For women who find themselves outdoors often, having apparel that is comfortable, strong and made for them is vital. Whether out for leisure and exercise activities or being on the job, women all too often find themselves in uncomfortable situations when nature calls – and they’re in nature. The options are typically limited and less than ideal, and in some cases, compromise the health, safety and dignity of women.
Kelly McCombs, a successful entrepreneur with years of experience, is changing that. Based in Seattle, she is the Founder and CEO of E LIRA Apparel , a brand dedicated to empowering women and making their experience in the outdoors easier and more comfortable. With years of experience in design, McCombs channeled her passion for nature into her brand and developed the successful, revolutionary Elira Explorer pants.
With passionate conviction, a love of nature and the right experience, McCombs was the perfect person to create ELIRA and start helping women feel more free, empowered and dignified – no matter where they are or what they’re doing in nature. With ELIRA, McCombs is working to encourage women to explore and reach their full potential – all while feeling comfortable and free.
About ELIRA Apparel
ELIRA Apparel is a clothing company with pants for both men and women, but it was designed specifically with women in mind. The brand sells patented pants for the outdoor woman who is seeking workwear that is more functional. Whether it’s for a job or leisure, many women often find themselves in uncomfortable situations when they need to use the bathroom outside. To solve this problem, McCombs started ELIRA.
A businesswoman who had built a successful career in interior design, McCombs eventually ventured into apparel. An avid hiker and lover of nature, McCombs was inspired by a friend at the end of a hike, who said, “Why is it they can put a man on the moon, but they can’t make a pair of pants for a woman to squat and pee without her pants down around her knees?” A lightbulb went off for McCombs and she quickly got to work.
McCombs then began to develop prototypes and eventually secured a utility patent. She made her way to outdoor retailer shows in Utah and studied technical fabrics, fabrics with stretch,waterproofing, spandex and more. She hired a company to run a Kickstarter and saw herself expanding past millennial buyers.
“It’s like building blocks,”
Currently, ELIRA sells two pieces of apparel with more planned for the near future. There’s the Adams pant, named after a famous female explorer, which is a pair of multipurpose, multifunctional pants with a patented invisible two-way auto-locking zipper technology. With a zipper that zips all the way around from front to back, or back to front, women can be discreet and free from the restrictions of traditional pants.
McCombs said she wanted pants that weren’t constricting, and also one that stylistically could be worn while hiking or working and then to meet friends for dinner.
“I wanted one that looked sharp with great stitching and a four-way stretch, just in case you needed to sleep in them on that camping trip,” she said.
The pants are made to be tear-resistant with large, deep pockets and designed to be flattering to shape. There are also no labels or logos. ELIRA pants look like a regular pair of pants. They provide you the freedom to pee without your pants down around your knees. That freedom is going to stay that way. There is also a zipper guard sewn in on the inside, to provide you protection and additional comfort. The store additionally sells the ELIRA panties, which part gently in the middle for squatting. Products coming soon include a boxer brief and long underwear.
A brand rooted in freedom
The name Elira has a significant meaning – in Albanian, it means “to be free.” Much of the brand’s mission is rooted in breaking down patriarchal constraints and unleashing the power of women. As many women are looking to build careers in fields that aren’t confined to an office job, their attire must be suited to them. Ultimately, women’s workwear has fallen significantly short of functionality and practicality.
Often, patriarchal workforce dress codes have boxed women into wearing certain clothing, and even in more blue-collar fields, workwear for women was not designed with them in mind. For example, uniforms have traditionally been designed to be bulkier and heavier, making it more difficult for women to perform their jobs to the best of their ability. The creation of ELIRA was based partly on the importance of women having attire that fits their needs.
McCombs is looking to break through these norms and standards. She said ELIRA’s brand is about the freedom to empower women. Its mission is to illuminate the path toward ensuring equality and kindness by celebrating every individual’s needs in active environments.
“Our mission is to create the most revolutionary products that promote personal freedom and empower a natural experience when nature calls us into action,” she said.
The pants at ELIRA Apparel are like no other – mainly due to the patented two-way invisible zipper. McCombs said, not only do they look like a regular pair of pants, they have a great four-way stretch. No matter what the activity is, “This is long overdue for women in active outdoor environments.” ELIRA pants have been tested on horseback, bike riding, on
cross-country trips while sitting on the saddle for hours.
The pants, the brand recently launched are made with nylon bamboo spandex, are coated with a breathable Durable Water Repellent (DWR) coating so they are perfect for any unexpected rainy days, or wet based expeditions. The Polartec Power Dry underwear sets a high standard for moisture management with a four-way stretch. This promotes fast drying, breathable, moisture-wicking performance fabric. And it’s recycled fabric! McCombs said the material on the pants and underwear use less energy in washing and drying, promoting sustainability.
The women who are wearing ELIRA
As McCombs was building her company and perfecting the pants, she said she did a lot of reading and studying, especially about farm women in the midwest. She found that women in fields of science, such as archeologists, had a need for the exact type of pants she was creating. At the time, many women were using feminine urinary devices. In some cases, women working outside had to remove their pants – often in front of male coworkers. This only fueled the need and passion for ELIRA.
“Pants were designed for men, and it’s simply degrading no one has ever considered a woman’s needs once she started wearing pants.”
McCombs said she receives many letters from customers saying these will be a game changer, a dream come true. She said, the women wearing ELIRA Apparel include women who are active in outdoor environments, such as campers, hikers, firefighters, law enforcement, military, border patrol, farmers and more.
She found women are guilty of holding in the urine due to those embarrassing moments while in outdoor active activities. Embarrassment of having to pee with their pants down around their knees exposing themselves. As a matter of fact, women will avoid hydrating for this reason causing urinary tract infection (UTI)
McCombs said she hopes the women who are wearing ELIRA will find their freedom and feel empowered. “Go where no woman has ever gone,” she said.
The passion behind the project
McCombs fostered an entrepreneurial spirit from a young age and quickly decided that she wanted to work for herself. She started initially in product development and interior design and opened several successful lifestyle shops early on in her career. McCombs has also worked in visual arts, doing sculpting and being featured in the Philadelphia Museum of Art Trade shows. She has been featured in local, national, and international magazines, newspapers and television. She also holds multiple patents and trademarks.
Another one of McCombs’ passions is providing customers with excellent service and being open and honest with them. She said she’s received inspiring and encouraging feedback from customers in various fields, and it only fuels her desire to empower women and expand.
At the heart of her mission with ELIRA is to give women a voice. As a woman in business, she said she’s experienced firsthand the double-edged sword of working in a man’s world. This is especially true for women who are working in male-dominated fields and have found relief in ELIRA.
To McCombs, it’s very evident that women have and will continue to have a crucial role in turning around the planet’s health – a cause that she is also passionate about.
“I believe in the preservation of nature and working with the environment instead of against it,” she said. “Everything I do is all about nature.”
The future of ELIRA
When it comes to the future of ELIRA, McCombs said her focus is the upcoming products as well as some more patents that are in the works. Her current priority is women working in the outdoor fields.
“Women are in all kinds of fields,” she said. “Women are pushing the envelope.”
She’s also keeping a finger on the pulse of trends and what the outdoor space looks like, including women who are embracing nomadic lifestyles and “van life.”
Ultimately, making a difference is the biggest mark of success for McCombs. And with the response she’s received from countless customers who are loving ELIRA Apparel, it’s apparent
that she is making a change and helping women feel stronger, more free and comfortable doing their work and what they love.
“We stand to empower women,” she said.