In September 2019, Lydia Okello, a content material creator who works primarily with gradual vogue manufacturers, acquired an e mail from a small underwear firm providing to ship a package deal of its merchandise, with no stress to submit about them. Mx. Okello agreed, and inside two weeks, a recyclable package deal containing a delicate lilac bralette and an identical pair of vertiginously high-waisted panties arrived at their doorstep in Vancouver, British Columbia.
“I used to be stunned underwear may very well be that comfy instantly,” mentioned Mx. Okello, who was so offered on the underwear that they’ve since acquired eight extra pairs, paid for fully out of pocket.
The model, ARQ, in McMinnville, Ore., sells only one type of nether clothes: a borderline parody of granny panties with an increase so steep it inches previous the stomach button. (The corporate additionally affords three types of bralette, a tank high and a bodysuit in an array of cheerful colours.)
At $28 per pair, the panties should not precisely budget-friendly. But regardless of the retro silhouette and purple worth, ARQ has managed to gather a cult following that pledges utter fealty to the exaggerated intimates based mostly on their formidable protection, consolation and counterintuitive intercourse attraction.
“I’ve by no means felt higher in a pair of underwear in my life,” mentioned Miriam Salamah, a office specialist in Los Angeles. Ms. Salamah found the label two years in the past after creeping the Instagram profile of an ex-fling’s new girlfriend and admired a mustard yellow and pink checkered set she had posted — till she discovered the worth.
“They need $28 for a pair of underwear?” she mentioned, utilizing an expletive. “I can not afford this.”
It wasn’t till early 2021 that Ms. Salamah felt financially comfy sufficient to purchase a pair and has since acquired two extra. “It’s wonderful to take a pair of 3XL underwear out of the package deal and breathe a sigh of aid figuring out it’s going to suit me,” she mentioned.
Kate Resler, a digital content material strategist in Albany, N.Y., acquired her first pair of ARQ panties firstly of the pandemic and has since turn out to be a fervent collector. “Each pay interval I’ll purchase one other couple pairs,” she mentioned.
For Ms. Resler, the hyperbolic panties are greater than well worth the worth. “They don’t are inclined to journey up or down, they don’t stretch out in the course of the day and so they cowl my entire butt,” she mentioned. “I nonetheless put on my high-waisted Hanes, however they’re rather more restrictive.”
Like some skivvies-based “Sisterhood of the Touring Pants,” ARQ has managed to realize the actually miraculous: a single type of underwear that each conforms to and flatters each physique form.
“A lot of the handful of individuals I used to be working with on manufacturing in L.A. advised me they have been ridiculous,” mentioned Abigail Quist, the ARQ founder. “I used to be like, ‘No, these feel and look wonderful, belief me.’”
A former ballet instructor, Ms. Quist based the corporate in 2016. Initially she offered kids’s clothes however pivoted to grownup undergarments in 2018. The underwear’s uncanny match was not achieved by means of rigorous testing. Reasonably, Ms. Quist sewed a pair for herself and beloved them a lot she determined to provide extra.
She attributes ARQ’s consolation and match to its bound-edge seams, an unusual end in underwear. As an alternative of elastic, the perimeters are cloth that’s folded over and sewn by means of to create a hem.
Since 2018, development has been swift. In 2020, ARQ did $7.5 million in product sales, in comparison with $1 million in 2019, Ms. Quist mentioned. Little question the pandemic, by which individuals deserted their common clothes in favor of cozy tie-dye sweatsuits and nap attire, performed a task.
“This silhouette ties into the present day messaging of sporting issues for you,” mentioned Cora Harrington, the founder and editor of The Lingerie Addict. “I might very a lot file ARQ below the umbrella of this anti-Victoria’s Secret, anti-erotic aesthetic that focuses on girls being themselves.”
Remarkably, ARQ’s development appears to be pushed largely by means of phrase of mouth with a sprinkle of strategic product seeding amongst gradual vogue influencers combined in. A web based whisper community has fashioned by which girls counsel each other on the properties of the panties.
“I’ve had pals come to me asking: ‘I’ve observed you will have ARQ. Do you want them? Are they well worth the cash?’” Mx. Okello mentioned.
Typically instances these informal conversations result in a purchase order. After which one other. “Our return buyer fee is bonkers,” mentioned Ms. Quist, who added that greater than 48 % of shoppers find yourself making a second buy.
The princely worth relies on the load of the cotton spandex cloth, which Ms. Quist mentioned is twice as thick as the typical pair of Fruit of the Looms. The cotton is natural, and the corporate works with a manufacturing facility in Los Angeles that pays staff $14.25 an hour. Wages at ARQ’s delivery and achievement warehouse start at $15 an hour, and the corporate covers well being look after all workers.
Past its instant disciples, ARQ is alleged to choose up optimistic evaluations from a much less apparent demographic. “If I had any person I used to be hooking up with over and placed on a pair of ARQ, even guys would praise them,” mentioned Mary Niamh McGettigan, a scholar in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Ms. Quist insists that there’s nothing enchanted about her underwear — “We will’t make magic clothes that morph to suit each physique” — however the proof suggests in any other case.
“All of my maturity I’ve been looking for a pair of standby underwear I do know might be cozy and simply match,” Mx Okello mentioned. “I had not ever discovered that till I discovered these.”