The Shadow Bra Industry: Direct Sales

Last week I gave you the context for my upcoming posts about a shadow bra industry, one in which sellers sidestep the traditional brick and mortar outlet but provide in-person attention that online stores can’t give. If you’ve ever dreamed of going out on your own as a bra fitter, then I know you’ve considered the challenges. This is our opportunity to meet some of the brave entrepreneurs who are tackling them.

From what I can tell, the biggest challenge is how to carry enough band and cup combinations to fit every possible D+ customer who needs help. It turns out that’s an impossible dream. As Erica from A Sophisticated Pair explained recently, if you “carry everything from a 28D to a 56N . . . your bottom line is eaten up with excess inventory, and pretty soon, you’re not helping anyone anymore.” Instead, she caters to the bulk of her customers by carrying mostly D-G cups in 30-40 bands, which means “only thirty-six sizes“. Only!

Thirty-six becomes an even bigger number when you multiply it by bra styles and colors. That’s a lot of bras to transport to a single customer’s house! One way to minimize the risk is to work with someone else who will invest in the inventory, make it available to your customers, and give you a percentage of any sales that you make. I’ve often thought it would be great if individuals who are passionate about bra fit could form partnerships like this with brick and mortar stores, or if, in turn, small brick and mortar stores could do the same with giant online retailers.

Until then, there is the direct sales business model. Here are three companies that I’m aware of:

The Cameo bras that I grew up with were sold via “distributors”, and they continue to be sold through individual fitters. An ABTF contributor offers a good write-up of her experience being fitted for one.

Essential Bodywear has been around since 2003. They only offer cup sizes to an American H, but I’m impressed by how lifted their fitters look.

Peach is the new kid on the block. I was extremely skeptical of this company when I met its founder at TechStyleNYC last September, but it’s hard to resist their passion.

Because I’ve experienced Peach most recently, this is the direct sales company that I’ll begin with, and hopefully I’ll get a chance to cover Cameo/LeUnique and Essential Bodywear later. I’m not going to dissect my Peach fitting experience (it was only okay) as much as explore their model for the fit-savvy Hourglassy reader looking for ways to help other women feel as great as she does.