Canadian Women’s Undergarment Brand Knix Expanding Further with Stores and Significant Growth [Founder Interview]

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Joanna Griffiths launched Knix with the goal of transforming an underwear market that had too much frill and not enough function. 

Today, the retailer is a trailblazer with its comfortable wireless bras to super absorbent underwear, which are designed to make women feel more comfortable in their own skin.

Joanna Griffiths

While the company has experienced spectacular growth since its inception in 2013, Griffiths, Founder and President, said the retailer sees great potential for future growth.

“There’s two different things that are resonating with customers about Knix. The first one is from a product standpoint we’ve been really listening to customers and have thought about a more human centric approach to design taking into account our customers . . . what it is that’s important to them, bringing a lens to design that’s brought into the intimate apparel industry previously,” said Griffiths, who recently was named Canada’s EY Entrepreneur of the Year.

PHOTO: KNIX

“Historically a lot of the intimate apparel brands were being led by men but creating products for women. So a lot of the products historically have been designed (and) aren’t necessarily the most comfortable or versatile or taking into account the wear and so at Knix we’ve really engineered products for real life. We’ve been ahead of a lot of the bigger trends that have taken place within the intimates category. Our first product that we launched with leakproof underwear, or period underwear, we were pioneers, inventors of that category. That has become a billion-dollar category. You see other retailers like Victoria’s Secret, Aerie carrying that product as well.

“Primarily we were one of the first to market with wireless bras and now if you look at macrotrends within the intimates category, wireless bras are the fastest growing bra style or category group within the broader landscape. From a product standpoint we’re making products that really speak to the customer and the way they are choosing to live their lives now.

“And from a brand standpoint, we’ve, out of the gate, set to create a more welcoming and inclusive brand. We were very early in body diversity, inclusivity, welcoming customers of all shapes, sizes, ages. And that obviously is a message that’s really sticking out with consumers.”

Knix on Robson Street (Image: Martin Moriarty)

The first store was launched in Kitsilano in Vancouver in October 2019. Currently, there are seven stores – four in Canada and three in California. The Canadian stores are in Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa and Toronto. The California stores are in Santa Monica, San Diego and San Francisco.

Griffiths said Knix is opening a second Vancouver location in the spring on Robson Street as well as an additional two or three Canadian locations later this year.

She said store sizes vary. The initial Vancouver store was about 750 square feet. It was relocated last year and now the retailer typically looks for stores of about 2,500 to 3,500 square feet.

“We’ve been adding about three to four locations a year historically and that seems to be the pace we’ll continue to add for the foreseeable future,” said Griffiths.

Martin Moriarty and Mario Negris of Marcus & Millichap team handled the transaction for the 1150 Robson Street Location, which was formerly occupied by American retailer Eddie Bauer.

Knix on Queen Street in Toronto (Image: Knix)

She said she started Knix with the idea of making great looking leakproof underwear as she saw a huge gap in the market to solve a pain point many people were experiencing.

It was her ‘aha’ moment as she felt whoever did this well would ultimately be very successful and create a product many needed.

“I then picked up on two big themes within the intimates landscape. The first one was there had been really little product innovation. There hadn’t been a lot of focus in making products that were designed for people with real lives,” she said.

“And the second was identifying that there was space within the intimates landscape for a different kind of brand. When I launched the company in 2013, I’d been working on it for a couple of years.”

Knix on Queen Street West (Photo by Dustin Fuhs)

At the moment sales are focused on Canada and the US.

“But we see demand for our products well beyond North America so we see that potential for longer-term expansion setting our sights outside of North America as part of that,” said Griffiths.

The retailer has expanded its product offering over the years and most recently it entered into the activewear category. The assortment also includes shapewear, sleepwear, swimwear, loungewear as well as a teen brand.

“We’re playing in a pretty large category space so it’s really about now going deeper into the categories that we’re already playing in and also thinking about diversifying our revenue channels,” explained Griffiths.

“Currently 100 per cent of our sales come from selling online through our website and then our seven retail stores. And now we’re starting to think about wholesale, retail partnerships. We just launched on Amazon in the US. Even that is a new channel for us. There’s actually so much room for us to grow and expand, be it going deeper into the categories we already have, expanding our distribution through third parties, adding more retail stores and thinking about international. We’ve got our hands full at the moment.

“But we always feel we’re just getting started. I hope we’re constantly a brand to watch to see what it is we do next.”

Knix Founder & President Joanna Griffiths is Canada’s EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2022

She said she was very surprised with winning Canada’s EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2022 Award.

“I think when I look at the course of building Knix we’ve had a lot of terrific successes but I’ve also faced quite a lot of criticism along the way that it was too niche and that it was never going to be a big business. So it was extremely validating to win that award and that honour,” said Griffiths.

“I worked in media and entertainment before starting Knix. I worked at CBC, and the Toronto International Film Festival and Universal Music. In music, you have the Grammys, in film you’ve got the Oscars and in TV you have the Emmys. So I feel like getting to go to Monaco and compete for the global EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award is kind of my equivalent to those awards. It’s a big honour and really a testament to what it is we’re building at Knix as well.”

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Mario was named as a RETHINK Retail Top Retail Expert in 2024.

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