Meet Deborah Doyle: the brilliant designer who brought our period pants to life

By Nikki Michelsen

Nov 9, 2022

Meet Deborah Doyle: the brilliant designer who brought our period pants to life
With over 30 years of experience in the lingerie space and an exquisitely keen eye for design, Deborah Doyle — otherwise known as Debbie — was the perfect person to bring a fashion-forward, comfort-first mentality to the designs of our og collection. We caught up with Debbie to talk about all-things period pants, including the most challenging part of the development process, her favourite design out of the recently launched collection and the most rewarding aspect of bringing this project to life.
Before we dive into the og collection specifically, can you tell us a bit about your career in the lingerie space?
I’ve been in the lingerie industry for over 30 years and started my career working in a lingerie shop as a bra fitter. It was my experience in the shop that steered my path into the lingerie design.  I love to draw so decided to study Art at night school, which then lead me to university and to a BA (Hons) degree course in Contour Fashion which specialises in Lingerie, Swimwear, and Dancewear. 
I’ve since worked for various companies in both design and manufacturing, producing for leading brands in the UK, Europe, and USA, including Marks & Spencer, Next, Debenhams, JDWilliams and GAP.
For the last 10 years I’ve been a design consultant working with large and small brands offering design and technical services, specialising in helping new business start-ups. 
My expertise covers the full spectrum of product development, from concept design, technical development and sourcing, through to product launch.
Why are you particularly passionate about designing period pants?
I've always been intrigued when a new product comes to the lingerie market, even more so when I know it has a positive impact on the daily lives of women and young girls. Recently there has been a shift to address some of their health needs, in particular period protection and menopause, both of which have been overlooked in the past.
It’s exciting to work on a new innovative product and to see the reaction during the development process, especially as it has been so well received. Everyone has absolutely loved them! We're only just getting started with the collection of period pants at ohne, so it’s a very positive start for the brand. 
Can you walk us through the most important factors when designing the perfect pair of period pants?
For all underwear, there are four principles you must consider in the design - aesthetics, comfort, function and fit.
When you're developing a product that has a primary function, as is the case in period pants, that creates its own challenges, which requires a bit more work to get right. We needed to ensure the gusset fabrics we used could absorb the right amount of fluid, that there were no leakages, and it kept the wearer dry while keeping them comfortable.
Can you speak to the benefits of using modal and why it was chosen as the fabric?
We knew we wanted a more sustainable fabric. Working alongside our fabric technologist we chose Modal which is an ingenious eco-friendly fabric. It's made from the wood pulp of beechwood trees that are from sustainable forestry.
It's incredibly soft, breathable, and comfortable to wear. Even though it's a semi-synthetic fabric, it biodegrades much better than other synthetic fabrics due to its natural composition. Therefore, longer term, it's better for the environment. 
What would you say makes the ohne period pants so special?
In line with ohne’s ethos to dismantle period shaming, we wanted to design products that were more fashionable, less functional looking, all the while not shying away from the fact that it had a function to perform. We have created a lovely combination of soft Modal fabric, directional styles and bold confident colours which complements ohne’s other outstanding menstrual products. 
What was the most difficult part about perfecting the design?
There were two fundamental challenges – how to keep the pants fashionable while still fully functional, and how the fabric absorbency performs during use. It can be difficult to measure, as all menstrual flows are different. It was important to us that the pants were fully tested by the team at ohne along with other wearer trials, to ensure we got the product right. 
About how many designs did you draft up before deciding on the final designs?
We were quite focused on getting the first two designs ready for launch. Starting with approximately 15 style options, the ohne team were quick to select their favourite designs to develop. As is the case with all product development, we continue to make alterations to perfect the designs right up to when we approve it for final production.
Launching with inclusive sizing was one of our top priorities for the og collection — can you speak to the actual process of intentionally designing for a wide range of body types?
When designing a product to cover a wider size range, it’s important to be aware that bodies not only differ in size but also in shape. We took time to fit the products on a variety of body shapes and sizes, to ensure that the designs were as flattering and comfortable for both petite and curvy figures.
Historically cisgender men have been the ones creating/designing products designed for people who menstruate, which inevitably means some major oversights are made. why do you think it's so important to have period pants made by people who bleed, for people who bleed?
When designing any product, the consumer is key. We must make sure we understand what their needs are and their experience of using similar products. 
This applies to all products, whether it’s a bra or a swimsuit, but especially important for a period pant. It’s a very intimate garment and not all women are comfortable talking about their menstrual flow. Female designers will have an inherent understanding of the issues women face during their bleed and are therefore more qualified to design a product that can fully address their needs. 
How long did the entire process take to bring the ohne period pants to life?
It took 18 months from initial brainstorm to getting the product to market. From a development point of view, we've been working on the designs for just under 12 months.
What's been your favourite part about bringing these designs to life?
Seeing the reaction from the ohne team and models who have been fitting and wearing them — they've all loved the products as soon as they put them on.
But perhaps the most rewarding part was my 13-year-old daughter's reaction. Up until now she has been very reluctant to try period pants, but I convinced her to try the ohne style we were developing - and she absolutely loves them!  
She now has a newfound self-confidence when on her period – it’s a lovely feeling to know that we have created a product that has had such a positive impact on someone so young. it’s had such a positive effect, that she is now telling her friends all about them which has enabled them to talk more openly about periods – which is what ohne is all about.
Last but not least: what's your design of choice between the two styles and four colours?
Definitely the high waist as it covers your tummy and feels like a soft hug to the skin. Colour is really tricky, because I love them all but if I had to choose it would be the papaya or the lilac sky.
Ohne Team
Image credit: Deborah Doyle