BEYOND THE BRAND: STEPHANIE DEVINE FROM BRASWITHOUTWIRES

This interview is with Stephanie, the mastermind behind Bras Without Wires. Bras Without Wires is filling a much needed niche within the marketplace, however they don’t compromise comfort over style. If you want to learn more about Bras Without Wires you can do so here.

This interview with Stephanie is incredibly raw and i’m beyond grateful that she was able to take a few minutes to open up about her journey behind creating Bras Without Wires. She is truly inspirational.

As i’m sure you are all aware now, these interviews are to highlight the masterminds behind the brands that we often don’t think about. I feel as though if i’m going to invest my money somewhere, I want to be able to know the person and the story behind what it is i’m investing in. That’s where Beyond the Brand comes in, I ask questions I personally want to know about the person behind the label. If you have others you want to know for future interviews, let me know!

Otherwise, go grab a cuppa and take in the following words in the interview ahead. It’s a goodie x


WHAT MADE YOU START BRAS WITHOUT WIRES?
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 in for surgery Monday morning 7am. 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 which was a cotton-lined, non-wired bra to wear during radiotherapy. Saturday I went off to DJs and the only such bras in my size (34DD) were either sports or maternity bras, and I’d just been told I would never have kids after chemo. It was just one more slap in the face and I literally 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 – ie, 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 started to properly launch the business in 2015 with a backer, whenever I called anyone to set up a business account – customs, freight, couriers – each woman I spoke to picked up on the business name and expressed an interest, which is when we really knew we had something special. Because I personally never wanted to associate with ‘the illness’, all our bras are lined with organic cotton, quietly fit-for-purpose for a woman going through treatment, but also what everyone else wants.

WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST CHALLENGING THING YOU HAVE UNCOVERED SINCE BEGINNING?
For me, it’s just really the complexity of the product, the fit, and all the moving parts involved in design, manufacturing and online retailing. Not coming from a background in fashion (my career has been spent as a headhunter in financial markets) has been both positive and negative. The positive is that having no experience, I’m constantly challenging the accepted wisdom in this industry, with a battle cry of ‘but why not?’! Often the answer has just been ‘because that’s not the way it’s done’ and that’s not a good enough reason for me. The negative is that the learning curve is exponential, and it’s sometimes frustrating to not be an expert in any of the disciplines, but I have great, skilled resources to draw on and I’m a quick learner. Aside from all this, my single biggest challenge this year has been sourcing organic cotton elastic made from sustainably farmed tree-rubber – the documentary about my life would be called ‘Chasing Elastic’ at this point!

IS THERE SOMETHING YOU WISH YOU HAD KNOWN BEFORE YOU STARTED?
I think if I’d known what I know now I may not have started! Had I known how long this would take, and what the financial cost would be both in terms of my own input, as well as loss of earnings whilst working in it, that would have been very challenging. I also wish I had had more confidence when seeking investors first time round, and that both sides had given more time to due diligence around ethos, work style, vision and roles. The breakdown of the relationship with my first investor cost us both dearly, and also set Bras Without Wires back a year.

BEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU HAVE EVER RECEIVED?
Start before you’re ready.

ONE BOOK EVERYONE SHOULD READ? WHY?
For me, at this stage, it’s William McDonough and Michael Braungart’s Cradle to Cradle. I’m hugely inspired by this movement and this is such an important introduction to the concept, particularly as fast fashion continues to peak and 40% of our landfill is now clothing, much of it toxic. If I’m allowed two, the other book I love to death is Ken Robinson’s The Element. I wish I’d read this as a teenager and followed my passions rather than feeling a need to ‘conform’.

WHERE DO YOU ENVISION BRAS WITHOUT WIRES IN THE FUTURE?
I’d like to see every woman apply the 5:2 diet to wired bras! We want to revolutionise the way women think about what they wear next to their skin, and to not have to choose between comfort and style. Most importantly, we are about to embark on our most exciting project yet, producing the world’s first fully compostable range of lingerie – in up to 30 cup sizes. Compostable doesn’t sound so pretty, but these bras will be practical, beautiful, comfortable and so clean they can be buried in the garden at the end of life. Bras are small items, but I want to move this brand towards full circularity and raise awareness of the issues around waste and landfill. If we can do this with bras and undies, I will be thrilled, because every little bit counts. This new range is scheduled for production late October/early November and we will launch via a crowdfunding campaign. It’s the passion for this project which has kept me going through some very challenging times over the last few years.

WHAT INSPIRES YOU TO DO WHAT YOU DO ON A DAILY BASIS?
I’m lucky to live at the beach and in the natural world, so the idea of creating new, sustainably made products that have minimal environmental impact is very inspiring. Beyond that, the feedback we get from women of all walks of life and all age groups is fantastic (we run from age 13 to 86 at present). Our research showed us that 74% of women would prefer to wear a non-wired bra if it gave the same support, and it’s great to be meeting that need. Liberating women from the wire and hearing their joy is a fantastic inspiration and to hear how much they love their new Bras Without Wires when they get them.

DO YOU HAVE A MORNING ROUTINE? IF SO WHAT IS IT YOU DO TO SET YOURSELF UP FOR THE DAY AHEAD?
I’m a stickler for a morning routine. Working for myself from home for now, often more than 12 hours a day and with work to do 7 days a week, I have to take some time for myself in the morning to set me up and stay slightly sane. I start with a pot of strong English black tea in bed with the BBC news app, and some Words With Friends with my family and friends in the UK. I then work through some emails and send the day’s orders through to the warehouse before doing 2 laps of Bondi Beach, listening to music. I can then be at my desk at 9am, non-dairy smoothie in hand, ready for my day.

ARE THERE ANY OTHER MOVERS AND SHAKERS OUT THERE IN YOUR WORLD THAT YOU THINK PEOPLE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT?
Not so much in lingerie as I’m so drawn towards sustainable fashion now and we are slow with it in Australia, but brands I love include the circular MUD Jeans in the Netherlands where you can ‘lease a jeans’ which you then give back for complete recycling. I also have a horror of packaging waste and so love RePack from Finland, that provides re-usable postage satchels that can be used up to 17 times (how cool is that?! Can’t wait for them to make it here!) and my new love is an Israeli firm TIPA that makes plastic packaging that is 100% compostable. We are using their bags for our new compostable range. I get very excited on my trips to Europe to see the innovations people are developing in countries that don’t have our space or resources, and how this thinking is ‘mainstream’ over there in a way I hope it will be here.

& there you have it changemakers! Another Movers & Shakers interview done and dusted. I hope you gained a lot of insight out of this interview, and learnt a thing or two about the mastermind behind Bras Without Wires. If you want to invest in your own bra, you can do so on their website or follow along on their journey via Instagram.

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