Ethical Retailer Analysis: Blue Stockings Boutique

“Bluestockings’ mission is to empower people who have been marginalized by the mainstream lingerie industry and to offer them an experience that reflects their identities, their bodies, and their values. At the end of the day, we believe that representation is not an idea – it’s a practice.” – JEANNA KADLEC

Blue Stockings Boutique are an ethical and sustainable retailer that aim their products towards the LGBTQIA+ community. This blog post aims to discover what makes the company unique and if their claims of ethical trading are being sustained throughout all aspects of business. This will be done through looking at the transparency of the garments, comparisons between other companies, their promotion methods and any improvements that can be made.

Queer-identified founder Jeanna Kadlee discovered that there were no lingerie boutiques in the United States that took the needs of the LGBTQIA+ community into account. With an aim to empower people and offer them the opportunity to reveal their true identities through underwear, in 2015, Blue Stockings Boutique was born. The company buys intimate apparel from smaller ‘indie’ brands at wholesale prices and then sells them on their website to the LGBTQIA+ community. She states that there was never an issue with the underwear garments but the shopping experience that she describes as heteronormative (Champagne, 2016).

The transparency of Blue Stockings is clear from the outset, the company are open about discussing what they have done right and wrong in business so far. Blue Stockings have been congratulated by their blog readers for being so open about how their business is running, their are no boundaries on language and the blogs appear to be aimed directly at their target audience or the smaller lingerie brands they are buying stock from.

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Figure 1: Press and Awards for Blue Stockings.

The Blue Stockings website has a very open approach to ethical manufacturing where they have policy that consumers are encouraged to question and pursue. The promises in their Ethical Manufacturing and Sustainability Policy are as follows:

•A guarantee of Ethical Manufacturing – When looking into which brands they stock on their website it is important for the brand to be able to prove that all workers are paid for their labour and are spending their days in humane conditions. Without this proof Blue Stockings will not hold the garments of that company, which means consumers can rest assured that any brands on the Blue Stockings website is ethical.

•Strong, Ethical Brand Partnerships – All of the brands that are stocked by Blue Stockings are independently owned. They pride themselves on being able to stock garments that are designed and hand made which in turn enables smaller companies the chance to expand.

•Practicing Sustainability – Any packaging used is 100% recycled and biodegradable and they do not use unnecessary postcards or adverts in their post. Blue Stockings then offer detailed information about their packaging. Where they are a LGBTQIA+ company they do not print their company name anywhere on or in the package, ensuring total privacy for the recipient of the parcel. This is unusual as this would be another form of advertising for the company but they pride themselves in their values and the trust of their consumers. This is a very valuable example of the loyalty between a customer and brand.

•Consumer Education – Blue Stockings is conscious that education for their consumers could help spread the knowledge of ethical shopping. They focus different blog posts on ensuring that consumers can learn about how to shop ethically and why they should fork out the extra money to shop this way.

Promotion is an important aspect of retaining sales for any brand no matter how big or small. However, every aspect of Blue Stockings promotion is done with the values and consumer at the forefront of their mind.

Blue Stockings has featured in many magazines and in even more blogs including The Huffington Post, After Ellen, Buzzfeed and they were awarded the title of the Best Lingerie Boutique of 2015 by the Lingerie Addict. They receive constant praise for encouraging and empowering women all over the world to be confident in their own sexuality, while providing products that will help them to do so. Blue Stockings states that they will never call any piece of lingerie they sell on their website as ‘nude’ due to the idea that this only relates to white women, they see this as discriminatory and aim to include every race, religion, sexuality etc into their world of intimate apparel.

One very interesting aspect of Blue Stockings promotion is the ten percent discount that they give to sex workers. They state they do this as lingerie not only helps sex workers express themselves but it is a business expense. Datura Divine, told The Lingerie Addict in 2015 that “sex workers inspire, promote, and support the lingerie industry in such a major way. It’s high past time it recognised our contributions and stopped selling its odd brand of whorephobia.” Which is exactly what Blue Stockings is aiming to do, they are trying with all their power to create a segment of the lingerie industry where no one is discriminated against and every one is respected. Companies all over the world use sex workers to sell their lingerie, campaigns have been shown to elude to the red light district, hotel rooms or female dominance (see figure). It appears to be so contradictory for the lingerie industry not to support sex workers when they utilise their work in advertising and marketing campaigns.

I have loved writing about Blue Stockings, I think their whole business concept is entirely unique and although the segment of the market is small I hope women all over the world get behind their values of equality and empowerment. Blue Stockings really are a brand that have strict rules and regulations on their ethical standards and they don’t appear to be in breach of any of them. They use their promotion where necessary but respect the privacy of their consumers, they ensure all workers and producers of their lingerie are paid and working in acceptable conditions and all of their packaging is sustainable. While all of this is exceptional the company is entirely honest and open about all they do, everything you could ever want to know is answered on their blog, including business decisions, good and bad. I cannot recommend the company enough, their transparency, loyalty and empowerment is exactly what the lingerie industry needs.

Bibliography:

Bluestockings Boutique. (n.d.). About Us. [online] Available at: https://www.bluestockingsboutique.com/pages/about-us [Accessed 1 May 2017].

Champagne, J. (2016). Underthings for Everyone: How Bluestockings Boutique Is Bringing Inclusivity to the Lingerie Industry. [online] pastemagazine.com. Available at: https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2016/02/underthings-for-everyone-how-bluestockings-boutiqu.html [Accessed 1 May 2017].

Harrington, C. (2015). Sex (Work) Sells… Lingerie. [online] The Lingerie Addict – A Lingerie Blog for Everyone. Available at: http://www.thelingerieaddict.com/2015/11/sex-work-sells-lingerie.html [Accessed 1 May 2017].

Kadlec, J. (2015). How to Fuck Up as a First Time Girlboss: Inventory Selection (or: how we pick shit). [online] Bluestockings Boutique. Available at: https://www.bluestockingsboutique.com/blogs/the-bluestockings-blog/34491460-how-to-fuck-up-as-a-first-time-girlboss-inventory-selection-or-how-we-pick-shit [Accessed 1 May 2017].

Kadlec, J. (2015). The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: 9 Observations From Lingerie Market (from a Queer Retailer). [online] Bluestockings Boutique. Available at: https://www.bluestockingsboutique.com/blogs/the-bluestockings-blog/40192068-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly-9-observations-from-lingerie-market-from-a-queer-retailer [Accessed 1 May 2017].

The Good Trade. (2016). 12 Ethical Lingerie Brands For The Modern Woman. [online] Available at: http://www.thegoodtrade.com/features/ethical-lingerie-brands [Accessed 1 May 2017].

Images:

Bluestockings Boutique. (n.d.). Winifred Garters. [online] Available at: https://www.bluestockingsboutique.com/collections/new-arrivals/products/fyi-by-dani-read-winifred-garters [Accessed 1 May 2017].

Bluestockings Boutique. (n.d.). Press & Awards. [online] Available at: https://www.bluestockingsboutique.com/pages/press [Accessed 1 May 2017].

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