Media Partners | Contributors | Advertise | Contact | Log in | Wednesday 17 July 2019
182,543 SUBSCRIBERS

Behind the Brand: The lingerie brand aiming to stop 3 million tampons and pads going to landfill

RATE THIS ARTICLE

Share This Article:

WUKA is a period pants brand that will completely replace your need for other menstrual products. Unlike other brands, WUKA prides themselves on catering for all women (and people who need period pants) by making them from age nine to size 20.

Inclusive and sustainable? We just had to know more! So we chatted to founder Ruby Raut to find out the story Behind The Brand

Ruby Raut // Image courtesy of WUKA & The Violet Agency

Inspired by her upbringing...

Ruby’s personal experiences have been at the core of her business, providing the energy and rationale behind WUKA: "WUKA is not just a product," she says: "we want to smash taboos around periods, reduce plastic pollution in menstrual products, and develop work around period poverty – it’s a massive shift in entrepreneurship away from profit-only to work, that engages in ethical issues, women’s issues and environmental concerns."

Sustainability is something that has always been of importance to Ruby: "I chose to take my first degree in Environmental Sciences as I had always been concerned about environmental issues. Before I was able to start WUKA I worked with the Womens Environmental Network, running educational sessions for young women in schools – all about menstruation. I also worked with Plan International looking at period issues globally."

Image courtesy of WUKA & The Violet Agency

Her upbringing and the taboos around menstruation had a lot to do with the early ideas for WUKA. "I grew up in Nepal, where there are still deep-rooted social and cultural taboos around menstruation," she says. "In fact, the word for period, when translated literally, means ‘untouchable’. Growing up I had my first Chaupadi where I was sent to live in my aunt's house for seven days during my first period, and forbidden to touch plants or men – because they would die!

"Chaupadi varies in different part of Nepal; it is now illegal, but the tradition still continues in some areas where girls and women are sent to live in a cowshed or menstrual hut every month.

"Like other girls age growing up in Nepal, I had been given sari rags to use as menstrual products. They were super 'sustainable', but they were very uncomfortable and constantly failed. This led to me (and other girls like me) missing school - creating shame and embarrassment around periods.

"I told this story to girls I worked with for a project on menstruation with the Women’s Environmental Network and while I was doing so, I had a eureka moment... why not create pants that also absorb flow whilst being super comfortable? And why not create an eco- brand that gives a positive message about periods?”

Image courtesy of WUKA & The Violet Agency

An ethos based around breaking taboos...

So, what is the main ethos behind WUKA? "The disposal of single-use tampons/pads/applicators generates 200,000 tonnes of waste annually; all containing plastic (pads are 90% plastic!) and WUKA wants to help everyone who has a period shift to using reusables and eco-friendly menstrual products like WUKA reusable period underwear. 

"WUKA is also responding to the lack of innovation in menstrual products in the last 50 years; the current generation of products fail women, who report their biggest concerns as leaks/messiness. We aim to stop three million tampons/pads going to landfill by the end of 2019." 

Ruby's not wrong - menstrual products contribute to a HUGE amount of waste around the world, due to the sheer amount of plastic that goes into creating them. Every time you flush a plastic tampon applicator down the toilet (please don't do this!!) remember that it's going to end up in the sea!

What makes WUKA a better option than, say, tampons or pads? "Firstly, tampons and pads contain plastic – pads can be 90% single-use plastic – and will be thrown away either down the toilet or into landfill. These products are damaging our environment."

This isn't the only benefit either: "WUKA is a reusable product, free of health concerns, is easy to use, and can hold up to 4 tampons worth of blood. WUKA can be used overnight, up to eight hours during heavy periods, and is an excellent choice for sportswomen. Girls new to periods and those at school love WUKA as they just have to put on the pants! They can wear WUKA all day." 

The brand is all about breaking out against the norm - as Ruby says; "WUKA stands for Wake Up Kick Ass! We smash taboos and have fun while doing it."

Image courtesy of WUKA & The Violet Agency

So how exactly do they work?

WUKA is made up of four layers of fabric:

1. Inner / Outer fabrics are made of soft, breathable, moisture wicking and luxurious Lenzing ® MicroModal fabric.

2. Central layers include an absorbent layer that is uniquely used in our underwear that absorbs blood and interlocks it.

3. WUKA Heavy has anti-bacterial properties and can hold four tampons worth blood (at least) This is around 20ml and WUKA Light can hold at least one tampon worth blood. This is around 5-7ml of blood.

4. Leak-proof layer: This is the layer that prevents the blood from passing through the underwear but allows airflow so is breathable and prevents sweating. (We were sent a pair of the pants to try, and can 100% confirm that they can withstand the night without any leakage!)

Inclusivity...

One of the best things about WUKA is that they carer for young girls who have just started their periods, which helps them avoid the faff and hassle of dealing with tampons and pads early on. A lot of brands exclude this group of young women and go straight for adults – how important was it for Ruby to include young girls?

"We have always been aware of the needs of young women and girls just starting out on their period – it was one of the first things that our early surveys showed; we had a number of parents contacting us and asking for a smaller size for their young daughters. Starting your period can be a challenging time for girls and young women and we wanted to make this a celebration time, and reduce the difficulties – with WUKA you just have to put on your (period) pants and go!"

The UnFlushables campaign...

As WUKA is so passionate as a brand about sustainability and helping to stop menstrual waste, they have got involved with The UnFlushables campaign. So what exactly is the campaign about? And how did they get involved? "We wanted to develop a campaign that addressed the serious issue of 4.6 million tampons/pads being thrown away down the toilet every day. We approached Plastic Oceans UK, who agreed to team up with us for the UnFlushables campaign. They are one of the UK’s foremost plastic pollution experts – and they have just published an important report called Plastic Rivers. The report identified that sanitary items make up 3% of identifiable plastic litter items found in European freshwater environments.

"So we created the campaign with posters and stickers for everyone to stick up on toilets around the UK to raise awareness about the problem and to encourage people to switch to using reusable menstrual products such as WUKA period underwear, cups and reusable pads.  We also worked with a group of young students from Hertfordshire University, who made a special film about a Tampon Rejecting Toilet."

Image courtesy of WUKA & The Violet Agency

Ruby recommends...

What style of WUKA does Ruby recommend for someone who is trying period pants for the first time, and is unsure where to start? "There are two styles; WUKA heavy and WUKA light. We recommend either of these depending on the flow of your period. Many try WUKA out successfully at night-time for the first time. We would recommend buying our Cycle Set of three pairs of WUKA – this allows you to ditch the tampons/pads."

Final words of wisdom...

Finally, what advice does Ruby have for young people and students who want to start their own sustainable brand? "Go for it! But make sure you always do your own research. When Ruby started out she was keen to get the period underwear off the ground but she was very aware of the need to reach out and build a community of women who would help test and refine the product before it went to market. 

"Ego is your enemy - be humble. Validate, validate, validate. Anything you plan to do you need to validate it first. Be Lean: build, test, learn. Network – make connections! This is so important because there so many people who can help you and give advice to you at no cost. Try and reach out to them”

For more information about WUKA visit their website.

For more from our Behind The Brand series, click here.

Lead image courtesy of WUKA & The Violet Agency




© 2019 TheNationalStudent.com is a website of BigChoice Group Limited | 201 Borough High Street, London, SE1 1JA | registered in England No 6842641 VAT # 971692974