Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
But while it's arguable that some of these innovations aren't really very necessary, one area that's been completely underserved is apparel in the medical industry. This was a complaint Heather Hasson, a 33-year-old former handbag designer heard a lot from friends in the healthcare world.
"I remember the problem becoming really apparent to me when I had coffee with a girlfriend who is a nurse practitioner, and she told me she could not find a single pair of good scrubs," Hasson says recently. "She said everything was boxy and baggy and when I tried to find her better ones, there was nothing."
Two and a half years ago, Hasson started Figs, a scrubs startup, together with Trina Spear, a 32-year-old Harvard Business School grad she met through mutual friends. An LA-based e-commerce business, Figs makes tailored scrubs with fabric that is wrinkle resistant and antimicrobial. Tops sell for $25 to $34 and pants sell for $30 to $44.
FIGS proclaims it is doing for scrubs what Lululemon did for yoga apparel and while that's one bold statement, it's promising enough to pique the interest of investors. Last month, Campfire Capital, a Vancouver-based venture capital firm that's invested in companies like the-Keurig-for-juicing Juicero and Canadian men's fashion brand Frank + Oak, confirmed it was leading a $5 million Series A round of funding for Figs, making the company's total investments $10 million to date. Campfire's partners include several former Lululemon executives. Founder Brooke Harley, who was Lululemon's former director of business development, tells Racked she believes there is tremendous opportunity in the scrubs industry, in terms of innovation and profit.
The medical apparel industry in the US is widely cited as a $9 billion market, and one that's $26 billion worldwide. But there hasn't been much change to the uniform over the years and fit, fabric, and comfort are just a few grievances healthcare professionals complain about. While it might not seem obvious to those who don't work in the space, healthcare professionals say it's about time companies start paying attention to the scrubs industry.They're tired of wearing an unattractive, ill-fitting uniform.
"Scrubs are super boxy, bland, and just ill-fitting," Megan Arriola, a 22-year-old Long Beach, California resident who just finishing nursing school and is a fan of Figs, says. "When you wear something for 12 hours a day, you want to feel good about yourself. It doesn't mean the top and pants have to be super fitted, but you want them to be flattering so you can do your work with confidence."
Figs' innovation claims include high-quality material, and fit that is stylish. The scrubs come in 15 different colors for women and eight different colors for men, and several different styles, like V-neck and button down tops, and jogger pants. The sets aren't crazy fitted but give just the right amount of shape, Arriola says, so that you can go out with friends after a shift and not feel stupid about your outfit. Joyce Park, a 28-year-old dermatology resident at New York University says Figs's scrubs are the kind she's found that actually fit properly because most companies make sizing that is universal — and terrible.
"Most come in small, medium, and large, and the size smalls are so large, they fall off me," Park says. "And it's not just about comfort; when you're wearing uniform that is so baggy, it just looks unprofessional. So there's really a lot of room for scrubs to improve, in terms of sizing."
"There are definitely fewer options for male nurses, so finding a company that makes a range of styles and colors in a comfortable as durable material has been awesome," adds Steven Burr, a 37-year-old nurse who works in the psychiatric unit at Strong Memorial in Rochester, New York. "I have three pairs of the Tela style, they're all I wear now."
For the most part, medical professionals get a few pairs of scrubs for free from places like hospitals, and then buy the rest from local uniform retailers or third-party websites. Figs's Spear says that as an outsider, it seemed obvious that there needed to be a brand manufacturing high quality medical gear.
"Most medical professionals have to shop in awful, discounted stores where scrubs are shoved to the back rack, in a dusty corner, and the rest of them buy their scrubs online through random, third party companies," Spear says. "It's a subpar experience."
The scrubs industry isn't completely void of companies paying attention to the uniform's need for style update. Five months after Figs started, another brand, Jaannuu, founded by LA pediatrician Neela Sethi Young, debuted a scrubs collection of its own. Earlier this year, Modern Family actress Sofia Vergara launched a scrub line too, Careisma, which sells in various uniform stores and on the site, and has styles that vary based on whether you're feeling "fearless" or "charming." Harley from Campfire, though, says her venture capital firm was interested in investing in Figs over other scrubs company because she believed it had better "core values;" taking cues from startups like Warby Parker, Figs has a Thread For Threads program where it donates a set of scrubs for every pair sold.
Spear and Hasson declined to share sales figures so far, but according to its site, the company has sold over 75,000 pairs of scrubs. Harley says that with Figs' Campfire investment, she's keen on the company expanding strategically through brick and mortar, as its scrubs are currently only being sold online.
"We want to see expansion, whether it's [selling to] offices and hospitals that buy in bulk and I also think the US can hold 150 [Figs] stores near hospitals," Harley says.
Next up, Figs is working on a new line of polyester scrubs that are being made from recycled plastic bottles. The collection, which is launching later this year, comes with a higher price point — $34 for tops and $42 for pants — and is part of what Spear says is part of the company's ambitions towards creating sustainable medical apparel.