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Launch HN: SheerlyGenius (YC W18) – Indestructible Tights from Bulletproof Fiber
321 points by kathomuth 8 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 168 comments
I’m Katherine Homuth and I founded Sheerly Genius - indestructible sheer tights made from bulletproof fibers. We just launched our product on Kickstarter (http://www.2e.go2.fund/tights).

Every year $8 billion dollars worth of sheer tights/pantyhose end up in the landfill after only one or two wears. Ripping sheers is as easy as accidentally catching them on a fingernail, or simply pulling too hard while putting them on. Our goal is to replace these disposable products with Sheerly Genius, which has been tested to last up to 50 wears.

We have been working on this for about 12 months so far and it has been quite an adventure. When I started out I didn’t think we’d be developing our own fiber and machines, but that’s what it ultimately took.

The first fibers I looked at were aramids, like kevlar, which of course were attractive for their strength. To be considered sheer (as opposed to opaque), a pair of tights needs fibers that are 30 denier or less. Denier measures the thickness or fineness of a fiber. I quickly learned that the lowest denier kevlar came in was 1000 denier! So it was a non-starter.

It turned out that none of the fibers on the market today were both fine and strong enough to make an indestructible sheer product. Ultimately we had to develop our own fiber: a finer, colored version of the non-dyeable polyethylene fibers used in higher end bulletproof vests and climbing equipment. To use these fibers we had to retrofit circular knitting machines with new feeding systems and blades, because the fibers are so strong they break typical knitting machines!

My background is in software and manufacturing - building and selling two companies prior to Sheerly Genius. But this is my first journey into textiles. In my last startup I worked directly with many hardware companies, but became increasingly skeptical of the trend in IoT towards “connected” anything. One thing I love about this project is that we’ve been able to innovate in wearables without being connected.

Fun Fact: Half of our backers on Kickstarter so far have been men!

I’m looking forward to talking manufacturing, textiles, and crowdfunding. Can’t wait to hear your ideas and experiences in these areas. Also happy to answer any questions about our journey in developing the product so far!




FYI: My neighbor developed something similar in the 70s. It was purchased by a large pantyhose company for many millions with additional revenue promised from royalties from future sales. As soon as they owned it they killed the product to maintain their revenue stream from short-lived hose. The inventor lost millions from sales that never happened. Don't let this happen to you. If you are successful, they will come knocking.


I'm always looking for evidence of planned obsolescense [1] but I didn't realize how effectively it has been implemented by "Big Pantyhose" and that move to buy out and phase out a superior product - deviously brilliant!

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planned_obsolescence


There are some other examples from Bill Gates/Microsoft in this reddit thread [1].

[1] https://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/3aicvf/what_vill...


I have another one for you: Google >> Aadvark


How is this a good example ? What's the quickly obsolete thing Google pushed to effectively kill Aardvark ?

I'm with you that I'd like some better question answering service, but I don't think it's fair to blame Google for not trying ...


Maybe, you have gathered some info about planned obsolescence ? I find that subject very interesting too.


Thanks for the tip. I could totally see them doing something like that. Anything to hold on to the legacy business, even if it means killing innovation.


If this material does what you say: you should attack the cyclist market. If you have thin, anti abrasion garments, a cyclist is yur perfect market.

They have luxury funds (like the golf market) and they want thin, but protective, garments. (weekend-road-bikers are usually execs/professionals that spend ~$3-12K on just their bikes...

Put thin, D30 [0], pads at key points/joints (hips/elbows/knees) between layers of this fabric in small patches...

Now you have a performant, but protective, sheer/light competitive cycling outfit...

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D3o


That's a great market idea. Hadn't considered it, but can see a lot of overlap with what we are doing. Will definitely keep it in mind for our product roadmap!


High-end cycling kit is absurdly expensive. A pro-level jersey from Assos, Rapha or Giordana retails for well over $200. The market isn't huge, but the margins are tremendous.


And it has the 'one-up value', very strong in its market demographic;

"Did you see Bill's new garment?"

"yeah thats bad-ass!"

"im getting one!"

---

And you should have a service that allows people to upload their graphics to the garments they order....

Tee-Spring for cycling gear that is protective and they can choose from D30 padding options....


One more athletics market: martial arts. If you train judo/jiujitsu, your existing uniform is a heavy cotton or cotton/poly weave that is built to last through the abuse of training partners gripping and yanking it every which way - and the existing stuff works, but it's bulky to carry and hard to wash. A modernized uniform that can retain the same strength at a lighter weight would be of practical interest.


Do you train jiujitsu? I don’t really see existing uniforms being replaced with something lighter and potentially much thinner.


A much closer application in Jiu Jitsu would be replacing the rash guard that many people wear under their gi, or in nogi. Or replacing a surfer's rash guard, for that matter. Tons of applications for this.


But this is stretchy, which would be mostly an annoyance in training.


I used to practice taekwondo but I just don't see this material being used to replace a standard uniform.


Figure this might be the best place for you to hopefully notice this.

I see that 1000-denier tights do exist (TIL). Could a sport/compression-specific fabric blend be produced that has extremely high compression and also high abrasion resistance?

Compression clothing is notoriously fragile; it all-too-happily shreds itself at the slightest tug or snag. That keeps "big sport compression" in business, but these items are $150-$400 retail...

There's a very big demand vacuum for solutions in this specific space at the moment as far as I can see.


I definitely see opportunities in the sport market now. I don't personally have a pain point here so it wasn't where my mind immediately went - but it has been great to see interest in new variants for people who seem to have the pain of wearing through their sports tights!


You should definitely make sports compression gear with the material you have, I'm pretty sure people would easily pay 400-800 dollars per pair (myself included).


It's also interesting that the material is lighter than water. "Tactical" life vests and shark-resistant wetsuits come to mind as possible products too. If you could get the Navy SEALs to trial it, that could be a big win.

PS - the crooks in the video made me lol :D


Athletics in general seems like a prime market. I go through way too many pairs of tights in ballet and aerial.


Same for motorcycles. Even a bit of anti-abrasion in regular clothes and exposed things goes a long way. People are dumb, and will wear normal clothes on bikes and motorcycles, if you can weave something into normal relaxed wear, not just skin suits that wanna be pro-cyclists wear, you'll probably have something for the casual market too.

Hell, if you just sold me the material I'd sew it into my clothes anyway so I could do the above. I've been trying to hand knit kevlar thread into such a weave, and it's not the most fun material to work with. And kevlar mesh you buy otherwise (batting) is too thick for this purpose in some casual clothes.

It's not true safety gear but it's better than your tshirt or shirt melting on the pavement.


Have you checked out the Draggin' Jeans liners? They're basically full-coverage aramid long johns, much better coverage than their (and most other American) kevlar-lined jeans.

I wear them under regular jeans for casual riding (I always wear an armored jacket so no need to wear the upper liner) and would trust them in a low-to-freeway speed getoff about as much as any other mesh gear. You can stuff d3o armor into them pretty easily too.

It's not precisely what you're trying to achieve, but it's more versatile and generally looks better than full-coverage (Hood, etc.) riding jeans.


I did not know about their new stuff. I had real issues getting anything from them that fit in the past which is wierd because most cruiser riders aren't well known for their trim figure.

Ugh, just looked, the same problem... they don't have a height option. The shirts are too short for my torso (and gut), and the pants are too tight in the thighs :(


So, I have the same problem as you buying moto jeans and shirts. I'm pretty apple-shaped and have a largish waist and short legs. Anything I found either didn't fit right (fitting my waist meant legs several inches too long) or was laughably inadequate (kevlar shorts inside thin denim jeans sorts of stuff) which is why I went for a separates solution. That way I could wear standard Levi jeans that I knew would fit over them.

The long john style liners are, well, long johns. They're stretchy, so they adapt well to body shape. The leg liners aren't cut particularly long--they have stirrups. You could choose to ignore or remove the stirrups and flip up the leg cuffs to make them a few inches shorter and they'd still work under boots. I haven't tried the shirt but it's the same material. My guess is if you match with the size you'd wear in standard long underwear it'd be fine.

The other respondent to me was correct, though--like all long johns these are fairly warm. I'm fine in them spring, fall and winter, but summer is a different story. It is an uninsulated open-weave mesh, so breathes well enough and it does a great job of creating air channels under your jeans, but I tend to just take my chances for a couple of months of the year rather than add more layers.

Edit: to make sure we're looking at the same thing, I mean the ones reviewed here, https://www.webbikeworld.com/draggin-liners-review/


My concern there is that they might pull up or down. I guess down is inevitible but up can be prevented with the stirriups. Same for the short shirt. But I guess that might be me being paranoid. I know from experience that denim doesn't hold up to even 40mph falls, where interestingly enough, Linen does.

I'll take a look again tho. I live in seattle where it's pretty cool most of the time.


It's a legit concern, and I had the same. I wouldn't rate these above ballistic motorcycle pants, but I think they'll compare well with most kevlar jeans short of something very full-coverage (and bulky) like Hood.


I like draggins, but like most other motorcycle clothing they are still quite heavyweight. In hot climates, you will overheat, or just opt for shorts. :(

It'd be great if new materials could be used to make protective wear that is thinner and more air permeable.


So it is then obvious that they need to stress test their material against Draggins to see how they compare....


There used to be a base layer/arm warmers that was crash resistant made by DeFeet. I could only find an older article about it. http://www.roadbikereview.com/reviews/defeet-introduces-line... They only made it for one year so it didn't sell well enough to continue making, it cost $200 at the time which is about six times what an ordinary base layer cost back then. I bought one when they went on clearance after the first year and it actually did kind of work in a crash, though since it is abrasion resistant what ended up happening is I got a burn on my shoulder where I slid on the pavement instead of losing all the skin.

Professional cyclists typically don't buy anything, almost everything they use is provided by sponsors, and/or to display tech/goods as marketing for sale later to amateurs.


One issue with cyclists is that that extra 2-4 oz's will destroy their dreams of being on the tour. If you could make clothes out of aero gel they'd buy it, heck they'd buy the emperors new clothes if they could pull it off in public. Gotta be faster.


As long as it's aero (with proof) you can definitely sell it to cyclists. :)


Long distance running benefits from anti-abrasion garments as well. Inner thighs can get real raw, ouch!


This is VERY cool. It took me into rabbit-hole of learning more about this material vs. Kevlar -

Ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene (UHMWPE): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultra-high-molecular-weight_po...

Dyneema vs. Kevlar data: http://bladebuster.ca/our-products/cut-resistant-clothing/dy...

Dyneema vs. Kevlar and new fibers for military: www.army-technology.com/features/feature98985/

Zylon that was used instead of Kevlar degraded due to body moisture: https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=473209...

Spectra a polyethylene fiber from Honeywell:: https://www.honeywell-spectra.com/applications/textiles/

UHMWPE used in ropes: www.novabraid.com/rope-material/spectra-fiber-rope/


Yes! That's the very same rabbit hole I fell into when I started out. It's really fascinating stuff.


Friends use Dyneema and Spectra to make bowstrings (primarily for crossbows). They don't mind getting wet, don't stretch, and are extremely strong.


They do stretch a little over time. I have kite flying lines from Dyneema and Spectra, and they stretch over time and need to be equalized (move the knots so the lengths match).

But it's very little, I had about 2.5cm change in 25m over a few years. That's 1 part in 1000. This is from irregular kite flying, so not under (very) high tension or constant stress.

Fantastic materials, nevertheless.


F U HACKER NEWS for finding the ONE guy who could have possibly answered this question.

I love (f) U


I've seen spectra rope used to tow launch hang gliders. It resulted in a performance advantage over whatever it replaced because it could be much thinner and lighter.


This is really cool! (I too make non-connected things and it's great).

Two things:

> Sheerly Genius sheers are patent pending and our manufacturing process is a trade secret.

Patents are the opposite of secret, ie public. You can't patent something and have it secret at the same time. So your manufacturing process is either secret, and not patented, or patented, and public. (Of course you may have patented something other than the manufacturing process, like a specific knot, etc.)

The second thing is, what about security? Things that never tear or break can be dangerous, for example if you get caught by a moving vehicle, or other problem. It may sound far-fetched and completely improbable... until it happens. What are your thoughts about that?


Yes - you are right. That line in the video probably wouldn't have made it by our patent lawyer. We are patent pending. Some elements of how our fiber is produced (not in our patent), and some of the R&D things we are trying are trade secret, but for the purposes of simplicity we are patent pending. The fibers are strong but can be cut with a sharp knife or pointy object - anything EMTs or emergency services would have on hand, or something like a seat belt cutter wouldn't have an issue getting through them.


Aw darn. My first thought was protection from knife attacks.

If that worked, you could also sell to that company making the anti-rape pants.


Yea but if you get incapacitated one of the first things they do to get to the wound is cut the clothes around the wound area. If you have pants make of knife proof material your life could be endangered.


Some sports clothing is designed to be resistant to sharp edges [1]. The link is for some ski basewear.

[1] http://www.energiapura.info/158/PANTA-34-ANTICUTTING


Something thin and flexible won't protect against stabbing very well; the knife will just drive the material into the body. Cut resistant gloves are a thing and usually made of fine metal chain mail, but they're intended for protection from accidents using cutting tools, not assaults. The material used would probably not provide much protection against forceful stabbing.


  Things that never tear or break can be dangerous
They say they've tested to last 50 wears. I'd be surprised if these were more dangerous than a pair of denim jeans in that regard - to say nothing of a pair of leather or aramid lined motorcyclist's trousers.


They do say that the product is patent pending, and the process is a trade secret. These are not mutually exclusive.


You can keep the trade secret until the patent application is published.


I know sheer is in your company name, but please do some 40 deniers too.

Here in England sheers are for old ladies, teenagers, air hostesses and conservative offices. 40 denier black are the universal tights - take a look if you’re ever in London.

Ok they’re stronger than 20d, but they still hole far far too easily. I would love 40 deniers with the strength you’re promising.


Thanks Anna!I totally agree. We're definitely going to be going there. We wanted to start with sheers because that is where the problem is most apparent, and where existing products last barely one wear. But I agree, 40d pantyhose still rip - and need to be innovated as well!


That Kickstarter video's first 20 seconds are amazing - funny, informative, and arresting.

Did you guys write and direct that in house?

EDIT - After watching the entire video - including you hanging from them like a swing - I hope you are considering direct response TV as a marketing channel for these. You nailed the informative / circus show balance and I bet you could edit this into a 30 / 60 / 90.


Thank you! So glad you enjoyed the video. I wrote the script with the help of a friend/investor, and we pulled together our friends to make it happen. Elias of SoulFood productions did the camera magic - http://soulfoodproductions.com/.

We've always thought television shopping would be a great channel for this product! And will definitely be cutting more versions of the video :)


Your video is the perfect balance of being professional enough to look good and amateur enough to seem sincere. Everything was clear and to the point yet nobody seemed like an actor. The reaction to the hanging scene at the end was fantastic.


I also really liked the video. I recently filmed a promo video for our small startup and the acting piece is hard - you killed it.


Thanks Jen - so glad you liked it. Videos are always so hard!


The video is great! It successfully avoids the usual Kickstarter kliches (Silicon Valley guitars, etc) while clearly explaining the product in a down-to-earth fashion. I love the tongue-in-cheek humor as well :)


Thank you! I'm glad you liked the video - and some of our corny jokes :)


So in love with this! As soon as my bf sent me the kickstarter video, I became a funder.

I love all the women-focused specialty clothing we're getting in the past few years, especially ones that use modern technology to improve our daily lives/comfort (and not just make another bra that claims to be the last bra you'll ever need but that actually still only fits one type of breast...).

And speaking of innovative women's clothing, I'm assuming you are familiar with Heist Studios and their tights?


I am so glad you liked the video and that it caught your attention! That is so awesome to hear =)

I have heard of Heist, and actually bought a bunch and tested them out - sadly they too have the same problems as all of the other sheers out on the market today. You can see a video of my tests (including Heist) here > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qXt3vNL8ILA


hi @kathomuth. Just want to compliment the way you’re answering to peoples’ questions / comments / suggestions. Too many founders come off as defensive, instead of absorbing what they can from outsiders. Your comments come off as very receptive, yet informed. Good work!


Thanks Mike! Appreciate you saying so. I've really been enjoying the conversation.


This is really cool :)

Thought, look into nanocellulose fibers for textiles, and your product could be biodegradable while still exceptionally strong[1]. Tech is probably not mature, but worth keeping an eye on for future.

[1] https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms5018


Interesting! Thanks so much for sharing. Another fiber I'm keeping an eye on is Spider silk, but that tech is still too immature for mass production.


Polylactones are biodegradable polymers available right now, although i don't think they're particularly strong:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polycaprolactone

If the fibers can be made cheaply and are biodegradable, then perhaps you could make deliberately and responsibly disposable tights, in which case their strength wouldn't matter as much. It's not as cool as super-strong hosiery, but thinking about it, i quite like the idea of disposable underwear!


Polycaprolactone is actually unbelievably strong in one particular way: its fracture toughness is astounding because its elongation at break is usually over 1000%, higher even than polyethylenes. No other structural material even comes close, unless you're counting soft rubbers (latex, polyurethane, or SEBS, but not silicones), which reach high deformations through pseudoelasticity rather than plastic flow.

Unfortunately, PCL's tensile strength is kind of lame, tens of megapascals, like typical polyethylenes — but polyethylenes greatly exceed it in chemical resistance, heat resistance, and moldability. And its low tensile modulus gives it a very low speed of sound, which in turn means that in some applications where you'd really love its incredible fracture toughness, the impacts are sharp enough that it will break anyway. So, most of the time, you're better off with metals or stronger engineering plastics for fracture toughness.

However, the poor moldability and low glass transition point of PCL give it a rather unique property among reasonably stiff materials: you can shape the freaking stuff with your hands while molten. And so it is that you can find PCL inexpensively on Amazon under names like ShapeLock, InstaMorph, ThermoMorph, Kemilove, TechTack, Polymorph, and so on.

Just be careful about the service temperature. Like most plastics and metals, PCL loses most of its strength well before it actually melts.

As for textiles, supposing you could spin PCL into fibers (which I'm pretty sure you can, even if nobody has), PCL tights would be pretty much impossible to get runs in, but they would melt if you spilled hot coffee on them. That might be a deal-killer.

Rayon (cellophane) is also biodegradable. Usually this is considered a drawback. Polylactide is probably the most popular biodegradable plastic going around these days, but it isn't really biodegradable, it's aquadegradable. And it's probably too brittle to make a useful garment fiber, even if the hydrolysis problem wasn't a killer.


Very interesting! This is a fiber we hadn't looked into, seems like there would be some challenges with our use case (particularly the melting point). But definitely something I'm going to look more into.


Drop US$20 on a few hundred grams on Amazon and play with it. I used it to fix a lot of things when I was traveling around with my wife in a Volkswagen bus, even though the temperatures sometimes got too high for it.


Will do!


Someone must have looked into ester/amide copolymers already, anyone would think that that increased the melting point.


really like the demo of you hanging in the climbing harness for a demo of strength, but I request the following demo of strength:

A belt sander.

Put a side of beef/ham/whatever (sorry vegans) in a pair of these hose and rub it up against a belt sander.

This will emulate "road rash" that could ensue assuming you do a sports line (like sleeves/leggings/elbow/knee-pads/etc)

you have established your strength arg, but now please establish your anti-abrasion claim. Then you become a unicorn.

Also; please measure the hydrophobic properties of your material.


What a creative demo suggestion! My house is under renos right now, so I'm sure we have a belt sander somewhere...lol. Our fiber is highly hydrophobic.


This begs for a willitblend.com style campaign: will it run?


> a side of beef/ham/whatever (sorry vegans)

Maybe fruits or vegetables? Having them survive this would be impressive and memorable even if it isn't a realistic model of human flesh.


Neat product! I'm in awe of anyone who can make physical products. I think the kickstarter video hit a great tone. I'm a big fan of durable products replacing disposable.


Thank you! Appreciate your support and glad you liked the video!


I posted this on /r/femalefashionadvice, should be interesting to see the commentary there also.

https://www.reddit.com/r/femalefashionadvice/comments/7xo5jr...


'[removed]'


I do not wear pantyhose, so forgive me for naiivety, but I would love to know

1) Is the price not a bit high for something that you can only wear 50 times? I suppose i'm not sure what the price per wear is of traditional pantyhose

2) Why does something so strong (e.g. you can try to pull them apart) only last 50 wears? Seems like it's stronger than any tshirt I've worn but I continue to wear them for years


1) A typical pair of sheer pantyhose lasts 1-2 wears. Generic pantyhose cost about $10, and name-brand pantyhose cost $25-35 (Commando/Spanx), designer pantyhose cost $60-$85(Wolford). So 50 wears in another pair of sheers would cost anywhere from $250 - $1500. When you look at it like that, our cost actually saves women money, not to mention frustration, over time.

2) Pantyhose are made with a pretty open weave, and are much lower denier than any shirt you would own, making them more susceptible to wear and tear - even when made out of an incredibly strong fiber like ours. But well taken care of - I'm sure they could last more than 50 wears. That said, it is an underwear product, so you may want to swap it out eventually :)


My girlfriend buys generic pantyhose that's $1 (we're in Central Europe). It looks good, and lasts 1-2 wears before something pulls the fabric. In her case, SheerlyGenius would cost 3-6x as much.

Another advantage of the $1 pairs is they always look like new, since she wears a new pair almost every time. How does a SheerlyGenius pair look after 30 wears?

I imagine there's a use case here because people are funding the Kickstarter, but I feel like $150 pantyhose is a small market.


What I'm going to say is not at all against your girlfriend, but I find amazing that you could buy pantyhoses for 1$ that are single use. The amount of waste must be staggering.


I was surprised as well. Stores sell 1 packs for $1.50, or 2 packs for $2 at list price.

I never really put much thought into pantyhose during my life, and I just assumed they costed $10 and lasted a long time like a pair of socks. I didn't realize 1-2 wears is normal. It is a huge amount of waste as you said.

Nonetheless, I don't think $150 pantyhose is the solution. My girlfriend can have three different thicknesses to choose from in her closet for $3. She's not going to pay $450 to have that same level of selection. I think the price needs to come way down from $150 to $25 to make sense.


Great conversation here. Unless you're going to a Costco, I'd say you'd be pretty hard pressed to find $1 pairs of pantyhose in the US or Canada (which is I'll admit where I have the most market familiarity). And even if you could get a "disposable" pair for $1, the problem generally is that you don't know when during that first where they might rip. Having your tights get a run mid day is a major inconvenience. It is why a lot of women say they no longer wear pantyhose. Not to mention the waste of the single wear product (which takes about 50 years to decompose in a landfill). I don't think everyone is going to immediately start investing in indestructible pantyhose, but I think there are very clear benefits for those that do.


I came to a similar conclusion, the numbers are skewed and don't really add up, though admittedly I have a limited exposure to the pantyhose market.

Juicero was VC backed, funding sometimes is not a good proxy to go by. Nevertheless, good luck to them.


They've only tested up to 50 wears, I suppose?


Yes, also this. As we mature as a company I'm sure we'll get more data around # wears under different types of circumstances and after longer periods of time.


while the tights are obviously not bulletproof, yet very possibly to be knife/abrasion-proof. That opens for example a market for work/sport wear, like lighter version of those kevlar gloves in Home Depot.


Definitely! We've had a lot of requests from the sport/workout wear side of things in particular. For anyone interested in more of a sport related product, I actually have a list you can subscribe to for updates as we continue to explore new product variants: http://eepurl.com/dkHD6X


Can you please make a pair of socks from your textile/tech and report back on how good they work?

(then sell socks to the military's of the planet) (and glove liners, and Bivys)


Great idea!


Among sports, keep dance in mind — somehow, we became a dance family, and we go through a lot of tights!


This is a great point. I actually used to dance, so I know the pain! I think this will be a great extension for us down the line. There are some different requirements with dance (extra stretch, and sometimes varying waist/foot designs), so I think we'd likely need a specialized sku - but something to explore.


Just as long as they're not EMT/ER scissor proof.


They're not.


Great idea!! I'd love to try one out, one question though, how's the breathe-ability of the garment? I find I have trouble with ones that don't let my skin sweat or breathe out just a tad.


It's very breathable! The knit in an of itself is breathable, but our fibers are also naturally cool to the touch, and are ultra light (they float on water), making them more comfortable for day to day wear than regular pantyhose.


>Our goal is to replace these disposable products with Sheerly Genius, which has been tested to last up to 50 wears.

Out of curiosity, how did you determine this?

edit: omg lol, I love the robber scene in your kickstarter video


How did we determine the 50 wears metric? We've been producing prototypes since September, and have been testing them with real women for day to day wash and wear (in addition to our other more extreme tests like velcro, rings, and hanging from the ceiling...lol)


So, originally nylon stockings were pretty much bulletproof and in 30-40 denier, but what happened was, DuPont realized they could make them in 10-15 denier and still last four-five uses. And people bought those like hotcakes, since they were prettier.

If you can make stockings bulletproof at 15 denier, what's to stop you (or a competitor) from going to 3-6 denier and make an even prettier stocking that only lasts four-five uses?


I totally agree, it's not in the interest of the hosiery industry to create a reusable product. 30-40 denier products in traditional nylon are definitely stronger than sheerer product, but are by no means even comparable to the strength of the product we can produce in the same denier. If we wanted to produce a 3-6 denier product with our materials, we could. So if that's where the competition wanted to push the fashion trend we could go there and still have a way better performing product. Not to mention, the industry's move towards disposable product has created a massive pain point for consumers, so we really believe consumers are ready to invest in something they can actually get through a day in.


I'm speaking completely outside of my subject area, so take this with a large grain of salt but hear me out -- I think the video is great and success from the Kickstarter is proof of that.

But, I think a business needs to have solid distinguishing characteristics. An ad that basically says, "It's more durable and just a little more expensive, so if you do the math, it will work out in your favor after a long enough period of time" doesn't sound like you're playing your strongest cards in your hand.

If you can make a product that no one else can, such as 3-6 denier, or super-strong athletic compression tights, then you create name-brand distinction. Even if it means that the bulk of sales end up being what you just advertised in Kickstarter, the tail-ends of the market is what defines the brand. "Super-sheer, super-strong."


I think "tougher and more expensive" is enough of a distinction. I buy a lot of gear in the hiking/camping/onebag world, and a lot of companies there comprise nothing other than a "our shit don't break" philosophy. For example, Goruck bags or Wolverine boots.


Hi there- Natalie with Sheerly Genius. Robber scene is so funny! Love that part too!


Have you thought about making woven products with the UHMWPE you're presumably using? I want to replace my daily-carry satchel, which is leather, and the 200 grams of leather is a big chunk out of my 1500-gram satchel budget. I'd actually thought about building a machine to unbraid UHMW fishing line and thread it onto a bobbin for weaving. And 20–30 denier was about what I was hoping for; I feel like 20–30 denier UHMW twill would make for a satchel that was satiny, lightweight, impossible to stain, easy to clean, abrasion-resistant, and damn near bulletproof.


Interesting use case! I hadn't considered going in that direction, but it does remind me of a pitch I saw on Shark Tank where someone used UHMWPE to create a bag. https://loctote.com/


Oh wow, this is super awesome! Backpacks knit from Spectra! Thank you!


One interesting application is permeable space suit designs. The idea is that instead of encapsulating an astronaut in a flexible pressurized container you put them in a tight fitting suit that can apply the 3.5 lbs of force per square inch necessary to counter the pressure of the air they breath. Cooling is provided by normal perspiration through the fabric. (Don't forget that vacuum is a great insulator!)


I wouldn't be surprised if this fiber was already used in space suits! But definitely a great application if they aren't already.


I love this project, but I detest control-top garments—if you branch into stockings or hold-ups, I promise to invest in some!


Thank you for your support! Yes, stay tuned - we definitely hope to expand the product range down the line.


My instant thought is “I want an opaque version with custom prints”.


So, a legging ? I agree that it would be nice. Specially for the sports market


Have you got already got a fabric sample? How do the material properties of HDPE knitted fabric compare to nylon?


Yes we already have a number of prototypes out in the wild. Everything shown on our kickstarter is real product. They look and feel just like traditional pantyhose, which was actually a bit of a surprise to us too! They have some perks over traditional nylon knits as well, the PE fibers are natually cool to the touch and bacterial resistant, making them great for hosiery/intimates. The biggest challenge for us in getting the knit to work properly was stretch. PE fibers don't stretch, so we had to fiber out ways to knit/combine with other fibers, to create stretch, without compromising on strength.


Can you make a bodysuit of this? Others have mentioned that it might be knife / abrasion proof.

Also, other than the resistance to being broken does it have any other capabilities such as wicking, odor resistance?

Are there any disadvantages to wearing the fiber?

What about allergic reactions?


You could make a bodysuit, can't see why not - was there a particular application you were thinking of?

The fiber is bacteria resistant, odor resistant, and naturally cool to the touch. We have yet to find any disadvantages of this product compared to a traditional nylon. This fiber has been used in safety equipment like gloves for some time without issues like allergic reactions - and we haven't see anything like that in our own testing.


Since someone said that they might be knife/abrasion-proof you could have a sporting line of undershirts (or would it be overshirts) that one could wear for these types of applications. I would think that maybe a leotard or some type of bodysuit might be appropriate for that?


Sporting has been a very popular use case/product request. So much so, I actually started a mailing list to collect interest/to learn more about what people would like to see from that type of product: http://eepurl.com/dkHD6X


Material science is so interesting to me. Like real life mad scientists.


Yup:) We wanted to create something that was truly indestructible. There are many on the market claiming to be, but we tested them and they were very easily ripped. We set out to push the envelope and also to try and revolutionize the hosiery industry- which we have and we are really excited for everyone to try them out!


how did the process of fiber development go? sounds like kevlar was a non-starter, but you ended up with something similar? How many pairs of tights would I need to stop a 9mm @ ten meters?


We ended up using polyethylene based fibers, which have similar applications to aramids. They have taken the place of Kevlar in many applications because they are lighter and stronger. They were a better starting point for us due to the fact they come in lower deniers, but were still not fine enough - or the right color for our application. So we went directly to the manufacturers to develop our own variant.


They are also naturally cooling and antibacterial.


Stop a 9mm @ ten meters from what?

Even if the bullet didn't breach the fabric, the fabric is gonna breach YOU. I guess it might make recovering the projectile from your internal organs a little easier, LOL. So there is that.


It would still serve to slow the projectile faster than it would be without, if you slowed the projectile enough so that it stops moving a sliver sooner; it could mean the difference between puncturing an artery or not.


> It would still serve to slow the projectile faster than it would be without

That's not even clear.

One of the common problems for bullet manufacturers with the "FBI protocol" suite of tests used to be the "heavy clothing" test. Shooting through several layers of denim would clog the cavity of the hollow point bullets and cause them to over penetrate.

Simply put, it's extremely difficult to predict how bullets will react to barriers of any kind in lieu of testing.


We haven't tested it for anything like this - so I wouldn't want to make any claims about the product when it come to something as serious being bulletproof. That said, theoretically it probably would have some sort of protective impact greater than having nothing at all. But again, not something we've done any testing on or can make any claims to.


Reading this subthread I'm imagining the slow-mo of a bullet hitting ballistics gel coated/covered with $generic_amazing_bulletproof_coating, the impact, and the ripple effect.

I can't help but wonder if something coated with something perfectly bulletproof might actually make things worse depending on the bullet's angle - for example, under ideal circumstances, a bullet could enter and leave and take out some fat - but if everything's covered, the whole surrounding area is going to get some serious bruising instead.

Possibly. </Armchair commentary>


You mentioned Kevlar, which hemp can do too. Is hemp a viable option for tights?

Hemp is also antibacterial; this article mentions a 60/40 hemp/rayon blend by EnviroTextile for antibacterial teddy bears, scrubs, : https://herb.co/marijuana/news/anti-bacterial-hemp-fabric-wi...


Interesting. I wouldn't expect hemp would have the tenacity as the fibers we're using. But reading more about it now, it looks like people are trying to do some interesting things with hemp in bulletproof. One challenge might be how fine the fiber can be made. But I'm going to look into it!


It took a few searches, but I found these useful and relevant:

"Bulletproof with Hemp" https://culturemagazine.com/bulletproof-with-hemp/

> Naturally Advanced Technologies is a company that takes hemp fibers and treats them with a patented enzymatic solution that further enhances their already protective qualities by making the final material softer and thinner than silk, but stronger and lighter. This material, called Crailar, can also be converted into plastic materials similar to the kind Henry Ford’s famous Model T Ford was made of.

CRAiLAR: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CRAiLAR_Technologies


>Fun Fact: Half of our backers on Kickstarter so far have been men!

New startup idea: pantyhose marketed towards men. YC 2018 here I come!


Honestly - the more I'm learning about this market - the more I'm thinking we need to launch a line / brand marketed just for men. The more you know!


I wonder if it's the marketing or if it's just men that are into feminine stuff. Will running commercials playing industrial rock music and starring big burly construction workers wearing pantyhose like it's badass really sell?

Probably you should just keep the marketing low key and just add extra space in the crotch area for the balls.


For men they're called base layers - like long johns but made of thin nylon in manly colors.



From our conversations with customers so far, I'd say its mostly men buying for their wives/girlfriends - but quite a large number buying for themselves as well.


My wife is 6'2", any plans for longer pairs? There is definitely a market for them, particularly internationally.


Given that pantyhose are stretchy - your wife would likely be fine in one of our larger sizes, dependant on her build. I'm not 6'2", but I'm 5'10" and have found that as long as I'm buying a larger pair I'm usually fine. You just trade give horizonally, for give vertically if that makes sense. I'll also take a closer look at our size chat are see what extending the height range in the listed chart might look like.


This is dope. I studied polymer-textile-fiber engineering til my engineering school shut down the program, it's still incredibly relevant, but it has kind of gone away in the USA for obvious reasons as a practice.

Wish there was a site where I could learn about new textiles initiatives/technologies like this.

I was YCS2012.

Textile dye causes 20% of all industrial waste water pollution.

This is a huge win, well done. Very relevant.

Rooting for you(all)


This site has textile news, here an article about textile bike spokes: https://textile-network.com/en/Technische-Textilien/TU-Chemn...

And here another interesting application, a textile bike lock: https://www.tex-lock.com/en/


Thank you! Really appreciate the support.


10x stronger than steel, and floats on water - sounds a bit like Dyneema. Best of luck!


Or Spectra.

Though I imagine to get the fibers fine enough, you would need even higher molecular weight and a little more crosslinking. Possibly with a better plasticizer so you could get tighter loops (from the knitting process) without breaking the strands.

This is awesome. If you can get this to succeed as hosiery, gloves are the obvious next step, then the inner liners for multilayer outerwear garments.


Apparently you can't have crosslinking - the melt would be too viscous to be extruded from a tiny spinneret. You wouldn't use plasticizers in polyethylene, the "plasticizer" in LLDPE is a tiny amount of long-chain terminal alkenes that serve as domain breakers.

Fibers is truly where chemistry and engineering collide.


This problem is even worse with PCL, which is so viscous it's almost unusable for most purposes. Thinking about PCL fibers in https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16380491, it occurred to me that I had made some crude PCL fibers by hand — while the plastic wasn't molten. So it occurred to me that you could probably make PCL fibers by the process of die drawing, the same way you make copper fibers or steel fibers, maybe without even the annealing steps in the middle. Presumably this would work for a variety of plastics with high elongation at break.


There are definitely lots of interesting applications - it has been amazing to me that this fiber has been so under utilized in apparel to date. We started with hosiery because of the very obvious pain point, which I've experienced personally, but love hearing about people's experiences with other products we could take this to!


One thing I'm surprised at, is how long it's taken for someone to actually solve this problem!


Yes, my thoughts exactly!


Definitely shares a lot of similarities!


I read "indestructible tights" and thought immediately of Edna Mode...


Great idea! This seems more like a shark-tank play than a YC, because it's a mass consumer product, tv publicity, distribution channels etc. What made you go the VC route?


From my perspective, I see a lot of R&D in the company's future, not to mention a need to invest in growth/marketing - things we wouldn't be able to do quickly, if at all without VC funding. But I'm curious to learn more about your perspective - can you expand on what made you think this was less VC suitable? Would love to hear as it will prepare me for what questions I might get fundraising!


The Sharks do a lot of business with mass consumer retail, so they are well connected. They have existing businesses. E.g. selling on QVC. Not sure if the Silicon Valley investors deal with that kind of stuff? Maybe the YC MO is to let the founder figure that out (so basically the founder is treated less with kid gloves). The sharks do ask for lower valuations than other investors so that kind of goes hand in hand.

I am not an expert in this area, this is more of an armchair comment / question.


So this is what The Hulk's pants are made of!


What were the other two companies you sold?


ShopLocket (to PCH Intl) and Female Funders (to Highline Beta)


This could be a SaaS "Socks as a service".


Did you ever look at synthetic spider silk?


Yes! Very promising fiber. Sadly none of the manufacturers we spoke to were ready for any sort of mass production yet.


great product!! are you raising any angel funding?


Congrats on the launch! Excited to see this, I'll definitely forward this to my wife.

Personally, I think the Kickstarter video might be a bit long and/or verbose? I know nothing about Kickstarter campaigns, but there's plenty of folks who do within the YC network.

Also, there was a missed opportunity for a cameo by Zak! (Kidding of course!)


Zak is the robber accomplice - sitting in the car beside the robber that has lines :)

Really appreciate your feedback on the video! We're always trying new things, so I'm sure there are more edits of this in our future. Right now Kickstarter is showing that 32% of visitors watch the whole video - which I think is probably pretty good?


That's a very subtle cameo, but upon rewatching it, I can clearly see his long, luscious hair.


I don't want to seem like a grammar nazi of sorts, but it seems to me that there are a couple of typos in the points 7 and 8 of the "How we did it":

7/ >the ->them?

8/ >ridicuously ->ridiculously


Thank you for pointing those out! Fixed :)


> Half of our backers on Kickstarter so far have been men!

really makes you think


Those backers are planning on wearing it. It's a hidden market.. a niche that hasn't been exploited.




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