Activ Intimates is Changing Lingerie So We Can All Have Better Sex

I first met the Activ Intimates founders last year at the Phoenix Fashion Week Emerging Designers Fashion Show. Their designs immediately caught my eye because they weren’t the intimate’s apparel I was used to seeing. It was sexy, yes. It would definitely add a spark to a romantic evening, yes. But it was also something I’d happily throw on for a quiet home evening alone with a bottle of wine and trashy reality show. It looked that comfortable.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never once thought about lounging around in my lace teddy from Fredricks of Hollywood.

Co-founders and sisters of Activ Intimates, Laurie McMordie and CJ Hersch.

I clearly wasn’t the only one impressed. Activ Intimates went on to win Lifestyle Designer of the Year at Phoenix Fashion week, and there’s been no stopping them since.

It’s my pleasure to introduce co-owners, and sisters, Laurie McMordie and CJ Hersch. Two women taking on the lingerie industry and taboo sex conversations head on.

A need for better lingerie

Heidi – How did being part of Phoenix Fashion Week help in launching your business.

Laurie – Winning Phoenix Fashion Week really put us on the map in the Arizona fashion community, and it was thrilling to launch our lingerie on their runway.  That was really cool, but I have to say that the bootcamp is where the magic happened.  Four months of intense focus on our business – we worked hard, honed our business skills and became very disciplined.

CJ – We both come from business backgrounds, which has played well for us, we compliment each other in this respect. Many fashion entrepreneurs have design backgrounds, but not many have the business experience.  Phoenix Fashion Week’s Emerging Designer Bootcamp focuses on the business of fashion, which is so essential. Even with our extensive business skills, bootcamp filled the fashion industry gap in our resumes.

Heidi – Laurie, you had a career in finance and CJ you were in human resources. What made you leave established careers and launch into the fashion industry?

Laurie – I’ve been a seamstress since I was a teenager, and I’ve always loved making my own clothes – I even sewed my own wedding dress, so maybe I was destined for a career in fashion!

We like to say that our company was founded in a fitting room, because I was looking for a particular piece of lingerie for a special occasion. I knew how I wanted it to look, and most importantly, how I wanted feel – sexy and confident. I didn’t find it that day, but I did find a gap in the market. So I went home and sketched out a design. I called my sister, CJ, to tell her about my idea, and off we went into the fashion business.

CJ – I never aspired to be in the fashion industry. Like never!  Even when we got in it!  Well, actually, that’s not completely true. I did want to be a model when I was a teenager, but being only 5′ tall, I decided on a career without height qualifications.

When Laurie called me that day, I connected with the idea right away. I could see that there was a gap in the market. I was excited about it, but not because I thought, “Now I can be in the fashion industry.  That would be so cool”. It was because we saw a need and said, ‘We can really help women in this area. Let’s do it!”

Entrepreneurs at heart

Heidi – So neither of you had a burning desire to get into the fashion industry, but did you always know you wanted to be entrepreneurs?

Laurie & CJ (in unison) – That’s such an excellent question for us.

Editor’s Note: An excellent question it was, and I’m taking this opportunity to paraphrase. These two resourceful sisters had story after story about their early entrepreneurial ventures. When Laurie and CJ were only 4 and 5 years old they came up with a brilliant business concept to resell their mother’s old newspapers to their neighbors. The profits were terrible, and their mother quickly put a stop to that endeavor.

A few years and many start-ups later, the sisters moved to Laramie, WY. For one week out of every summer, the girls would run a seasonal restaurant out of their parent’s garage. With seed money from their mother, they would buy groceries, come home and make their recipes, then sell product out of their garage. They would earn a small profit, hustle back to the grocery store to buy more ingredients and make more product. Even then, they always paid back their seed money.

Heidi – I love that you say the concept for Activ Intimates started in a fitting room. How long did it take you to go from concept to retail?

Laurie – It took a number of years, because we were new to the industry.  We were having to learn about patterns and grading and marking – all the different things that go into taking something from concept to retail.  We’ve been in full-tilt boogie for 3 years now.

The perfect lingerie fabrics

Heidi – That’s fantastic. I can imagine there’s so much to consider when sourcing fabric for lingerie, like stretchiness, comfort, how the fabric feels on your skin… or someone else’s skin!  What was your sourcing experience like, and how did you choose the fabrics you use today?

CJ – We both love fabric, so we went into it thinking that sourcing fabric was going to be the fun part of the business.  But, it’s a lot of work!

One thing we did to help with sourcing was attend the LA Textile Show. We had the best time but it was really overwhelming, because we came home with so many swatches and so many ideas. We realized that we had to narrow down the choices.  Not everything was going to translate to lingerie.  As it turned out, even with our love of beautiful fabric, we had quite a learning curve.

Laurie – For the lingerie, we use performance fabrics that have stretch and recovery and have anti-microbial properties. 

For our Limited Edition Lace Poncho Peignoirs we purchase our fabric from jobbers in Los Angeles.  Jobbers buy fabric overstock, mill-ends, seconds (fabric with some defects) from textile mills and manufacturers.  We feel good sourcing some of our fabric this way and it works well for small batch production.

Heidi – I love that you source locally. Where are your products made?

Laurie – In LA!

It’s good from a sustainability stand-point, but also from a human aspect. It’s good to be able to walk on the factory floor, look people in the eyes and know they are getting paid and treated right.

CJ – We’ve worked with two factories in LA. It’s great being able to drive or fly there pretty quickly. We like to walk out to the manufacturing floor and get to know the people sewing our designs.  It’s really something. 

See Also: How Kendall Wilson Overcame “You Can’t” and Did!

Heidi – I’m curious, when I think about the lingerie industry, it seems to be dominated by a few major brands. Did your friends and family think you both were crazy when you told them you were launching a lingerie company?

Laurie- I have three sons, and I think they might have said yes to that question in the beginning, but no longer.  They are all very supportive.

About the big players in our industry – it’s obvious who is dominating, and we are talking about multibillion-dollar companies, but even with that our market is under served.  We target women from their mid-forties to, well… as old as they want to go!  But that segment is under served. 

That’s what the whole fitting room story is about.  I was in there, and my body was different than it was when I was in my twenties. I wanted some of it covered but covered in a pretty way. You don’t see that out there.  You especially don’t see it marketed to women 40+. And while there may be an undertone that’s about sex, we’re having the conversation about sexual wellness and better sex. This is what sets us apart from the big players. 

CJ – There’s a lot of competition and a lot of beautiful lingerie. This inspires us. But for our market there is probably a lot of lingerie sitting in drawers that never gets worn because, while beautiful, it doesn’t make them feel beautiful or sexy. 

Sex in conversation

Heidi – Activ Intimates isn’t just about lingerie.  I spent some time on your blog. You really try to embrace women’s sexuality, and how to feel sexy effortlessly.  So, instead of trying to cram our bodies into underwires and bustiers, you promote embracing our bodies, being confident in our bodies and owning our sexuality at any age.

CJ – That is something we talk about a lot.  We knew from early on that our brand wold be about more than lingerie.

It’s got to be about the conversation around sexual wellness and health. This is the bigger vision for our brand.

Having a good, healthy sex life has many health benefits.  There’s the pleasure in it but it goes well beyond that, effecting mental, emotional, and physical health. There are so many benefits and yet we just don’t talk about it enough.

Heidi – And because “we” don’t talk about it enough, about the low points or our desires there’s automatically an element of shame attached to the subject; whereas, if we all talked about it more openly, we would realize we all go through the same ups and downs.

Laurie – There are also things that happen to women around menopause that don’t get talked about, so women end up suffering in silence and put everything, including their sex life, on the back burner. That becomes their new normal.  And that’s sad. 

Heidi – Where do you see Activ Intimates in 5-10 years?

CJ – We will continue to develop new collections of lingerie, and also continue the conversation about better sex. We’re excited about the events we have planned this year for women and for couples. In fact, we had a meeting today with dance instructors to plan a sensual touch through dance event!

Laurie – That’s scheduled for mid-May.  We have a lot of fun things planned around sexual wellness, some serious too, but some just super fun.  We want to get people excited about their sexuality and our brand. 

Heidi – I think a lot of women are in need of community and a safe place to talk about issues. Get ready! I think you’re going to have women flocking to these events.

Sustainability Initiative

CJ – I want to mention another direction we are going with the introduction of our ReAcivate line. 

Laurie – ReActivate is part of our sustainability initiative.  Before our lingerie was manufactured, we made an arrangement with the factory to save all of our scraps and at the end of production, we got two big boxes.  We were expecting them to be really workable sizes, swatches, but no no!  That is not what we got. 

We got all different sizes, and a lot of tiny pieces.  Literal production scraps.  The challenge was, how were we going to use all these pieces, plus our leftover fabric, in a limited edition line. 

At this point, this is something we’re planning to do after each production.  Bottom line of ReAcivate is that by the time we are done we will have used every thread of the original fabric we bought for production.

CJ – We are trying to be as close to a zero-waste as possible with our patterns, so all straight lines.  It’s exciting!

We are considering many aspects of sustainability in our designs and throughout the process, including packaging. Our goal is to be as minimal as possible with the hangtags, labels, etc.  This can present its challenges because we have to manage our customers’ expectations. They may be accustomed to the big bow in the slick non-recyclable luxury packaging. 

Heidi – It’s simply because they don’t know.  They don’t know what that slick, sexy box with the bow, the box that just ends up in the trash, really costs the environment.  That’s a big part of my mission – education, because until you go through that process of learning about how much waste we generate you just don’t know.

The fact that you had that foresight in advance of manufacturing is incredible.

CJ – We always prioritize quality.  This is an important part of being a sustainable fashion brand.   We make our lingerie to last.  We are not fast fashion. 

Heidi – That matters too. I try to buy things I know I will wear repeatedly, and garments that are comfortable, high quality, and I know where they came from.  

Looking forward

Heidi – What has been your greatest joy?

Laurie – As a designer, seeing your designs come to life on a model, and then seeing them on a runway is a thrill. Also, more importantly, is the customer. When they try on the Playlette and say, “OH!  It’s comfortable!”  They look in the mirror and feel good.  That is truly a joy. 

Heidi – That is so cool!  I love that.

Last questions, and you both are moms, so this question is similar to which kid is your favorite. For people who are new to Activ Intimates and interested in buying something. What is your favorite piece?

CJ – The Playlette.  It’s truly a different kind of lingerie.  It’s our flagship design and is what really distinguishes our brand. 

Laurie – I totally agree! We like to say, we design lingerie, but we are about better sex.


Raise your hand if you’re ready for better sex! I know I’m excited about a different lingerie experience. I think my biggest take away from Laurie and CJ is that they make lingerie for women, not for men. Of course, men benefit and enjoy the look of their ladies in beautiful lingerie, but what both partners enjoy is confident, fun sex, free of inhibitions.

Please show your support for our sustainable designers by sharing this article, and checking out the entire Activ Intimates line at ActiveIntimates.com.

You can also follow them on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest – @activintimates

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