This Adaptive Underwear Might Just Change The Way You Get Dressed

Wielding her kitchen scissors, Helya Mohammadian crafted the first pair of Slick Chicks underwear on the floor of her Manhattan apartment. The finished product resembled your standard set of bikini-cut underwear, save for one alteration: a row of hook-and-eye closures along each side seam, allowing the wearer to clip them on or remove them at the hip.
“I made them for my sister after she’d had a C-section,” Helya says. “That post-surgery period was brutal for her. She was pretty much bed-bound for three weeks. Her husband had to help her with everything from showering and eating to putting on her underwear. I thought there had to be some obvious solution.”
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Courtesy of Slick Chicks
Slick Chicks Founder, Helya Mohammadian
Helya’s frantic Google searches for a variety of underwear that would cater to her sister’s range of motion were fruitless — so she took it upon herself to construct a pair. And surprisingly enough, they worked: For the first time in weeks, her sister could pull on her own undergarments, without lifting herself out of bed — or asking for help. “She loved them,” Helya says. “So I continued doing research into what I learned was called ‘adaptive clothing.’ But what I found was generally ugly or unappealing, even for all the ways it was functional. I thought to myself, I can do better.”
That was five years ago, in 2014. Now, Slick Chicks is shipping a 2.0 version of that original DIY pair of underwear across the globe en masse. In a plenty-saturated market, Slick Chicks is the first of its kind in the realm of intimates: adaptive underwear — inclusive pieces made for those who find dressing themselves to be a challenge — as classically stylish as it is serviceable.

Everyone who pre-ordered a pair told us a little bit about their story. That was when I really realized how big this was.

“I had a string of fashion jobs for big-name designers and it was all kind of…not fulfilling,” Helya explains. “I quickly realized I’d lost my love for the fashion industry.” But once she’d begun to research adaptive clothing and its impacts — namely for women who were bedridden or utilizing wheelchairs — a little part of that vigor returned. So she crafted an online crowdfunding campaign and began to source money to make stylish, adaptive underwear for a consumer crowd that extended beyond her own kin.
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Initially, she’d hoped her innovative undergarments would cater specifically to post-surgery and postpartum women like her sister, but once she’d posted her fundraising campaign online, she found that the variety of women looking for sleek, adaptive underwear was far larger than she’d presumed.
Courtesy of Slick Chicks
“We had women from all over the world pre-ordering pairs. There were women in the military who wanted something convenient and functional because they were often changing in front of other people or didn’t want to have to remove bulky uniforms just to change their underwear. We had people who were avid hikers. We had wheelchair users and people with chronic illnesses. Everyone who pre-ordered a pair told us a little bit about their story. That was when I really realized how big this was.”
Three weeks in, they’d raised $20,000 — and they had received far more orders than they had the means to fill.
“We were getting all these emails from people who were telling us their stories and being vulnerable and open about the challenges they’d faced while changing their clothes,” she says. As the number of use cases began to grow, Helya and her team continued to model and remodel the prototype, working to craft a garment that would suit as many bodies and their unique requirements as possible.
Courtesy of Slick Chicks
She recalls one email in particular, received when Slick Chicks manufacturing was still limited to a small, preordained number of sizes: “The message came from a woman in Canada, and she wanted a size we just weren’t making yet,” Helya says. “At that time, I responded to everybody. So I told her, ‘It’s gonna take a second. We need a custom size. But we’re going to do it.’ She was going through chemo and she really wanted the product. I went to a sample maker and he charged me an arm and a leg, but we got it to her. A few weeks later, I continued to follow up, wondering if she’d gotten to try the pair out. Eventually I got an email from her address. It was from her daughter. Her mother had passed away and miraculously, she had known who I was because [her mother] had been so excited about the product I’d sent her. She had needed something to motivate her to get out there and work on her physical therapy. She wanted to feel more independent. Hearing that really was a huge turning point in my life.”
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For several years, the company struggled with funding. Helya and her team ran in circles to make ends meet, moving from angel investors to private constituents to fundraising competitions in the hopes of accruing the money they needed to continue to meet their demand. “We were bootstrapped for so many years, with no marketing budget to get the product out there. Our biggest challenge was just getting eyes on it. And female founders have a hell of a lot more trouble getting funding than men do,” says Helya.

For the most part, we all wear underwear every day. At the same time, they’re sort of private, so there’s a lot of dignity and independence in putting them on yourself. I really wanted to create a product that gave women that feeling.

But now, five years in, consumer interest has increased immensely. “We got our first big investor,” she explains. “That sort of changed everything.” The company finally has the financial backing it needs, it's shipping products internationally, and it's still looking to expand its reach. It continues to hold focus groups and modify its signature underwear, while crafting prototypes for side-fastening bras as well as briefs designed for men.
“The thing about underwear is that it’s a basic necessity,” Helya says. “For the most part, we all wear them every day. At the same time, they’re sort of private, so there’s a lot of dignity and independence in putting them on yourself. I really wanted to create a product that gave women that feeling.”
We do not live in a world where the whole “one leg at a time” motif holds up. Helya wants to eradicate the notion that we all clothe ourselves in the same series of textbook motions each day to begin with. “Getting dressed shouldn’t have an order of operations,” she says. “That’s what I’m trying to change.”

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