Anthony Hall’s early 2014 Kickstarter campaign is the crowdfunding website’s fifth-most-funded fashion project and the top fashion one in Illinois. Not only did it blow past his $10,000 goal on the first day, it earned $404,763 in pledges within a month. His project? Period Panties, brightly colored underwear emblazoned with cartoonish horror characters and not-safe-for-work puns on menstruation. Hall, a Chicago-based designer, says he took in about $80,000 to $90,000 in annual revenue on the panties before the Kickstarter campaign and now “could foresee us making just under $1 million this year, or within two years.” Hall, founder of Harebrained Design Inc., discusses the line.
Q. How did Period Panties get their start?
A. I made initially maybe 30 individual pairs, and they were one color and pretty crude. I took them to a craft show, and everybody was laughing at them. I started working with a factory in China to make really small orders. Some of the characters didn't have a pop-culture appeal. But people still liked the idea and the look.
I sold out of those, but I thought I would try having them made in America. I started working with a company, but it took forever and the quality and printing was really bad. After I sold those, I thought I was done with Period Panties. But I had enough fans to change my mind. I decided if I was going to do it, I wanted to do it right and go back to China to have them made. Since they needed a minimum order, I turned to Kickstarter to get the funding for it.
Q. Were you surprised at the Kickstarter’s success?
A. For sure. We hit almost $200,000 in the first week, so at that point it did get a little overwhelming. I thought I would have to ask my friends to help me fulfill all the orders, but it turned out to be way more than my friends and I could handle.
I've hired a company in California called TeeFury. They do a lot of pop culture T-shirts. They ship out thousands of orders every day. I’ve worked with them before designing T-shirts for them. They offered to help me out with the fulfillment.
Q. How do you feel about being called both empowering and sexist?
A. People get upset because there is a guy behind the company. I do get that. They would definitely love to see it be a female-headed company. I like breaking taboos and pushing buttons. Half of the population menstruates at some point, and it’s kind of ridiculous that there’s a very sanitized way of talking about it, and I feel like it shouldn't be. I think it’s kind of empowering. I would say 80 percent of the people who supported our Kickstarter are women.
Q. Did you get a female perspective on it?
A. Since I don’t have that perspective, I consult with my female friends, and they give me very frank advice. They'll tell me, “No, do not say that,” or “No, you can't make that design.”
Q. Would you hire a woman to run the business?
A. I still would like to do the designing part, but I have no intention of being the only one running Period Panties. I think a female presence could do so much more with it.
Q&As are edited for length and clarity.