Bra Revolution Boosts Material Innovation

29 July 2021

Interfilière finds by Jos Berry #5


During the pandemic, one of our major Zoom meeting subjects has been the BRA; the growing consumer unhappiness with fit and comfort, the booming sales in ‘cookie-cutter’ bra tops and the fierce competition of sport bras. A major talking point was the need for liberating wireless comfort for all sizes. Now, with the hot summer temperatures, we can see that the longing for freedom during lockdown has further faded the dividing lines between public and private dressing. In all big cities (yes, even in China), the younger generations parade around half naked. Going braless is the new normal under cropped tops and transparent blouses. The longing to be free and easy is explained in a recent article in the New York Times as a watershed in future social behaviour. They even spotted a woman at night with a skimpy draped scarf around her hips and completely naked torso.


Feminist and inclusivity discussions join the arguments about the need to innovate bra design. The industry can no longer ignore the enormous growth of brands like Parade in the US or Ubras in China. It is amazing that those two radically different cultures both explain this need for comfort as part of the call for female equality. This need for comfort has also boosted the sales of existing ‘soft support’ brands like Cosabella and Hanky Panky, lacey brands with uncomplicated comfort in their DNA.


Now the question is: will this last? I remember that the ban-the-bra movement that began in the 1970s lead to revolutionary bra innovation: the hugely successful Glossies (celebrating a comeback), Triumph’s ‘one-size-fits-all’ and minimalist Lily of France molded bras. Only Hearts, founded in 1978, introduced the under/outerwear concept, and Helena Steward still counts the most famous stars under her clients. France is the leader of corsetry seduction but the US has been the trendsetter for mass market trends. What will be China’s place in the future Bodyfashion, apart from being the leading manufacturer? With the current stitch-free technology, China leads with innovators like Regina Miracle.


Most relevant in the bra evolution is that the most successful offer is focussed on limited size, pull-on garments. The fabric industry has already reacted successfully to this trend with free-cut super stretch fabric comparable to Chantelle’s Softstretch.  Now, lace manufacturers start to study how they can profit from this bra revolution. Leading cropped top brands ask for material diversification, as they all offer similar looks. Brand differentiation depends on colourful and size inclusivity focussed marketing campaigns, and are leaders in their active use of social media.


The lace industry has major obstacles to overcome; softness in combination with high recovery, plus optical relevance for the e-commerce driven market.  Printed stretch tulle at Rocle is also an option and so are very fine allover monofilament jacquards. Leading lace specialists Iluna, Siva, Chanty and Lila all study this major market for soft, fine, transparent super stretch, which needs to also be sustainable on top of these qualities. The shortage of raw materials and the rising prices are also not helping. However, one thing is for sure, the pandemic has made people resilient and solution focussed. Lace innovation will be the topic of the REAL Interfilière.

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