Katherine Homuth is on a mission to prove Sheertex is unbreakable. In fact, every order of the pantyhose comes with a break-proof test kit.
“So customers can kind of go crazy experiencing the strength [of the material] and testing its limits before they wear their pair,” Homuth told WWD.
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“They’re literally unbreakable in human hands,” continued Homuth, who founded Sheertex in early 2017. “It’s made out of the same polymers used in books or bulletproof vests or climbing equipment, fibers that had never actually before been used in apparel.”
That could explain the Canadian company’s rapid growth. At the end of 2018, Sheertex employed five people. Today there are more than 150 employees and the brand known for its unbreakable hosiery ships products all over North America and Europe. The firm has expanded into face masks, socks and bike shorts, and has plans to launch leggings and shoes. In fall 2019, Sheertex moved from a 2,000-square-foot facility into a 115,000-square-foot factory headquarters in Montreal, allowing the company to scale — something that also caught the attention of investors.
“As soon as we took the cap off the number of pairs we were able to make [in the larger facility], we were able to grow extremely rapidly,” Homuth said. “And that’s when we closed our series D, bringing us to $44 million in funding.”
Investors include venture capital firm G2VP, H&M Co:Lab, the venture capital arm of the H&M Group; BDC Women in Tech Fund and ArcTern Ventures.
Homuth, whose background is in technology, founded Sheertex because of a hole she found in the market: rip-proof stocking.
“How do we have self-driving cars, or space travel, but there’s not a pair of pantyhose that can make it more than one or two wears?” said Homuth, who acts as chief executive officer of the company. “It just didn’t make sense to me how something so seemingly simple was not solved.”
It took a little while to perfect the formula. (The first pair of Sheertex didn’t ship until February 2019.) But today Sheertex is a combination of lightweight materials that are more durable than normal tights.
“It’s some of the world’s strongest polymers, the basis of Kevlar,” Homuth explained. “Before Sheertex, this polymer was never made fine enough for apparel, never made fine enough for hosiery. So think, really, really thick fibers.
“In early days, it would break every knitting machine that we would put it on,” she continued. “But what we’ve done is find a way that you can actually miniaturize those fibers, make them fine enough for our products.”
Even COVID-19 — and consumers’ desire to be comfortable while working from home — didn’t cause a snag in the business. Sales were up 300 percent year-over-year this September, compared with the same time in 2019. And with tights that retail between $35 to $120, Sheertex brings in roughly seven-figures a monthly in revenues and is valued at more than $100 million.
Homuth said the surge is likely a combination of retail store closures (Sheertex can be found online at sheertex.com), mixed with cold climates and a need for tights, along with other products that were more popular during the summer months, such as sheer and nude tights.
But Sheertex is far from done growing, Homuth said. In the future, she envisions Sheertex moving into retail and wholesale, while also expanding into other categories.
“My big vision for this is that no one should ever have to buy a pair of tights that rips again,” Homuth said. “I think this innovation really, really has the potential to disrupt all of hosiery.
“But also, clothing that you might typically see at an Under Armour or Lululemon, we can make stronger, better, lighter, more moisture resistant; that’s the direction we see our product line evolving into,” she continued. “So not only is that exact thread 10 times stronger in our material than the nylon version, but it’s also lighter. That’s a pretty cool feature: you can make the same thing and have it be lighter and stronger.”
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