How Sustainability and Community are super-powering this fashion brand with Katie McCourt from Pantee (episode 373)

Katie McCourt is the co-founder of Shopify Fashion store Pantee, a range of sustainable underwear made from deadstock. Launched with a very successful Kickstarter in Nov 2020 they’ve had a phenomenal start with a growing tribe of happy customers, they’ve just completed another successful round of fundraising, and amazing press coverage including being named one of the ‘9 best sustainable lingerie brands you need to know about’ AND being one of this year’s Drapers 30 under 30! (for non-UK listeners, Drapers Magazine is the beating heart of the UK fashion industry).

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Getting Started

Two years ago, Katie and her sister Amanda came up with the idea of creating the world’s first underwear brand made from deadstock t-shirts.

They spent time doing product development research and creating their website, plus building a community on Instagram even before they officially launched.

Since their website opened in February of 2021, Katie says they’ve been learning everything they can about eCommerce and how it works.

Building A Community

After Katie and Amanda came up with their idea and their brand name, they immediately started their Instagram account.

They communicated their idea and their story so well that within hours of launching on Kickstarter, they were 50% funded. 

Katie says that a lot of their early supporters have become Pantee brand ambassadors who also spread their message.

The Sustainability Piece

Katie says they probably wouldn’t have gained traction if they didn’t have that sustainability piece.

Being the world’s first underwear brand from upcycled deadstock t-shirts has helped them get the recognition, especially since people are always looking for ways to be more sustainable.

In the spirit of transparency, Katie says it’s not only important to let people know how your brand supports sustainability, you also have to tell your audience where you still need improvement.

Boycotting Black Friday

Part of Pantee’s message is all about comfort, and as Black Friday meant doing something they were uncomfortable with, Katie says they decided not to participate.

To the sisters, Black Friday meant impulse buys leading to overconsumption, which doesn’t align with their overall brand message. What they did instead was turn off their website to everyone except their community.

This reinforced Pantee’s brand story and values, which resonated with their audience and made quite an impact.

The Downside To Selling Underwear

Katie said they’re struggling with paid ads because their content is considered sexual and violates nudity policies. Their ads have been rejected multiple times, similar to other sustainable brands they’ve spoken to whose messages were considered too political. 

Last year, Pantee created an ad for YouTube to promote their campaign Comfort Revolution but got blocked immediately with no appeal process because of its supposed sexual content.

This disheartened the sisters, so much so that Katie spoke about it in an Instagram reel which their community of followers picked up and shared many times over. But while organic growth has been great for Pantee because of their community, Katie says they know paid ads are a big part of a brand’s strategy, so it’s a priority for them to figure out.

eCommerce Book Top Tip

eCommerce Traffic Top Tip

  • Katie gives us two: PR and building an ambassador program where you have people consistently shouting about your brand on social media.

Pantee uses Awin for their ambassador program and affiliate links.

Tool Top Tip

  • Katie mentions they don’t use collaboration tools but they have multiple WhatsApp groups, are regularly on Zoom calls, and still write to-do lists.

Growth Top Tip

  • Influencer marketing because it can really provide impact for businesses that want to scale.
  • 354: Building a Sustainable Fashion Brand with Partnerships and PR. Gergana from blonde gone rogue
  • 337: Growing a sustainable fashion business to 7-figures with Encircled’s Kristi Soomer
  • 310: Exponential growth driven by a commitment to sustainability with Dan Dicker from Circular & Co

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