When I was in the first grade, I wanted to be an artist-slash-farmer—specifically, I wanted to paint portraits of my animals. I had no idea that I would grow up to instead run GladRags, a company that makes and distributes reusable menstrual products, or that I’d ever help create a new menstrual cup. (To be fair, at age six I had no idea what a period was, either.) But, decades later, when you’ve spoken to thousands of menstruating folk about the improvements needed in the products they use, what else can you do but design a better menstrual cup?
It’s easy to see why reusable cloth menstrual pads and menstrual cups are great options for reducing waste, saving money, and making periods more comfortable. But after years of conversations with GladRags customers, it became clear that there was still a need for innovation. A new and improved cup would have features to suit all different types of bodies, it was just a matter of creating it! My good friend and colleague, Meagan, and I started brainstorming what this new menstrual cup would look like. With our combined experience at GladRags, and with Meagan’s enthusiasm for personally testing ALL of the menstrual cups, we were the perfect team to tackle this issue.
Because no two people have the same physicality or needs, we carefully considered user feedback for the design of our new menstrual cup, XO Flo. Rounded edges and a hyper-flexible stem were the first must-haves. Taking inspiration from a tulip just before it blooms (as seen in the XO Flo logo), the rounded base of the cup took shape—this helps hold the cup in place and increases the volume, making XO Flo one of the highest capacity cups on the market. The thick upper rim on some of the first modern menstrual cups worked well for many people, but others found them bulky and uncomfortable. So we designed XO Flo to have a smooth outer wall all the way up to the top, no bulky rim required! However, we wanted to create stability in the cup so that it would pop open (and stay open) reliably after insertion, so we developed the inner support rings which criss-cross through the basin interior. The name “XO Flo” was born of these interlocked rings which form an “X” and “O” around the sides, along with a subtle cheerful greeting from your monthly flow!
After years of research and late-night conversations envisioning the ideal menstrual cup, XO Flo was finally becoming a reality! We partnered with local design company Murmur Creative for our packaging and logo design to ensure XO Flo would be eye-catching in stores. Our lead designer at Murmur, Renee, was already a menstrual cup user and was eager to help us with a design that stood out from the crowd. While many “feminine hygiene” brands feature girly florals or a sterile, medical look, we wanted to turn the industry on its head. Our products are not necessarily “feminine”—they are for all menstruators. And “hygiene” has always implied a certain dirtiness to menstruation that simply isn’t true. Renee put it best when she noted “it’s not often that you get to break taboos through branding” and we couldn’t let this opportunity to make a social statement about breaking taboo go to waste. With Renee’s help, we created packaging for XO Flo that is simple, beautiful, and had a hint of luxury (because 12 hours of period protection is pretty luxurious!). Of course, we had to include a subtle nod to periods themselves and chose a gilded marbled look not-so-secretly inspired by menstrual blood.
After bringing the original XO Flo to the GladRags family of period products, we knew that an additional size was necessary to better fit a wider range of people and body types. To accomplish this next step we, in true millennial fashion, took to Kickstarter. If you’ve never run a Kickstarter before, let me tell you: it is not for the faint of heart. The month before our launch felt fraught: What if no one wants another size of XO Flo? What will we do if we don’t get funded? What if everyone on the internet makes fun of us? We drank a lot of coffee, made endless checklists, and fretted.
Fortunately for us, our Kickstarter was fully funded at nearly $30,000! And as far as I know, no one made fun of us. Like everything we do at GladRags, we chose to make our campaign a force for good. With the successful funding of the Kickstarter, we were able to deliver over 700 menstrual cups in both sizes to people in need. We partnered with PERIOD, a youth-led nonprofit that provides menstrual products to folks who are homeless or low-income, and other marginalized populations. PERIOD ensured that the donated menstrual cups were delivered to individuals who had access to the necessary resources (such as clean water or a private bathroom) to properly use XO Flo.
With the support from our backers, XO Flo Mini went into production and was officially launched in September 2018. Since then, it’s made its way to consumers around the world. Our small but mighty team continues to work hard to get XO Flo, XO Flo Mini, and GladRags cloth pads on more store shelves, in our mission to make reusables accessible to everyone, everywhere. The biggest impact is when customers (hey, that’s you!) demand better period options from their local stores and start conversations about menstruation in their communities.
This is yet another story of millennials “killing” an industry, and personally, I’m ready to say goodbye to “feminine hygiene.” Let’s roll up our sleeves and bury the over-packaged, plastic disposable pads and tampons as artifacts of a culture temporarily caught up in perceived convenience and body shame. We’re replacing them with menstrual care products that break taboos and prioritize comfortable options for all menstruators. While I never did become an artist-slash-farmer, my six-year-old self would be proud to know that I’m part of a generation planting seeds of change. And hey, I can always get into menstrual blood art, right?
Want to give our menstrual cup or cloth pads a try? Use promo code BUST19 for 15% off your purchase at GladRags.com. Promo valid through February 8, 2019. May not be combined with other offers.
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