Interview: Helya Mohammadian, Founder of Slick Chicks – Adaptive Underwear Line
Helya Mohammadian is the founder of Slick Chicks, a side-fastening underwear line designed for women with physical disabilities. Helya decided to create Slick Chicks when she realized that over 15% of the world’s population had a disability, yet very few people in the clothing industry were focused on creating adaptive fashion for the disabled. Slick Chicks is trailblazing a path for the fashion industry to increasingly embrace this underserved segment of the market.
Helya is changing the world by empowering disabled women with an adaptive underwear line that allows for an increased sense of freedom and dignity. Read more about this female founder who makes a fabulous addition to Like a Boss Girls’ Women Making History Today series!
Name: Helya Mohammadian
Company: Slick Chicks
Job Title: Founder
Lives in: New York City
Originally from: Iran
I LOVE to sew! That is why I became a fashion designer.
Name a woman in history that you admire & why:
Audrey Hepburn, because she was a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and traveled to more than 20 countries, meeting children who struggled every day just to survive.
Quote/piece of advice that you live by:
“Nothing is impossible. The word itself says I’m possible!” – Audrey Hepburn
What inspired you to start your current venture?
Over 15% of the world’s population (~1.3 billion people) has a disability. This makes people with disabilities the largest minority group in the world – yet there is still a huge empty space in the market for adaptive fashion for the disabled. For people with disabilities, the simple daily task of changing or getting dressed can be burdensome and challenging.
Even though I am able-bodied myself, I am passionate about disabled people being acknowledged by the fashion industry. Just because someone has a disability doesn’t mean that they don’t care about fashion, or that they don’t enjoy how great the right clothing can make them feel inside and out. There is a way to bridge the gap between fashion and function. I am excited to build an underwear line that innovates a product most of us take for granted every day. I believe everyone deserves to feel and look good!
What is your company doing to make history today?
Slick Chicks’ side-fastening underwear line was created to empower people who face physical challenges that impact their ability to wear traditional underwear and still function independently. In comparison to traditional underwear, Slick Chicks’ underwear line has a side-fastening design makes this underwear much easier to take on and off. This gives disabled women the flexibility and convenience to change on their own, allowing them to take back their independence and dignity. About 27 million women in the U.S. have disabilities, so this is a market where we can have a major impact.
What is one thing you have accomplished that you are most proud of?
When I first launched Slick Chicks, I never would have imagined that this product would have such a huge impact on people’s lives. I started receiving messages from women who were not able-bodied, thanking me for making their lives a little easier. That made me realize just how many women needed this product.
There was one specific email I received that stands out to me as a time I felt a greater sense of purpose with my company. A woman emailed me to share her struggles with limited mobility, and told me that Slick Chicks had given her a newfound sense of freedom.
Her email made me realize that I had created something more important than an innovative underwear line that gave women a convenient way to change. I had created a product that empowered and inspired women to rise up and fight through their physical challenges. This realization has only served to strengthen my mission to help others.
What is one project you are currently working on that you are most excited about?
I am the cofounder of EmpowHer, an organization that we recently launched in NYC. Our group brings women from all walks of life together to share their stories of perseverance that will inspire and empower others.
What, in your opinion, is one of the biggest challenges facing your industry today?
Underwear is a $110 billion dollar market, but it isn’t paying enough attention to disabled consumers. Somehow the disability market is still considered to be “niche”, despite impacting as many as one in five people. This means that it can be challenging to find retailers who believe in our mission.
Fortunately, we have started to gain traction thanks to the enthusiastic support of the disabled community. We recognize their problem and are finding innovative ways to solve it by being inclusive in our design.
What is a trend in your industry that you foresee becoming popular in the future?
In the U.S., 75-80% of the adult incontinence market is comprised of women from the baby boomer generation. So needless to say, this is a thriving market with great potential for our product.
What is one of the greatest challenges you have personally faced at this job?
The biggest challenge I’ve faced is the realization that I can’t make everyone happy in this business. More recently, I had to take responsibility for a post on social media that was misinterpreted. I learned that I had to listen to what the community was saying, take ownership, and apologize. However, the apology and accountability was not the challenging part; the true challenge was making peace with the fact that I cannot please everyone.
What were you doing before your current role?
Before Slick Chicks I was an Assistant Personal Shopper at Bergdorf Goodman, where I worked with famous celebrities, well-known socialites and the “who’s who” of New York’s Upper East Side. I graduated from F.I.T. so a career in fashion felt like a natural fit for me – but until I started my Slick Chicks underwear line, I always felt that something was missing.
I gradually felt my love for working in the fashion industry fading away and found myself surrounded by only material things. In the end, my unhappiness was a blessing in disguise because it led me to create my company!
What is one piece of advice you’d like to give to other female founders & change-makers?
Remember why you started and focus on the one thing that drives your passion – that is what motivated me to become an entrepreneur in the first place. I have gotten too caught up in the entrepreneurial lifestyle before, and it made me lose touch with the real meaning behind my product. I needed to take a step back and refocus – the most important part of my company is helping people to live a happier life; not money and profits.
I also received a great piece of advice recently: Stay humble in your attitude and be caring in your actions.
Are there any great resources for anyone building a business that you would like to share?
Anything by Simon Sinek is powerful and inspiring.
Fun fact about yourself:
I lived in a hotel in Istanbul, Turkey with my parents for one year when I was two years old. Also, I’ve been engaged for 10 years (tmi???)!!!
If your company is currently hiring or looking for partnerships, where can readers go to find more information?
We usually post any job openings on social media (links below). However, we can be reached anytime for inquiries at email@example.com.
For more information on Slick Chicks, visit their website.