For Kylie Boreham, changing the way she spoke about and thought of herself transformed her life, especially after experiencing and surviving domestic violence. It was a powerful realisation that led to an equally powerful business venture.
Boreham is now an up-and-coming contributor to the world of ethical and sustainable fashion, having launched her brand Bham earlier this year. Not only does the Australian company ensure that every step that goes into producing and shipping their products doesn’t hurt people or the planet, but they also donate a portion of their profits to support women in Papua New Guinea who are affected by domestic violence.
The brand’s current project, powerpants, is underwear made from organic cotton with affirmations printed on them such as ‘I am brave’, ‘I am beautiful’, and ‘I’ve got this’.
“I’ve spent years working on my confidence and I know that speaking kindly to myself was a game-changer,” Kylie says. She also believes “embodying what you wear” can enhance our psychological state — a belief backed up by the concept of ‘enclothed cognition’.
Women’s Agenda caught up with Kylie recently to get an update on her plans for the business, and why starting powerpants was such a critical step in her recovery as a victim of domestic violence.
Tell me about why you started Bham
Bham started as a passion project almost two years ago now.
I turned an idea into a business plan and started some serious hunting to find ethical and sustainable suppliers. There were a lot of hurdles but I was pretty determined to make it work.
Where did the idea for powerpants come from?
I became really interested in the environmental and social impacts of fashion. The planet and garment workers are paying a huge cost so that we can wear our fast fashion once or twice. I wanted to create a product that would get more people thinking about the journey that their clothes make before they land in their wardrobes. No better place to start than with the first thing we put on each day.
The idea to print the garments with an affirmation was my way of making the brand unique. I’ve spent years working on my confidence and I know that speaking kindly to myself was a game-changer. There is a scientific concept called ‘enclothed cognition’ that recognises how clothing can enhance our psychological states – you essentially are what you wear.
Powerpants brings together the things that make women feel good — doing good for the planet and our health, speaking kindly to ourselves and supporting other women.
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"Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing we'll ever do". Brene Brown ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ These two beautiful women #wearingthepowerpants are #survivors of violence. I’ve been so inspired by how brave @aday_inthelifeof_us is in sharing her story. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ One of my personal goals this year has been to own my story as a #survivor. It’s harder than it sounds. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ I’ve never wanted people to feel sorry for me. It was part of my journey and it’s made me who I am. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ And who I am – like these two – is a brave bad ass who has rebuilt her life ????????♀️ And what a life it is ????
Why did you decide to donate proceeds to women in Papua New Guinea?
Papua New Guinea is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman. Violence and discrimination against women is systematic. Violence in the home is often considered a ‘family matter’ by the police and this makes it hard for women to escape. If they do, they don’t have the support services that they need.
From every pair of powerpants sold, we make a $1 donation to a social enterprise that delivers much needed support to female survivors of violence. Our partner is the Tribal Foundation. They do incredible work to address gender-based violence, including an economic sustainability program called Light up PNG where women are provided with solar-powered Luci Lights to sell in their communities.
With our donations, we can really make an impact.
What are some other ways you’re contributing to change?
Ethical and sustainable practices are at the core of Bham. We use certified organic cotton to make powerpants and our manufacturer in China has the social credentials to assure us that the garment workers are paid fairly and have good working conditions.
I’m often asked why we don’t manufacture in Australia. I recognise that if all materials are sourced in Australia, it can reduce the environmental footprint of the brand. However, working conditions in Australia are typically good. The more brands demand higher standards for garment workers in Asia — and pay the price for it — the more we can address the social impact of fashion.
Of course, powerpants are delivered in recycled and recyclable packaging. We also use standard post as the most eco-friendly delivery option. It takes a little longer but it’s worth the wait!
Why did you pick those specific messages to put on the underwear?
We started with a few affirmations that really resonated with me and my focus group — but recently, I’ve called for inspiration from our followers on social media.
Powerpants are available on monthly subscription and our subscribers get a new affirmation each month. We completely immerse ourselves in the monthly affirmation to prepare an affirmation card that is delivered with each pair. So many of our customers say they have the cards on display as a reminder.
What are your plans for the future?
Bham has a very ambitious goal of creating the world’s most powerful underwear. We say that powerpants empower the women who make them, the women who wear them and the women who benefit from the proceeds. Our big, hairy, audacious goal is to touch the lives of one million women.
In the short-term that means expanding our range — new colours and styles are in the pipeline. We’ll be calling on our followers again for inspiration.
Who inspires you?
Brene Brown has changed my life. I’ve read every book she has written.
Years ago, I found myself with a broken heart, face and confidence after I was violently bashed by a former partner. The mental scars were the hardest to repair. Brene’s words helped me to let go of the shame I felt and to own my story. I have found my power again.
This article was first published by Women’s Agenda.