in a world of so many different skin tones, was it acceptable for brands to sell ‘nude’ underwear that excluded anyone with a skin tone that wasn’t – beige? Huh?!
We soon realised our frustrations were shared by so many friends, family and strangers so that was that, The Unseen was born. It’s been a long journey to get to where we are now and the brand has evolved so much since it’s conception, but I really love the way it keeps taking form.
We love the brand name! What is the meaning or story behind it?
It comes down to what I believe our underwear is and should be. It is solely for one’s self, our own intimate world and experience. And yet for so long, the fashion industry has defined this and projected this through a male gaze - we’re sold ‘sexy’, like our underwear should be on show.
The Unseen challenges that. It’s about what truly serves us, what makes us feel ourselves, our most comfortable and supported, and ultimately preserving the health and freshness of our most sensitive areas. We’re not with the norm of harmful synthetics, laces and harsh elastics.
The Unseen is and always will be about the consideration of – you (& your privates!)
We’ve seen you talk about being a ‘slow fashion’ brand and really wanting to flip the fast-fashion model on its head. In what ways do you do this?
It was important to us that we worked with a factory who undergo voluntary BSCI third party audits as this assesses the workplace to ensure social, environmental and safety standards are met. We partner with a small ethically run factory in the Guangdong Province of China to manufacture our underwear and have built a wonderful relationship with our production team who are paid above award wages and overtime.
We also work with a fabric mill in China that is certified by the international organic certification body ECOCERT and is an OCS and GOTS certified organic cotton fabric supplier so that it guarantees that our fabrications are made without the use of toxic chemicals, pesticides and heavy metals from yarn through to dyeing.
What role does sustainability play in doing this?
Essentially, it comes down to running your business in alignment with your values and ethics. We’re always focused on making the choices that are as socially responsible and environmentally conscious as possible, which also means, always learning.
Our underwear is made from a blend of certified organic cotton (which is grown without the use of pesticides) and bamboo yarn (which is processed within a closed loop system so that water is recycled and no chemicals can escape and pollute surrounding local communities).
We imagine designing lingerie must be quite an intimate experience. What does intimacy mean to you?
To me, intimacy comes down to belonging. Put simply, it’s feeling completely understood and celebrated for all that you are. I guess the design process ebbs and flows through this because our underwear is about that – to feel understood and supported in our every moment.
Do you remember your first bra? What was the experience of buying your first bra like?
Oh my, well I can recall being a loyal member of the itty bitty tiny titty committee when all my friends were buying their first bras. I was definitely a little late in graduating from my sports crop to bra.
And I really didn’t ease myself into it either! I think my first bra was a hot pink underwire number and it wasn’t short of padding. I suppose I should thank Dolly mag for persuading me on that one!
What are your top tips for getting the right fit with The Unseen?
Ahh, finding underwear that fits you beautifully shouldn’t be so hard. I used to have so many frustrations buying underwear, I was always so reluctant with a new brand because so often their sizing ran small, or you’d get the perfect cut but the fabric was so inflexible and ill-fitting.
So, a lot of consideration went into this and really influenced our fabric selection because it’s so soft and has a beautiful and generous stretch without compromising on breathability or absorbency.
We don’t run our sizes small and our bras are wire and padding free so the cups stretch and sculpt and mould to your natural bust shape.
If you’re unsure of your size, just measure your underbust, waist and hip and the sizing chart will direct you to the best size for your bits.
What is the one must-have style that everyone should have in their lingerie drawer?
Oh, our best seller for sure! The Base Bra – it’s insanely comfortable to wear, it’s such a versatile bra with black and nude options and the ruched elasticised back is so flattering on.
Pic: The Base Bra
Actually, I had a customer email us the other day and she said “I have never found a bra that ticks all the boxes like this one. So I bought four!! Thank you for understanding a woman’s body. Not only are your bras super comfortable, they are so flattering and I actually feel sexy again!”.
It’s so confirming to get that kind of feedback.
As a brand founder, we bet you’ve learnt a lot along the way. Do you have any advice for other designers wanting to start their own brand?
There’s never a right time. Something will always come up, there will always be a reason to postpone or procrastinate so just jump in and swim for your life. I launched The Unseen with a 3 month old and I’m still swimming (..only just!)
And secondly, it’s a saturated world out there and there’s an insane amount of waste in this industry. I truly urge all designers and brands to make decisions consciously. We all have a responsibility to consider our planet and people before a buck.
What’s next for The Unseen?
We’re working on some exciting new pieces and designing for cup sizes above DD, so watch this space.
Check out The Unseen here.