Bra-less Forever? Frankly Targets New Fashion Angle

Frankly, a new startup, knows how happy women are to have abandoned their bras in lockdown leisure. And it's hoping its new line of supportive fashion will ride the wave of COVID comfort.

While apparel companies have long hawked clothes with built-in bras, these items are typically not great, especially for women with larger breasts. Frankly plans to make clothes that are fully supportive, including open-back dresses pretty enough to wear out to dinner and bodysuits functional enough to wear to work.

 "We don't want to be another bad built-in shelf bra," says Heather Eaton, Frankly co-founder and CEO. "Everybody's tried those camisoles or removable swimsuit cups. Our support is individually tailored to the garment itself."

Eaton cooked up the idea with co-founder Jane Dong, chief operating officer,  before the pandemic hit. In June, both graduated from the Stanford Graduate School of Business program and dreamed up Frankly as a project for the school's noted Startup Garage class.

The pair are trying to develop the brand's personality around women's willingness to talk frankly about breasts.

"We started by asking women to tell us their challenges. All women have boobs. We all have nipples. It's just silly that we can't talk about this. And most women have larger breasts. The only reason the fashion industry designs for a B cup is that it looks better on a hanger," Eaton tells D2C FYI. "The average woman is a DD. As we started talking to investors, we realized women were interested in this idea."

Then came COVID-19, and a world where women found that with a quick twist of the Zoom camera, they could leave their bras behind, prompting widespread conjecture that the change might be permanent. (One of our favorite headlines is The Guardian's "The death of the bra: will the great lingerie liberation of lockdown last?")

The company is using a Kickstarter campaign to fund the startup, and reached its $25,000 goal in five hours. It's currently at $35,000, says Eaton, who spent some time working at Rothy's, the sustainable shoe brand.

She says that graduating from business school and launching during the pandemic have made the company scrappier, but things aren't always ideal. She's based in Chicago, Dong is in Fremont, California, and the design and manufacturing team is in Los Angeles. "Ideally, we'd be co-located."

For now, they're busy sending samples back and forth and intensely watching video fit tests.

One of the design challenges is to make sure each item has a little adjustability. "Our minidress, for example, has a tie in the back,” says Eaton. "And anything that has light padding is sewn in, so it doesn't crumple in the wash."

While COVID-casualness may fuel demand, it did throw a kink in the original marketing plan. "We had hoped to do a sort of roadshow, traveling to business schools and doing pop-ups, and obviously, we can't do that now."

Instead, she hopes that using paid social and search will generate sales.

Eaton doesn't think bras are over, by a long shot. "But we are taking one more baby step toward a bra-less future. The pandemic has taught all of us that the more time we spend not wearing bras, the more we don't want to wear them again."

Still, women are going to get more excited about dressing up again as restrictions ease, she predicts. "But I think that there is a false dichotomy between looking chic and feeling comfortable. That's where Frankly is trying to live."

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