Cami Téllez grew up in the Victoria’s Secret generation—but she wasn’t buying it. Though the brand dominated the early and mid-2000s, hosting televised fashion shows and catapulting its “Angels” to international fame, there was a disconnect between the overly sexy and mass-produced image and the modern consumer. What about all the people who just wanted affordable, fun underwear without all the overwrought sex appeal?
“I saw it as a space that was ready for a cultural revolution and to patch in the broader sociopolitical climate,” she said. “There was a massive misalignment of the product and the brand image.”
Téllez founded Parade, a fun, comfort-first underwear brand, while she was an undergrad at Columbia University in 2019, with a $3.5 million seed. (Away’s Jen Rubio and Steph Korey both invested.) By January, she dropped out of Columbia to pursue the company full-time, and her $9-$13 underwear in a rainbow of colors began to dominate social media. The company focused on building a community, tapping micro-influencers and influencers to style and photograph themselves wearing their Parade underwear in return for product and engagement. The whisper network was effective.
“One out of every eight of our customers posts pictures themselves in their [Parade] underwear,” said Téllez. “That speaks to the brand trust we’ve been able to create.”
Parade’s underwear collection now features three types of eco-conscious fabric blends—semi-sheer Silky Mesh, seamless Universal, and a stretchy soft recycled nylon called Re:Play—and its pieces are designed to be gender- and size-inclusive across six classic shapes. The company staffs Lululemon and Nike R&D alums to focus on fit and sizing, making sure the underwear never rolls, never bunches, and always fits. By April 2021, Parade had sold 1 million pairs.
That month, the brand also announced a $10 million series A—bringing its valuation to $70 million—and a new category: $28-$32 bralettes. The buttery soft, unlined bras (available in plunge, scoop, or triangle fits) are sized XS to 3XL, with + options to accommodate DD-F cup sizes.
“We realized there was an entire sizing range and support needed for people with smaller ribcages and larger boobs,” explained Téllez. “It’s just the beginning of how we want to rewrite the bra sizing playbook.”
I tested Parade’s Triangle bralette, a lightweight, wide-set, unpadded bra made from Re:Play, and it was the first bra I voluntarily wore in my house for more than eight hours—maybe ever. The Scoop was not my favorite for my shape, but I range in cup size and suspect I would have faired better in the + sizing, which for someone who can rarely wear just a bralette, is comforting to know exists.
Téllez’s long-term brand vision is two-prong: inclusivity and sustainability. The company aims to be entirely carbon neutral by the end of 2022—Parade currently partners with Native Energy to offset its Universal underwear collection—and Téllez, amid researching regenerative and bio-based fabric options, is focused on what the brand can do about their “second life problem.”
Téllez said, “Underwear is the piece of clothing [our customer] buys most often and replenishes most often. But where does it go after? And how do we close that loop?”
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