Meet the Designers: Empower Bra
Many of Athleta’s products are shaped from customer requests and feedback, but when we heard women were turning to Athleta’s sports bras after undergoing a mastectomy, we heeded the call to create a bra that was even more post-surgery friendly. The Empower Bra is made with softer fabrics and a front-zip for easier on-and-off around sensitive scar tissue. We also built in expandable pockets designed to fit most sizes of prosthetics. The straps are adjustable, a must-have, since after surgery, breast size can vary dramatically.
We had a lot of help creating the Empower Bra. We were lucky to be introduced to Kim, who at 31, was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a bilateral mastectomy and chemotherapy. Losing her breasts at a young age was extremely difficult, and she struggled to find bras that would accommodate her prosthesis and cover her scars. Kim says she cried a lot, and for a long time had difficulty looking in the mirror, or looking down when getting dressed or taking a shower.
“Not only did I have to lose my breasts, which is pretty much an amputation, but then to have to navigate finding a bra that was comfortable, and made me feel sexy and feminine was a reminder of what I was going through.”
She knew exactly what women like her were looking for when we teamed up with her to design, develop and model(!) the Empower Bra. She also connected us with a strong group of cancer survivors who wear-tested the bra and gave us feedback to help make the Empower Bra the perfect post-mastectomy sports bra.
“Working with the bra designers was very healing and impactful for me. It allowed me to be vulnerable to a group of people who have a real passion to support women like me. And, to know that I was an advocate for other women going through what I had gone through, too.”
Kim says working with Athleta was the opportunity she needed to give strength to women fighting breast cancer to overcome their personal insecurity.
Kim thinks Empower Bra is the perfect name.
“Women who have gone through breast cancer have lost a/both body parts that define them as a woman. It’s empowering for women to be able to dig deep within themselves to gather the strength, courage, and vulnerability to overcome that reality.”
Stay tuned to read more about Kim’s story and share in the three pieces of advice that have kept her going.
The Empower Bra wouldn’t be possible without Athleta’s talented bra designers. When the call came through to create a bra specifically for post-mastectomy women, Pamela Meyers and Tori Quandt jumped at the task to develop a garment that would help improve the lives of women who had already been through so much.
While they had a certain level of understanding of the Athleta customer and what she expects from our bras, they had no first-hand knowledge of the challenges women faced when shopping for a bra after having a mastectomy. Once Pam and Tori were able to connect with Kim, she helped to educate them on so many of the problems she deals with every day and her willingness to share her experience enabled our designers to gain a clear understanding of the unique needs they needed to solve for.
With this new knowledge, they realized that they needed to create a bra that provided the right coverage, added adjustability and softness on every seam, so she can feel comfortable and confident as she embraces her healthy active lifestyle after surgery. They also realized that offering choice and the ability to shop the same way you could before surgery was just as much a part of the solution.
“Softness and adjustability are things everyone woman wants so this project is actually helping us to improve attributes of many of our other styles.”
The design team worked with Kim to identify women who were post-mastectomy and who could wear test the bra once a prototype was developed. With this direct line of feedback, they immediately started calling this Empower Bra version 1.0.
“Our goal is to enable feedback from more women to help us create the Empower Bra 2.0. On a project like this, it’s about so much more than making a bra. For most women, one of the first things they put on every day is their bra. The ability to learn directly from the women wearing these bras will help us to design a bra that makes an everyday routine just as routine as it used to be.”
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE BRA
The Fabric: Due to sensitivities, soreness and scarring post-surgery, we wanted to use a fabric that made her feel good, not irritated.The bra features supportive beyond-sleek compression fabric that wicks and breathes, and is wire-free.
The Straps: The straps have multiple degrees of lengths to accommodate her needs day by day, featuring 9 different lengths and levels. It adjusts in the front to protect any shoulder pain, sensitivities or injuries she might have
Two Ways of Entry: The bra features an adjustable hook and eye as well as a front zips with a zipper garage that prevents the zipper from touching the skin to alleviate skin sensitivities.
Mesh Pockets: To accommodate women who have undergone a single or double mastectomy, the bra features extended bilateral mesh pockets to hold post-surgery prosthetics in place.
Mesh Racer Back: Provides breathability and comfort during workouts.