Ashley: I am so excited today. I have Gabriela Scaringe joining me. Gabriela is the CEO of Cherri underwear. Thank you so much for joining me today.
Gabriella: Thank you so much for having me.
A: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your brand?
G: Yeah. So I’m 25. I live in New York City. I started Cherri around three or four years ago and it wasn’t until these last two years that it really started to pick up Cherri is a vulva-friendly underwear company. I make all of my underwear with expanded gussets, where you need it. So. You can say goodbye to lip slips. I feel like so much underwear on the market and brands out there that just like don’t cover us in places we need to, which is just like, kind of crazy because if you think about the primary purpose of underwear, other than looking good and feeling good, it’s the primary purpose for existing is to cover our lady bits and a lot of underwear isn’t doing that. So that’s why I created cherry to have comfy cozy, everyday intimates that are actually good and comfy for our bodies.
A: Which I really, really appreciate because so many of them, I swear, they just cover your clit and everything is out and exposed and that’s not a good look for anybody. I feel like a lot of brands also feed into this. There should be one body type and if you don’t fit into that, it almost leads to more body insecurity. So I really appreciate the fact that yours can be sexy and cute, but also functional
G: Thank you. And, you know, I agree. I think we’ve come so far since the beginning of the body positivity conversation, but there is still much more to go. It’s great that more brands are becoming more size-inclusive. It’s important that we’re size-inclusive, everywhere and bodies are so vastly different. It is so hard to create a product that fits everyone as much as I would like to say, you know like my product fits everyone, but there is just like such a range in which bodies exist. And we need to recognize and identify that there is such a range for like every nook and cranny of our bodies. Yeah.
One Size Doesn’t Always Fit All
A: No brand is gonna be a hundred percent perfect and be able to fit essentially every single body type. But I do like that we’re at least moving in the right direction because it is really unfair to, sort of be shamed when you’re stuck with one size fits very few. I don’t know why. There is such stigma or shame around vagina size, but it’s like, we’re meant to be completely different. It’s okay if it’s like smaller vaginas, bigger vaginas, outside lips, or inside lips, everybody should feel comfortable and have a product that at least is trying to fit their body type.
G: Yeah, totally. I mean, I think there is a lot of shame just given the nature of the area. Like it is your sex organ. So I think naturally people in a way sexualized the sex organ when it is just like a part of our body that, everyone has. I think specifically around underwear It’s become such a thing for the male gaze a lot of the time. I think about like, why is underwear so tiny and so uncomfortable and like only covers one lip? And I’m like, oh, because men, like the way that looks, but there’s a way like we can still be comfortable and confident, in our bodies and what we’re wearing. Other than just like what looks good to our boyfriends and stuff.
A: I think when a product fits properly, I think that can also be so sexy and it doesn’t have to be like, right. You know lip slip away from whatever, just to be considered sexy. So I do like the fact that that conversation is happening and changing a little bit. Did you have a fashion background before you decided to go into the garment business?
G: I went to the Fashion Institute of technology. I had dual degrees in business management and entrepreneurship. So throughout my entrepreneurship studies, I began building Cherri and kind of used school as like a little mini-focus group. I launched it upon graduation. And other than that, I had not really done anything. I had worked retail and I used to work in nightlife and stuff like that, but this was my first time doing something like I’ve never worked in a corporate setting or like built my way up anywhere. So yes and no, like, yes, I had school, but I really just learned everything by doing,
A: Which I think is more common. A case like school can really only take you so far. And it really is that hands-on. Experience of this is what works for me or this doesn’t work for me to actually find if it’s gonna thrive.
G: I feel like school was great for me in many ways. It gave me the confidence, then the foundation to be able to get out there and do this. But there are just so many things that you just can’t replicate in a school setting that I just had to learn just by doing.
Pivoting During A Pandemic
A: Especially running a business during a pandemic, I’m sure nothing could really prepare anybody for that. What have been some of the challenges of trying to run a small business during these unprecedented times?
G: Yeah. It’s had its ups and downs for sure. It’s hard to really say like, is this what it’s normally like having a business, just given the time and everything that’s going on? But for me, I produce everything domestically in the United States. I produce everything in New York and I source locally as well. So thankfully I wasn’t dealing with any supply chain issues from China, but the result of the lockdown and pandemic and stuff is that a lot of brands moved their productions domestically. And the truth is the workforce for operational sewing, definitely skews older. There are just not a lot of people doing this type of work. So there are just not enough workers to keep up with the demand and the hardest thing has been really securing a spot with these factories to be able to actually make my product. = that’s been one of my biggest challenges is actually being able to keep up with demand and utilize these domestic factories. As I began to expand and grow, I started, you know, sourcing some elastics overseas. And once I did that, I ran into so many supply chain issues. I ordered this certain elastic a year ago and it literally just got here. So I’ve been like trying to restock some of my more popular styles, like my high cut, brief, and high cut thong. I just haven’t been able to do that. Cause I’ve been waiting on this elastic. And so, especially with inflation being at an all-time high, it’s been a balance of every time I take one step forward, it’s like two steps back almost. So I’m like, okay, I’m growing, I’m expanding, I’m producing more volume, but now everything is more expensive. The cost of goods is more expensive. Labor is more expensive when usually in that process, that type of stuff would slowly like decrease it. It would cost less pre-unit when you’re producing more. But now it’s all just. Balancing out. So that’s also really frustrating as a business owner because I don’t wanna be charging too much for my products. I know my customers generally understand and are aware of what’s going on in the world, but at the same time, I’m like, I want to be able to have it be more accessible and yes like it’s costing more, but I’m hoping that it all kind of balances.
A: I do think a lot of people do appreciate when things are made locally because I know that the conversation around fast fashion is thankfully happening more and more. So I think before we didn’t really realize like pre-pandemic necessarily. Like, yeah, we would look at our tags and notice things were made in China, but it didn’t really occur to us that yes they’re being made in China. Yes. Their workers aren’t necessarily being paid a certain way. We weren’t really thinking about the transportation costs from wherever to our countries, the carbon footprint impact on all of that. So I think the fact that products are made locally and the costs that come involved with that when people are being paid fair wages and are working in proper work conditions. I do think more people do understand the sort of struggles and the balance and that you are gonna be paying more for products but I can completely appreciate how frustrating it would be because essentially when you are ordering more, the cost should go down as a business owner and it can be frustrating to kinda keep your customer base when they’re used to paying one cost. And now it is another.
G: Exactly a hundred percent. It’s funny, through this process of producing domestically I found out that like, oh, producing domestically, doesn’t always mean better quality I’ve had so much trial and error with different factories. I’m so thankful. I have such understanding customers who have been along with the process, from the very beginning where just with like so many quality control issues, I worked with two different factories that just like. Really made just not great quality products for me. And it’s something that you just really have a hard time anticipating because of course you get samples made before you go into production. But of course, the samples are always gonna be much better quality than what, people actually produce in high volume. And so it’s been such a trial and error between finding a local factory. That is also good quality and I’ve landed on a few thankfully and I’ve been learning as I’m going. I think part of me was really struggling with the idea of moving internationally because I was like fair wages. Ethical labor is so, so important to me as a person, and as a business owner, it’s my duty to create these new standards, but I was finding that internationally doesn’t necessarily mean unethical. That’s true. Yeah. And while the primary, like primarily all of my intimates are still made domestically and ethically I will be moving to Columbia to not me personally, but I will be moving. Partial production to Columbia to produce my swimwear launch. I was really nervous about this at first, but it was a factory that my production manager I had already worked with before and really clean, really organized woman-owned factory ethically made and ethically produced. I’m really excited about this new step of learning about business and discovering like, okay, like ethical, fair wages. Isn’t just specific to locally and in New York or in the United States. It is important to me still to be producing domestically. But I’m excited to also explore other places.
A: As the world is opening up more and we’re moving outside a pandemic, that is fantastic. I do think as long as. Businesses are super aware of the sweatshop industry or things like that. How awesome to be able to support a different country and to be able to support women-owned businesses.
G: Yeah, totally. I think a lot of people are really discovering South America in general, as an option for production pricing isn’t really much cheaper than the United States. Like if you’re paying fair wages. It wasn’t really for like a cost issue, but rather just like I was saying, like, couldn’t find people locally to make it for me. So I had to find other options. A dream of mine would be to have my own Cherri factory of my own workers and sewers who could just make all of my products for me and kind of be more vertically integrated. I think that would be really cool.
A: That would be a great goal to work towards. Yeah, because it would be kinda nice to be able to have it one and done and not have to worry about other companies or relying on other people
G: yeah, totally. Like I’m in charge of it all. I’ll never have to worry about having to find room at other factories or anything like that, especially because, I’m still a small business, and granted I’m much further along than I was when I started. But for domestically I do like a medium-sized amount internationally. I’m like teeny, teeny, teeny tiny. They want like a hundred thousand units. I’m like, I’m not there yet. So it is still nice to produce domestically because I’m just kind of in that mid-range in my business where like, it’s kind of where I need to be.
A: It’s nice to know. Okay. When I grow, this could be my next step. , we all start somewhere and, you are where you are at this moment, but you know, two more years from now who knows.
G: Yeah, exactly.
The Power Of Social Media
A: What has been the most surprising thing for you about building your online community?
G: Yeah, great question. I didn’t realize until I came to TikTok and really started almost like a career TikTok as well, how much my product could really impact people’s lives. Sometimes it brings tears to my eyes and it’s almost like silly to think like, oh, a pair of underwear can change someone’s life, but the number of direct messages I get from women every single day telling me about how they thought something was wrong with their vulva, cuz they couldn’t fit into any underwear and how like my product opened their eyes and they’ve canceled labiaplasty appointments. I just feel like that sort of impact is something I never had expected. That was the most surprising part is that I could create a product that could literally change people’s lives in such a significant way. Cause you don’t you think like, oh it’s silly, like underwear, but Yeah, people have a lot of deep seeded insecurities about you know, downstairs, because like we were saying earlier like it’s not really talked about that much.
A: No. And I feel like if you look at the porn industry or a lot of the other products, it really is geared towards one specific vulva. They come in all different shapes and sizes and colors that I do think having a product understand that that can fit them properly. I think that confidence is huge. I think that we are, as women, not only because society tells us to be a certain way, but we are generally so hard on ourselves and I think we create this narrative that certain things are to mean other things, and that really isn’t the case. So it can be as simple as finding a product that fits to be. Oh, Hey, I can be sexy too. I can be comfortable too. And just having that I do think is like a huge, huge impact on people. Yeah. I think it’s just your videos on TikTok in general, it allows that conversation to happen where people can think about it from a different perspective. Why did I judge my body so hard? Why did I judge other people’s bodies so hard? Why do we think that this is you know, the narrative, that’s the only acceptable one? It kind of challenges people to sort of think about things from a different perspective. So I do think that sometimes the things that we think are the most simple do really cause the biggest impact. So thank you for having those conversations.
G: Aw, thank you. It’s funny because I feel like my, tik toks are so lighthearted. Like I use. Humor and sort of like reclaiming microaggressions as a way to show people Hey, they’re just words. Like, it’s fine. Like when I’m talking about roast beef or like meat curtains, I’m like their words. It’s fine. Especially when people are like trying to use that negatively towards someone, I find that the best or at least the way I go about things is I’m like, yeah, I have roast beef. I have meat curtains. And your point is,
A: yeah, takes the power away.
G: Yeah, it’s normal and totally fine. And beautiful. So your point… I think that is what really resonated with people is just my acceptance and confidence in what I have. It kind of gives people nothing to really make fun of or work with, cuz I’m like, yeah, this is what I have. Okay. It’s fine if you have it too. And it’s fine if we all have it because the majority of people do so. Here we are.
A: I think that sometimes we give too much power to other people’s words or sometimes whether it’s a microaggression or whether it’s something that people don’t even think of. And it’s something that just, has been told to us in a certain way. So we tend to repeat it, but if somebody doesn’t like, you know, meat curtains who cares like it really, why are we putting so much value and opinions aside from our own?
G: So true. I really love the way you phrased that. When people ask me self confidence tips, I say exactly what you said, self-confidence starts, by not basing your worth and how you feel about yourself based off on how other people feel about you. It all starts from within, and that’s how you get confidence. I love how you put that. That was really beautiful.
A: Thank you. One thing I noticed on your website about Cherri is that you also have a program where if somebody purchases something, you also donate to a homeless shelter or women’s shelter, is that right?
Why Gabby Chose an Eco-Conscious, Instead of Sustainable Description
G: Yeah. Yeah. So with each purchase, I donate hygiene products, feminine hygiene products, and underwear to shelters in the US this was really important to me for having a small business that it would be socially responsible. Far more than just producing ethically and trying to, you know, be more eco-conscious. I think sustainable business is really hard and I feel like it can be a little bit of greenwashing when people use the word sustainable. So I like to say eco-conscious, I try to choose the things that are better for the environment, but it’s hard when you’re making an entirely new product to say that it is sustainable. Because at the end of the day, like you’re creating a new product, but anyway, besides the point I wanted to go even further because I was thinking about how much I struggled with my own. Vaginal health issues, which is one of the reasons I had started cherri. I was struggling cycling through bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections and discomfort on and off. I really needed to find organic cotton underwear that was more breathable. I wasn’t really, you know, like finding styles I liked or finding styles that really fit me. Because of course, when it’s too tiny down there like that also increases your of infections, cuz it’s very irritating and it made me think about what a privileged place I’m in to be able to buy a $28 pair of underwear. So I can have like a healthier hoo-ha and I realized that. Not everyone has that luxury and especially houseless individuals and people experiencing homelessness say that their number one requested item is like clean underwear, especially women because our Menstrual products are not reusable for the most part. Granted we have, reusable pads and we have menstrual cups now, but not everyone has access to running water to be able to clean those things. So the majority of houseless individuals use disposable period products. And so if you ask any shelter, the number one requested item is period products and underwear. So that’s why with each purchase, I donate to shelters just because I think it’s important that this idea of vaginal wellness is accessible to everyone.
A: I love that that conversation is happening too because I think a lot of people when we aren’t in a situation where we have to think about that, it doesn’t occur to us that homeless people would struggle with that. I think that those products also are so expensive. The idea of if you are in a situation where if you have a hundred dollars to spend for that month, period products can be sometimes upwards of $20 a box. Yes, that’s a huge impact. So I do love the fact that you are also making people think about, that situation and allowing people to get products like that just by making a purchase.
G: Thank you.
On Cherri’s Charitable Impact
A: Did you partner with an organization to choose which shelters you work with or do you individually just pick,
G: I individually just pick, I kind of switch off of who I donate to. One of my favorite places I like to donate to is I support the girls. They do a lot of bra and underwear donations. A lot of times if I produce something and. Like for instance, the quality control issue. It’s not something I would feel comfortable selling, but it’s something that’s totally wearable. Most people, what they would do is they would either sell it consignment or they would just dispose of it. So instead in those situations, if I have any, damages or anything like that I donate them as part of my business model to help reduce the waste and to like people need those things. So why would I just throw it away?
A: Well, exactly. A lot of the time it is really unfortunate when brands will intentionally wreck their product instead of donating it. Mm-hmm because that is a massive impact to the earth and is just such a dick move. I think when really we should just be paying it forward. The idea of a small brand, or even a medium-sized brand being a hundred percent economically conscious of its impact is unfair. I think realistically it does come down to our governments, which need to care about climate change and care about shifting a lot of this conversation forward. So that brands actually have rebates or things so that they can afford to be able to be as eco-conscious as we need them to be. So I do like the fact that at least you are aware of it and trying to do your part when really we do have, I think, a hundred corporations that are causing the majority of these pollution issues and it really needs to be focused on them. The government chooses to have the conversation about it being on the consumer level. So I do think consumers do need to shop smarter whenever they have the ability. If we have the privilege of purchasing a product, we should look for brands that are also supporting other people and other charities, if they have the option
G: A hundred percent. It’s funny owning this business has completely changed my mindset as a consumer as well, because I kind of have this backend knowledge of how things work and how things are, and I’m able to be a more educated consumer when making other purchases myself and back to what you were saying about the consumer’s responsibility for Being more eco-conscious. Yes. The majority of, you know, the pollution and stuff like that is from these larger corporations. But I feel like a lot of consumers place the responsibility on like small and medium-sized businesses, which can be a little frustrating because it’s like, why aren’t you directing this anger and frustration on my pricing and my business when you should be going after Amazon or like whatever, you know, because it’s like, I’m trying my best. And unfortunately, like I’m not at that capacity, but that is one thing that I have opened my eyes to having a business and now becoming a more educated consumer is just kind of like the basic understanding. I’m much more empathetic around businesses. If things go wrong. If I get a damaged product by accident, it’s like, I. understand things happen, no business can be perfect and I’m like, never upset about it.
A: I think using Amazon as an example, I think has ruined our perception in a lot of ways. So our postal service in Canada, it can sometimes take like seven to 10 days for a product to get to us. Sometimes you’ll be like, oh my gosh, why is it taking so long as if seven to 10 days is unheard of mm-hmm and I feel like Amazon and the fact that it can get to you in 48 hours, I think is almost ruined some of that for us. We do need to remember when you are not a massive corporation that maybe isn’t fairly treating their workers, even when they’re domestic and has millions of dollars to create factories in multiple different places within the world. That’s why they can get to us in 48 hours it’s also remembering where you’re ordering from and the fact that they don’t have the same capacity. So seven to 10 days is awesome and it should be manageable and it should be more like our realistic expectations and the same thing. If you’re ordering a pair of underwear and it’s $5, you really need to kind of think about the people making that underwear for $5? Did they get paid fairly? Where is this $5 pair of underwear shipping from is this $5 underwear gonna last me, you know, more than three or four washes, like all of those different things? When we’re thinking about a cheaper price point versus a more expensive one. I know that the quality isn’t always necessarily the more expensive the better, but when we’re ordering from different brands like we really do need to factor in. Why is this one $28? And why is this one $5.
G: So true. I think about that all the time, especially because the fabric I use is $5 and 40 cents a yard, which by the way, when I first started ordering this fabric, which was about three years ago, was $4.50 cents. It’s almost increased a whole dollar in like three years, which is kind of crazy, it made me recognize pricing a little bit more. When you think about companies, like you said, like underwear, that’s $5. I’m like literally how someone in this process got ripped off. Someone’s getting taken advantage of somewhere because that just like seems crazy to be priced that much. Cuz when you also think about margins and profitability That’s another thing that companies need to be profitable. I think a lot of people sometimes are like, how dare you charge this much for your product? And I’m like, well, the point is to make money. Granted I don’t have huge markups on my product. So I feel like my margins are very reasonable for the industry, you know, 50 to 60% is, is very normal and average. But it really made me think I’m like, what is the markup on a $5 pair of underwear? Because you really do have to be selling large quantities of that too, to be able to make any money. So did it cost you like a dollar to make 50 cents to make like crazy?
A: It is really crazy. I do think that people do need to be sympathetic that we are in a time in business where the cost of everything is rising and that we can’t expect businesses to necessarily give us a deal in that thing, that you really do have to do your research and find a product that fits into your price point. But you can’t get mad at the brands. If you aren’t in a position to afford that product at this moment, it’s not necessarily that the brands are ripping you off. It’s really all of these other factors that maybe you just don’t understand.
G: Thank you for putting it that way. I feel like I’ve struggled to create the words to basically sum up that feeling in a way that’s like, not offensive basically. Like just because you can’t afford it right now. Doesn’t mean the product is overpriced. Because the truth is like I said, not everyone can afford a $28 pair of underwear and I’m completely aware of that. I’m very understanding about it, but I can’t just completely mark down my pricing just because a few people don’t wanna pay it. Or can’t pay it. I actually hope to next year expand to maybe a seamless underwear type. I’ve been getting lots of requests for that and hoping to sell that at more like a budget price point, around $15 or so so that people can have an option if they want, like the more cotton, like eco-conscious like healthy undie or if they want a seamless, stretchy, like gym thong, they can get that one at a lower price, but I hope so. We’ll see where it goes. Most of the seamless underwear factories that I know of are in China, so I gotta kind of explore some options.
What Can We Expect Next From Cherri?
A: Now you also mentioned that you just branched off into swim and then seamless, is there anything else that’s on the horizon with Cherri
G: yes, I’m so excited to be launching bodysuits this year as well. I just made this really cute, thong high-cut bodysuit made with like my signature cotton fabric. That’s really soft and stretchy, and I’m really excited to be launching that I would love. To go into maybe shapewear or something like that. As I expand into seamless options, but that’s also an idea way in the future that I gotta be thinking about, even though, you know, shapewear is so popular right now, you think of like Lizzo’s new brand and skims and stuff like that. I think that could definitely be an option for the future too
A: We’re also shifting our mindset into the fact that there could be so many brands in shapewear where it doesn’t have to be Only a certain brand. So I do like the fact that there is a market for several different companies to offer that. I do love the fact that if we’re moving towards a small brand with a quality product, people do prefer in a lot of cases to shop local and not necessarily just celebrity endorsed and as Khloe Kardashian propped up, skims also do have the small vagina problem that a lot of other corporations do.
G: Oh, my God, you know, what’s so funny is that I got some to see like how much they said they increased the gusset width. So I got one to see how much they increased it. It is still so tiny. I could barely fit into it. I was like, this is the increased width. Like what is going on? It was not enough.
A: No. I think that especially as like the business owner, having multiple kids, like your body changes after having kids too, that it just, it doesn’t get smaller, that more is more.
G: More is more well, that’s also a valid point. You brought up what I try to educate people about as well. I think one of the more common misconceptions about vulvas and vaginas is that the more you use it, the looser it gets, which is not true, not true at all. It’s like this very like slut shamey thing that if a woman is in charge of her sexuality and she has sexual partners, that means she’s loose. Your vaginal canal is a muscle. When you use your muscles more, they get stronger, they get tighter. And the only thing that can alter the elasticity of the vaginal canal is like you said, childbirth or age, just because naturally as we age, we lose elasticity. That’s why Kegels help in both scenarios and strengthen your pelvic floor. I mean, even then, like after children, some people, you know can snap back and stuff like that, but that is one of those things that can, you know, alter just, I mean, think about it. There is a baby coming out of there. And that is something so beautiful and amazing that our bodies can do. It sucks that there are so many microaggressions. Around that because our worth as humans is not related to how tight our pussies are. Exactly not. It’s just not. And it sucks that people do place their worth on that
A: I think women in general, it’s this idea that we’re not supposed to age we’re supposed to essentially be 16 forever and not get away from that shape size or like mentality. It’s just that we’re supposed to hold onto our youth so desperately because that’s a billion-dollar industry. So I think that it’s just coming up with the mindset shift that getting older and our body’s changing is beautiful. You really have to question, is this an internal belief that society has sold to me so that they can profit off of it?
G: Ugh. That is such a valid point. And it’s funny you say that because my brand is so much about accepting your body and loving your body, how it is, and finding underwear and products made to fit your body and not needing to alter your body based on standards to fit into what’s being offered. When I mentioned shapewear, I was a little nervous to even toy with the idea of wanting to, hide a part of your body or like suck in a part of your body to change it and make it more different. So I’m hoping if I do expand that realm, it’s done in a way that’s not. You need to wear this because having a flatter tummy is better or anything like that. Right? That’s also why I’m excited to launch this bodysuit because it’s not shape wear. It’s literally just like a comfy little bodysuit you can wear. And it doesn’t need to suck you in, in any places that you wanna be sucked in or anything like that, that you can just like embrace and love your body, like how it is in the natural curve of how you are, and like fits in the places you, you want it to fit.
A: I do also think like, even if you look at Lizzo, right, Lizzo is a big body neutrality and body positivity supporter, and she still has shapewear. So I think that there is a way of doing it where it isn’t trying to shame people for their bodies. Sometimes we either find that like, when everything sucked in better, maybe your stomach weight hurts your back less when it’s all confined. Perhaps it really is that you know, I wanna wear this pair of pants. They’re my favorite pair of pants. They’re a little bit snug. I wear shapewear, then they’re not so much. I think it doesn’t need to be. That shapewear is shameful or that it’s bad. If you wanna suck things in a little bit, because there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as you’re doing it, because that’s what you feel most confident being not because you feel like the world will fat shame you. If you don’t
Connect With Cherri & Gabriella
G: Thank you. This entire podcast you’ve been like summing up my thoughts in much better, more, eloquent words. Thank you.
A: Thank you. If people are looking for Cherri products, where do they find them?
G: On my website @shopcherri.com. That’s S H O P C H E R R I dot com. You can also find me on Instagram at @shopcherri cherry or on TikTok @GabyGabss.
A: thank you so much for having this conversation with me today.
G: Thank you so much for having me. I’m honored to be here.