By Leslie Wong
6 months ago, I came to NYC for the Curve Expo Lingerie and Swim Show without a defined business plan, a website or a single dollar sold. It was the end of February 2017, about a month after I had cut the cord of my full-time job with a company that for several years had fulfilled my entrepreneurial passion and filled me with purpose. I liken leaving a job like that to forcing yourself out of bed on a cold day, when your alarm is ringing for the 3rd time and you know you have some serious sh*t to get done. I was ready to start my own entrepreneurial journey and one of my first steps was heading to Curve Expo NYC, hoping to find answers that would help me create this new business I dreamt up. In some ways, I think I was seeking validation, that I was actually ‘doing’ this. I wasn’t just unemployed, I was an entrepreneur! That first show was great exposure to the industry, but I look back and realize how little I knew. I attended the show looking for things I thought were cute, subconsciously seeking out brands that carried straight sizing and would fit my own frame.
Fast forward to August 2017, my second time at Curve Expo, and I can say the experiences were night and day. I told a friend, I was at least 80% more prepared (I’ve still got a ways to go, and in business you can’t be 100% prepared). Since February, I have gathered a lot more information and approached the show with a new sense of direction. In the last 6 months, I have begun to understand and empathize with the needs of women who are not sized like me. To say we carry ‘all sizes’ is a both a great responsibility and a great opportunity. It’s our opportunity to match our customers with products that make them feel incredible and add to their empowered, confident life. This is not something we can afford to take lightly.
So, I walked into the Javits Convention Center like a student, in search of products and education that would allow me to tackle this responsibility. If we talk the talk, we must walk the walk. Like a classic Virgo CEO, I take to lists, so I’ve come up with my top 3 takeaways from the show. They are:
- Bras are a science. Mad respect for the bra fitters and designers out there. I grew up with a best friend who had lamented her breasts since we were 11 years old. As a 34B, I sympathized but never fully understood the physical and emotional discomfort associated with having large breasts until I started this business. I’ve heard from women with A and AA sizes, who face the same level of insecurity, scrutiny and embarrassment about their size. Just like all of us are different, so are the bras that flatter and support us. Supporting our girls the right way is a science and form of engineering that bra designers have spent decades perfecting. Bra fit is more complicated and varied than any other garment I can think of and can carry over 50 SKU’s (unique variations) of 1 type of bra in 1 color. This made me think of the criticism that bra brands and retailers receive for not offering a wider range of band and cup sizes, but that is for another post. I’m thankful to people like Hurray Kimmay and Little Miss Undie who educate consumers on bra fit. According to a 2008 survey conducted by bra manufacturer Triumph and published in the journal Chiropractic & Osteopathy, a whopping 80% of woman do not know their correct bra size. I’m also thankful to brands like Blush Lingerie, Silent Arrow and Elomi who are making trendy AF (is that proper blog form?) bras in fuller cups and more band sizes. Full figured friends, rejoice–you know we’re bringing them to a Burgundy Fox box near you.
- Lingerie is an art. One of my favorite parts of the show is meeting the fascinating designers behind the brands. I know I’m new to this industry, but I majorly geeked out when I realized mid-presentation, that I was talking with THE designers of major labels, like Linda Hartman and Flora Nikrooz. Both women are just that–women. Artful, mature, confident, strong and incredible women. As you look at these collections, you realize how unique each brand and collection is from one another. Each season, they are seeking a new form of artistic expression, reinventing how women will feel like their most beautiful selves It’s powerful stuff and it reads in every collection. I was thrilled to spend time with the designers of Silent Arrow, a Melbourne based design duo who designs from a place of ‘rad(ical)’ style and “user empathy” as technology product managers would say. A a mother of three, Kelly Barrett, created the rockstar of all nursing bras, it’s black, strappy, supportive, absorbent and has magnetic brass clasps that are sleek and close in a millisecond. Empowering mothers to confidently feed their babies anywhere? Now that’s artful, scientific and political.
- Change is our friend. I have come across brands who will not sell to e-commerce retailers or subscription boxes. Every business should do what makes sense for them, however I can’t help but want to push back. The National Retail Federation expects that online retail will grow 8-12%, up to three times higher than the growth rate of the wider industry. I was excited to meet with Natori, a staple in the lingerie industry, who not only openly welcomes e-commerce retailers but has started utilizing social media as a way to market, grow brand equity and boost sales from retailers and direct. Aside from brands adapting to the changing consumer buying landscape, I also welcome change. Change of brands and product, of how we are meeting our market’s needs, even the way we structure our business. One of my new favorite quotes is “fall in love with the problem, not the solution”. This is critical for us remember as we seek to solve problems in new ways. We’re excited to learn more information from you and to continue building Burgundy Fox together.
Leslie Wong is the CEO and Co-founder of Burgundy Fox. You can contact her at email@example.com and on Twitter and Instagram @burgundyfoxco