Bras Without Wires is a new independent intimate apparel brand, whose name says it all.
There are plenty of women who prefer non-wired bras. For some, it's about comfort and sensitivity. But other bra wearers specifically need this option. For instance, someone with a breast augmentation doesn't need the extra support. Wired bras can be both uncomfortable and unnecessary if you have breast implants. Same goes for women with have their breasts reconstructed after breast cancer. I'd add a third group to the list, too. Many young girls, just getting used to wearing their first bra, don't like wires pressing against often painful, developing tissue.
I wanted to know more about Bras Without Wires, and how they got their start. Founder Stephanie Devine agreed to answer a few questions and give us a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to develop and design a lingerie collection.
How long has the brand been in business and what was the impetus for launch:
Bras Without Wires started for me just over ten years ago when I received a shock breast cancer diagnosis. I had a biopsy Wednesday, got a callback Thursday, and was booked for surgery Monday morning at 7 am. My head was obviously spinning around the diagnosis and what it meant. But I also needed lots of practical things to get me through treatment. One of those was a cotton-lined, non-wired bra to wear during radiotherapy. Saturday I went off to Sydney’s biggest department store. The only such bras in my size (34DD) were either sports or maternity bras, and I'd been told I would never have kids after chemo. It was just one more slap in the face and I left the shop in tears.
I felt that both as a woman and a consumer, I had ceased to exist.
Several years later, just off a long haul flight into the heat of a Sydney summer, I went into a beautiful upmarket lingerie store in Sydney and found myself in front of more lovely maternity bras. When I explained my situation to the assistant, i.e., scar tissue, residual swelling post radiotherapy and a burning desire for a DD non-wired that didn’t look like something my grandma would wear, she said ‘there’s nothing for people like you’ and my blood boiled!
I set up the business in 2011 and as time went on, discovered that everyone wanted non-wired bras! As I began to launch the business in 2015, whenever I called anyone to set up a business account---customs, freight, couriers---each woman I spoke to picked up on the name and expressed an interest. That's when we knew we had something special.
What makes Bras Without Wires different or unique in the lingerie market? What’s the lingerie niche you are trying to fill?
We are the only lingerie business around which only makes non-wired bras in over 20 cup sizes. There’s a real gap in this market and, to date, women have had to choose between style and comfort when it comes to wire-free bras. We aim to deliver both. Yes, bralettes are growing in popularity, but there are very few real women I know who identify as small, medium or large!
Although born out of my personal breast cancer experience, I never wanted this brand to be anything other than something beautiful. And that it also quietly fit for a woman going through treatment, i.e., always lined with organic cotton for during radiotherapy. We don't make bras with prosthesis pockets, but some customers sew in their own.
The bras work well for women who have had reconstructive surgery. They are, of of course, much loved by women who have had elective cosmetic breast surgery. Ninety percent of our customers though have never had any breast surgery. We like to think of Bras Without Wires as being a brand for ‘everywoman,' her sister, friend, daughter, and mother.
Who do you see as your ideal customer?
Our ideal customer is a woman who dresses for herself and not to please someone else. She is a woman who is comfortable in her skin, but also loves and appreciates great design and premium fabrics and finishes. Customers range in ages from 13 to 86 so we are very broad. But they all have a universal desire for comfort and style.
We are also popular amongst conscious millennials and wellness warriors who care about sustainability, and we are very consciously moving the brand towards this. We're now sourcing compostable poly bags from Europe and developing a range with Tencel and organic tree rubber elastic. Our goal is to demonstrate that you can buy something beautiful, comfortable, and good for the planet.
What’s been your greatest business challenge in establishing your brand, other than raising funds to launch)?
We have only really been going since March this year, so it’s early days. When women find us, they love the brand. The challenge, for now, is only in reaching the customer in a digital world, as at present we choose to sell only online. However, we have a great digital agency, and our growth has been solid since our March 2017 launch. Again, once we find our market, women love the product and over 20% come back and buy more when they receive their first order.
Is there anything you find frustrating about the lingerie industry of which consumers have no clue?
For me, in particular, it is again the push towards finding sustainable and eco components for bras. It’s easier with a base fabric, but whilst customers would like to have a sustainable, toxin-free product that is not synthetic, they don’t always want to pay more. And the big global suppliers of elastic and other bra components don’t make and carry stock in it. Somebody has to take on the risk to develop a market for these new, pioneering products. And, unfortunately, it looks like it is us!
We have just made up some organic cotton elastic made from FSC tree rubber (grown in sustainably managed plantations) at a cost that is 100 times the price of the elastic we currently buy, and for which, as a small new brand, we already pay a hefty premium. Through our new cradle to cradle range to be launched next year, we hope to prove to lingerie suppliers that the demand is there. This will allow customers to buy something beautiful and supportive which leaves zero waste. And it will hopefully result in more choice and lower prices.
Where do you want the brand to be in the next ten years?
We would like to be recognized as a brand that proves that lingerie that is both beautiful and comfortable can be produced sustainably with limited environmental impact. Our bras will never be the cheapest because of this, but we truly believe in ‘buy less buy better.’
What is the one thing you want customers to know about the brand?
We want customers to know that they can find non-wired bra options that offer both comfort and style---no compromises!
Bras Without Wires Recap:
Fashion-focused pieces with sparkle and shine as well as organic cotton basics. Perfect for everyday wear and when worn to be seen, like a shiny metallic strap or band beneath clothing
Bra Price Range: US $60-$95 / EU 50-80 / GBP 45 - 70
Sizing: Fits bands 30-38, cups A-E, and knickers/briefs 8-16. We will expand our range as we grow and aim for G cups by the end of 2017
Where to Buy: Online at www.braswithoutwires.com.