Chickfly was founded by Anna Birkás, an entrepreneur with an unconventional perspective. Anna’s back-to-the land upbringing in Mendocino County was among artist intellectuals who made things from scratch and peed outside. This inspired her to study the natural sciences. Anna became a hydrologist and general engineering contractor. She started her first company, Village Ecosystems, in 2009. Anna spends her days tending to the watersheds of Northern California, helping foster ecological stewardship as a lifestyle.
Long Standing Issue
Historically, women all over the world have worn big skirts that allow them to discreetly pee. In Europe and America, wealthy women of the Victorian era wore bloomers with a split crotch; because their hoop skirts prevented sitting on a toilet, they would pee standing into a small dish (often sold as gravy boats in antique stores today).
Founded by a Watershed Ecologist
While working in the watersheds of Northern California (the Garcia, Navarro, Eel, Russian, and Napa Rivers) as a hydrologist, Anna spent a lot of time thinking about how to support healthy ecosystems. She taught workshops about building greywater and installed rainwater catchment systems as a contractor. Always, Anna’s efforts in the field and classroom made her consider the issues of inequality and the limitations women encountered when peeing. Not that she minded copping a squat, she had been raised without a toilet. Rather, it is about a thousand inconveniences that women face going to the bathroom: waiting in lines, privacy issues, power dynamics of pants, competition in races, safety for climbers, access for disabled and elderly, convenience for truckers, and warmth for arctic travelers or Iditarod racers.
Inventing Chickfly Pants
What inspired Chickfly? Anna recognized that there were limitations for women, whether it was bathroom lines, privacy on construction jobs, climbing harnesses that must be removed, marathons slowed by bathroom stops, issues of peeing etiquette, or shyness about showing one’s butt in mixed company. She had worked to earn respect among men on jobs in science and construction, requiring both brains and brawn. As a woman in these situations it is best to eliminate even the smallest disadvantage to level the field. Anna understood that the ability to access the toilet, and the speed, ease, and privacy of how one did so, is an equality issue that affects half the population on Earth. Anna got an idea to create a pair of pants for women with a unique fly that would address all of these issues. She bought a used skirt and sewed it into the first prototype (always up-cycling).
Early Days of Chickfly
For seven years, Anna has been working to create a fly for women. Her first attempt at a pattern started with two individual legs, each attached to a separate “bikini,” which overlapped, creating the wonderful place in the middle that pulled apart…She produced her first prototype of Chickfly pants by pulling stretchy fabric around her own body and cutting away the slack. They worked shockingly well. She then released a series of prototypes that she gave to friends and friends of friends, to wear as test runs. For years she has been tailoring their feedback to create the perfect pair of ChickFly pants that will revolutionize the world.
As a toddler, Anna’s mother taught her to use a needle. Soon Anna began sewing on the foot-powered treadle sewing machine. Little Anna often looked through the book “Needlecraft.” She loved her vegetable doll, sewn by an aunt. It had a wooden head with arms and legs of lettuce. In their cabin, Anna explored special old tins. One had crafting devices, such as rag rug curlers and crochet hooks carved by her great-grandmother out of toothbrushes. Another had an ancestor's fascinating button collection. The tiny crochet hooks for making lace were an adored challenge, and she spent hours hooking tiny threads by kerosene lamp.
"This is me in the arms of my inspirational grandmother, beside her mother, my mom, and my dad. My grandmother went back to school in the 1960's, after having four kids by the age of thirty, and got a degree in Sociology. She learned about feminism, sex, and equality, and she brought that knowledge home. She taught us sex ed early. She worked in a free clinic where she helped many people. She and my grandfather realized their life dream of sailing to Hawaii on their own. Because they were blown by a hurricane, they got there a week early and were terrified the entire time. They still found time to make love, and she marked those days in her journal with a heart. My mother and father bought land on the rugged coast of Point Arena, California when I was six months old. We lived in a tent the first winter while they built this cabin. Some of my favorite memories were when the families harvested grapes from inland, hauled them in communally owned dump trucks, and made wine. Us kids ran feral.”
Not Raised by Wolves
“I say 'not raised by wolves' jokingly because I was once nabbed by one. At the age of one I had neighbors that loved animals and nursed wildlife back to health. They had llamas that spat and terrified me, they had a deer that lived in their house for awhile, and sometimes an owl perched on the sofa. Incidentally, this is where I first saw a woman pee while standing. One of their injured beasts was a wolf from Oregon named Roake. After it had been nursed back to health it stayed on the land for a couple years. One day I was playing in the yard and it picked me up by the diapers and carried me towards the woods. My mom called out and it dropped me at the edge of the clearing. She said the wolf liked the smell of perfume and was just after my scented diapers. To this day my mom always assumes the best of everyone. Eventually the wolf was released back into the Oregon wilds.”