Naja Lingerie: Empowering Women
Naja Sprarrow Fall Collection ‘17 | Photo courtesy by Naja
By Rebekah Sager
Catalina Girard’s lingerie line Naja was founded on the idea that feeling empowered is the new sexy, and nothing is more empowering than knowing your money is going towards helping other women. Girard has set herself apart from the rest by bringing socially conscious manufacturing to the world of undergarments.
The 4-year-old company employs garment workers – mostly single mothers and heads of households living in the slums of Medellin, Colombia – giving them a unique opportunity to work from home while having their children’s education paid for.
“My objective when I started the company was to think about the wearer, [but] I realized it was equally as important to empower the maker of the product,” Girard explains.
Catalina Girard | Photo courtesy by Naja
Girard is a Stanford University MBA grad and one of a handful of women in Silicon Valley with a venture capital-funded company. Her vision for the lingerie line is to veer away from the traditional use of female objectification and toward strength, self-acceptance, and giving a hand up to other women. As Girard explains, “We couldn’t be empowering women who purchased our product while knowing [it] was being made by underprivileged women who weren’t being treated well.”
The company’s name Naja, a female’s name in Germany, Thailand, and Indonesia, also came about in an aptly Silicon Valley way – after a meeting with Evan Williams, the founder and former CEO of Twitter. Williams initially suggested Nadia, but Girard eventually came up with Naja instead.
There are only few places in the world that currently manufacture lingerie – mostly Asia. Girard, whose family hails from Medellin, knew immediately she wanted to put her resources and ground her company there– from a social level and a personal one.
Gerttie Bralette Squioa | Photo courtesy by Naja
Naja’s “Underwear for Hope” program pays its workers above-market wages, as well as education and health benefits. The women can work as much or as little as they want, from home, by sewing the fabric wash bags that package the items from the line.
Two percent of Naja’s revenue is donated to local charities, which provide everything from continuing education for works to school uniforms for the children of workers. Naja also recently launched a new program that provides service dogs to help treat children with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of sexual or physical abuse. “We’re helping out the children, and so we’re helping out the mothers,” Girard says.
Part of Naja’s social mission also includes helping the environment. Fifty percent of Naja’s products are made from recycled plastics, and 70 percent of their fabrics are digitally printed versus using dyes — which keeps local water free of harmful chemicals.
Keeping in line with the company’s efforts to be accepting of all women, several of Naja’s panty lines offer quirky motivational quotes printed in the crotch. Girard says her current favorite is, “Be you, the world will adjust.” And they recently launched a campaign titled, “Nude for All” – a line that provides seven additional skin-tones for women of color.
Audrey Hi-Waisted Sparrow | Photo courtesy by Naja
Naja’s unique business model in the world of lingerie may have been met with skepticism, but it is paying off. Girard says the company has continually grown since its initial launch – revenue in 2016 was 80% higher than 2015.
Women’s lingerie has long been classically thought of as a piece of clothing worn to inspire and capture a man’s attention. Naja flips this on its ear. Whether it’s about inspiring or empowering women, Naja adorns its customers and frees the women who make it.
Valentina Bustier Orchid Madagascar | Photo courtesy by Naja