Samantha DeMartini remembers that day in high school like it was yesterday.
“I was 17 years old and getting in a boy’s truck for a ride home,” she recalls. “The most popular boy at school! But as I climbed in, my skirt got stuck in my backpack, exposing my ‘nylon butt.’ You know, when a girl’s rear end is smushed into a pair of high-waisted nylon tights.”
Horrified and beyond humiliated, the teenage DeMartini quickly snapped her skirt back across her bottom, but the damage was already done. The very next day, she attempted to find a more flattering pair of nylons, but came up devastatingly short of anything that didn’t squish her stomach into a stuffed sausage shape. Perusing the thigh-high section of the store didn’t help either.
“All I could find were those traditional thigh-high stockings, the super-thin ones that run if you look at them the wrong way and come in only the most boring colors,” she explains.
DeMartini never did discover the perfect pair of nylons or thigh-highs back in her teen years — but years later, after raising kids and starting a successful career in the beauty industry, a fateful moment arrived.
“I was going through a divorce and working 50-plus hours a week in the beauty world,” DeMartini remembers. “A friend and I were talking one day, and found ourselves asking what we would do in life if we could do something else. I mentioned my ‘dream thigh-high’ and it was that day the wheels went into motion. My friend encouraged me to try and come up with something that would work.”
Two days later, DeMartini was on a plane to the Las Vegas SOURCING at MAGIC show, working on designs and trying to find a manufacturer to help her create a product literally decades in the making — the perfect pair she had dreamed of ever since that embarrassing day.
When it came time to name her new venture, DeMartini remembered something her mother was fond of saying when she was growing up, whenever her daughter left the house wearing a fun, flirty outfit: “That looks kicky!”
The brand DeMartini founded, Kix’ies, would spend the next 11-plus years doing one thing and doing it extremely well: making thigh-highs that stay up, regardless of the wearer’s leg shape or size. DeMartini says she simply applied her passion for hosiery to create something women wanted, but that wasn’t currently on the market.
“We are about as broadly inclusive as any lingerie line can be, with four different sizes ranging from petite to plus, and now over 50 different styles,” says DeMartini. “At Kix’ies, we really pride ourselves on our stay-up power and both accurate and inclusive sizing.”
Kix’ies thigh-highs are powered by a triple band of elastic at the very top, a defining look that spans all of the brand’s thigh-high designs. Kix’ies also produces tights that promise zero “muffin top,” warm, over-the-knee socks, size-inclusive lingerie, and briefs for men.
Initially, not everyone shared her vision. While still organizing her business and working out a market focus, DeMartini met with one of the investors from the reality TV show “Shark Tank.” He tried to talk her out of a key decision that would soon become a pillar of her brand.
“He encouraged me to stick to one market,” says DeMartini. “Well, just because I am a size 4 doesn’t mean I am only going to sell to people size 4. He suggested not venturing into the plus-size world, and boy, was he wrong! Sixty percent of our business is the plus-size market.”
Now, 11 years in, including women — and men — of all clothing tag numbers undergirds every decision made regarding the Kix’ies brand name.
“What I am seeing more of in this industry is the need for inclusivity,” DeMartini shares. “Everyone wants to be included regardless of gender, race or size. For a brand to be successful, it really needs to include everyone.”
In addition to flattering all bodies, DeMartini points out, quality is an absolute must. She emphasizes that folks shouldn’t expect the usual one-and-done thigh-highs or nylons they’ve come to expect from adult retailers.
“We have always kept our prices in line with our quality, and make sure we would be happy to purchase our products ourselves,” says DeMartini.
“When I started in this business, many retailers were OK buying cheap hosiery,” she continues. “They had no problem selling the ‘one-time wear.’ They saw Kix’ies as being too expensive to be sold in the ‘adult world.’ I spent many trade shows explaining to potential retailers the impression they give their customers when hosiery is purchased, brought home, worn once and it rips or falls down. And as we know, returns on lingerie and hosiery are hard to do. After seeing us year after year at ILS and then Altitude, many of those potential retailers are now regular customers.
“They saw Kix’ies was here to stay and realized their customers were willing to pay for quality,” DeMartini adds.
Now that Kix’ies is a fan favorite of burlesque dancers, lingerie models and boudoir photographers everywhere, DeMartini wants to give her loyal retailers’ customers a taste of true thigh-high magic. DeMartini is happy to coordinate with her clients to create promotional offers and other opportunities that mutually benefit her brand and her B2B colleagues. Kix’ies also promises free samples for retail staff, managers and sales associates, plus open, in-store samples so customers can touch a pair of Kix’ies without sacrificing a single package from the shelf.
“Once you wear them and realize how awesome they are and that they do really stay up, you will be able to explain better to your customers,” assures DeMartini. “We might even make a thigh-high wearer out of you, if you aren’t already one!”
After more than a decade in business, Kix’ies has yet to discontinue a single design — a streak rarely seen in any industry, and a testament to the real problem-solving power of a pair of stay-up thigh-highs. Looking ahead, Samantha DeMartini hopes to continue that trend.
“In the years to come, we hope to bring more awareness to our brand,” she concludes. “To prove they really stay up, I even jumped out of an airplane wearing Kix’ies, and proved my case! People were giving up on thigh-highs because of their inability to stay up, but Kix’ies solved that issue and now we just need to continue to spread the word.”