It seems fitting that the first new lingerie label to debut in 2016 (or at least the first to cross our desk) is one that aims to provide more choices for women who have undergone a mastectomy or breast reconstruction.
Sophia Rose Intimates, a Boston-area startup, launched its online shop this week with a pledge to “return fun and femininity to intimates shopping for breast cancer survivors.”
This is a niche apparel category that has undergone quite a transformation in recent years. Mastectomy bras once had a reputation for being unattractive, functional contraptions, and the mainstream specialty brands producing them focused (understandably) on technical and engineering requirements at the expense of style.
Today, though, women have more choices thanks to a new breed of fashion-conscious independent labels that are bringing some flair to the wardrobe of breast cancer survivors.
Sophia Rose is the newest entry in this market, debuting with its Sophia collection of wireless, pocketed mastectomy bras and matching thongs and panties. Three years in development, the collection is fashioned from delicate European lace and wicking microfiber for comfort, and is offered in two colorways. A bra/brief set costs less than $100.
“We wanted to create an intimates collection that breast cancer survivors would look forward to trying on and wearing,” said Carolyn Tan, who co-founded Sophia Rose with her sister Adelene.
Originally from Australia, the Tan sisters had a very personal reason for launching their first business venture together, after their mother York underwent a bilateral mastectomy in 2012.
“After her surgery, our mom could not find any bras that she loved and wanted to wear,” said Carolyn. “When we started looking ourselves, we saw how much the market was dominated by plain, utilitarian and old-fashioned mastectomy lingerie. More importantly, they were uncomfortable to wear.
“We could not accept that something so important was so lacking.”
Both sisters moved to the U.S. for college and careers somewhat removed from the fashion world — Adelene, 27, in architecture and Carolyn, 31, in law — while simultaneously working on Sophia Rose.
The sisters spent “hundreds of hours” brainstorming, researching, drawing, fitting and sourcing materials for the collection. Their mother (who is alive and well) served as a fit model and will help promote the brand back in Australia.
Adelene, who has a background in fashion design since her high school and undergrad days, serves as Sophia Rose‘s designer while Carolyn, who boasts “a serious entrepreneurial spirit,” runs the business side. The pair worked closely with lingerie business consultant Moira Nelson of Bra La Mode to develop their brand.
And in case you’re curious, Sophia Rose is not (as many people assume) named after the sisters’ mom. It’s a made-up brand name meant to represent all women who have experienced breast cancer.
“Sophia Rose is the woman that represents the values and attributes we see in our customers. She is the woman that survived breast cancer, and is now thriving,” they write in a company blog post. “She is loving to others, and loved by others. She is strong and courageous, yet vulnerable and sincere. She is not swayed by trends and stays true to her own beauty. …
“Our mom is our Sophia Rose, and we’re meeting more Sophia Roses every day. They are blooming everywhere.”
The young company is encouraging its followers to use the hashtag #MySophiaRose to share stories of inspirational breast cancer survivors in their own lives.
Below are some more images from Sophia Rose’s debut lookbook.