By Sara Bauknecht
Barely there underthings in lots of pretty colors and prints aren’t Victoria’s only secrets. Many mainstream lingerie carriers lack adequate bra options for women with fuller busts.
“Basically there are lots of things that we want that we can’t find currently, and one of the big things is support,” says Laura West, a co-founder of the Pittsburgh-based start-up Trusst Lingerie.
She and fellow co-founder Sophia Berman, the company’s CEO, were frustrated by this, and they knew they weren’t alone. For about a year they’ve put their Carnegie Mellon University degrees and backgrounds in cut-and-sew products and product development to work creating bras that cater to women who crave extra coverage and lift from their undergarments.
Their idea to re-engineer the bra to address these issues earned them an AlphaLab Gears seed funding, which provides $50,000, mentorship and nine months of incubator space at the program’s headquarters in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood, where they and their team are currently based. They planned to launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to move the company into the next phases of development and product distribution.
“It’s a pretty simple physics problem,” Berman says. “Breasts have weight, and weights need something to support them, which is not happening right now.”
Trusst Lingerie strives to counteract this by cultivating its own sizing system (theirs runs from about a size 28F to 40H but can be expanded if demand grows, they say) and structures within its bras that take breasts’ volume into consideration. A wider band and the way it connects to the cup are other design features they’ve explored to bolster a bra’s support.
The team uses 3-D printing to produce in-house the support structures in the bras in less than a day, and at a low cost.
They’ve also been experimenting with vacuum forming procedures as another means to make the structures quickly and lessen the weight. In addition to trying out the bras themselves, they’ve held several testing events where women can wear them and offer feedback.
While their concept is an easy sell for most women, the men they encounter who tend to dominate the investment and business world sometimes need some educating. To get them to see the problems with a lot of bras on the market, they rely on analogies and a little humor, such as a video Trusst produced that shows men struggling to support melons in a small bra.
In addition to maximizing comfort and wearability, Trusst Lingerie wants to make bras that are attractive. It plans to offer neutral color options, as well as some fun fashion prints and hues, for each bra style. Plus, they’ve designed coordinating panties so women can purchase lingerie sets. On average, bras will start at about $100 (with higher price points for more stylized designs).
People can visit www.trusstlingerie.com to learn how to pre-order a bra through the Kickstarter campaign. Information on sizing and upcoming events also is posted on the company’s website.
Looking ahead, Trusst plans to keep its production in the United States, and possibly even have its own production facility in Pittsburgh someday.
“Pittsburgh has a really vibrant start-up community. Everyone’s willing to share their experiences and meet with us, even if it’s just to grab coffee to say, ‘keep going,'” Berman says. “It would be really hard in a much bigger city to do what we’re doing and get the support that we’ve had.”