INTERVIEW: How INVISTA’s Lycra Bra Fabric Finder could transform the casual bra market

INVISTA's example of a casual bra worn for everyday.INVISTA's example of a casual bra worn for everyday.

Earlier this year, INVISTA, owner of the LYCRA fibre brand, launched a new platform to help designers capitalise on the growing casual bra movement without compromising on support.

The LYCRA Bra Fabric Finder, presented at Interfiliere Paris in January, allows suppliers of wire-free bras, sports bras, bralettes and bandeaus to select quality fabrics to deliver strong garment performance.

It comes in response to a worrying trend that shows that lingerie designers are focusing more and more on comfort, at the expense of support.

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During its research, INVISTA found that there are significant signs of dissatisfaction among consumers, especially fuller-bust consumers, who feel disappointed when their new comfort bras literally let them down.

This graph demonstrates how casual bra designers are focusing more on comfort, at the expense of support.

This graph demonstrates how casual bra designers are focusing more on comfort, at the expense of support.

The LYCRA Bra Fabric Finder was launched to help designers tackle this trend and identify the right fabric construction for any casual bra collection.

It works by allowing designers to select the desired comfort and support level they need in fabrics to develop active bras, everyday bras and leisure bras, followed by the shaping type – natural, for a softer silhouette, or power, for more defined curves.

In an interview with Lingerie Insight editor Sarah Clarke, Pattie Ficorilli, marketing account manager for Intimate Apparel at INVISTA North America, discusses the origins of the LYCRA Bra Fabric Finder and explains how suppliers who utilise the new platform can leverage INVISTA’s expertise to create new casual bra offerings, increase wearer satisfaction and gain market share by driving brand loyalty.

Pattie Ficorilli, marketing account manager for Intimate Apparel at INVISTA North America.

Pattie Ficorilli, marketing account manager for Intimate Apparel at INVISTA North America.

How significantly are brands compromising on support when it comes to manufacturing casual bras?

There’s a lot of compromise. We evaluated over 80 different casual bras in the market today only to find there was a compromise in either shape, support or both. We have the proprietary testing methods to measure each of the fabric characteristics and that’s how the LYCRA Bra Fabric Finder was born. Looking at the best-selling casual bras, we created like-for-like designs but with optimised fabric choices, and tested them for performance against the incumbent and were able to demonstrate a visual and measured improvement in the garment performance. It’s important to remember that the breast does not contain muscle and needs to be supported – by selecting the most appropriate fabrics and constructing the bra well, you can minimise the compromise.

When did this ‘bra casualization’ trend begin?

It began early in 2016 – we saw it first in the US market but it soon started to appear in the UK & Europe at all tiers of retail. Apparel segments evolve and change. It’s exciting. The traditional bra market has been the same for a number of years and now the consumer has spoken. She wants comfortable bras that are easy to wear, but why should she compromise her shape or support for bras that “let her down” or give her no shape at all?

Do you see this trend as a threat to intimate apparel specialists whose market share is under pressure?

I don’t find it threatening at all. It’s an opportunity to gain market share, increase volume and provide another reason for consumers to buy pretty, meant-to-be seen bras. The bra market is projected to be flat over the next five years, but casual bras are growing, so the market is shifting from more constructed bras to less constructed bras. This is a chance for those brands who know how to make bras to protect their share and design and develop better functioning comfortable and casual bras for their consumer. We think of this trend in positive terms because consumers, designers and retailers are looking at bras with fresh eyes – this trend has encouraged a great deal of creativity. Think about all of the beautiful new garment designs we see in bras, particularly the back of the garment – with new constructions, mixing delicate lace with sports references.

An example of a casual bra worn for low intensity sporting activities.

An example of a casual bra worn for low intensity sporting activities.

So you don’t expect bralettes to replace highly constructed wired bras in the future?

Bralettes, as we know them today, aren’t for everyone, and they are a small segment of the market. If you’re young, perky with a smaller cup size, they are a nice wardrobe addition, but what about the rest of the market who isn’t, and wants a comfortable and pretty bra that supports her and ensures she’s looking her best in her clothes? The casual bra market includes bralettes, sport bras worn for everyday use, de-constructed bras and soft-cup constructed bras. If you are looking to design garments where fabric is the primary performance driver, then using our LYCRA Bra Fabric Finder can make the process quicker and easier to narrow down your fabric choices and help you make an informed decision.

How does the Bra Fabric Finder help manufacturers develop casual bras without compromising on support? 

We have worked with a number of mills around the world to pre-qualify over 140 fabrics for the LYCRA Bra Fabric Finder. Brands can reach out to their INVISTA marketing representative and we will share this fabric collection to help select the most appropriate fabrics. Designers can work these fabrics into their design concepts to create a more functional garment.

How have brands reacted to the launch so far? 

Positively. They find it helpful to have a vetted fabric collection specifically separated by garment category (i.e. Active, Everyday & Leisure) to help them make choices without having to set up meetings with each individual mill and going through hundreds of fabrics. We make it easy. We have classified fabrics based on a balanced performance of elongation and recovery power to help them make a better choice. If a designer is looking for a fabric for an everyday casual bra collection, we have a fabric book with a number of fabrics qualified to target this objective. We are continuing to qualify fabrics to keep it refreshed.

How do you see the Bra Fabric Finder being used in the next five years? 

We see this as the “go to” standard in the casual bra market. As the market grows and brands and retailers are creating consumer-driven solutions that differentiate them from competition, I believe they will find value in the science, when they put it to the test. I’d like to think brands find it helpful regardless of the type of bra they are creating.

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