Beyond the wire: Her Alchemy unfastens bra standards
THERE’S no Free the Nipple movement here. No Victoria Secret. No mythical image of a bra burning. Yet, Her Alchemy – a three-month-old fashion website – is revolutionizing the undergarment market for women in Myanmar with their new black Flora bralette. Within the first hour of debuting online, the bralette sold out, signaling if anything, a desire for an alternative to the usual padded, wire-frame bras.
Founded by trio of entrepreneurs Nida Taylor, Jessica Dada and Som Kritta, Her Alchemy is an independent and innovative fashion company selling everything from choker necklaces to sleek, off-the-shoulder tops to their most recent and popular bralette. The brand identity focuses on offering products for women, by women, and their platform shows through on their undergarment offering.
“Bras in local markets are very tidy with their wires and big padding,” said Nida Taylor. “They make your bust look big when you wear them but I don’t like wearing them all day. Actually, it’s bad for your breasts. Our product is very cute and makes you feel comfortable without wire and padding.”
Various studies conducted by researchers around the world have shown that wearing wire, heavily padded, or ill fitted bras for an extended period of time can cause a plethora of health issues – from skin and back problems to even respiratory difficulties.
Some studies have even drawn connections between ill-fitting or restricting wire bras to an increase in cancerous development, though this theory has since been contested.
Regardless of health effects, Taylor pointed out that the ergonomic models are en vogue this season.
“Our bralette can’t make your breasts look any bigger,” she said, “But they show your normal look. This kind of bra is popular in the United States.”
Indeed, these wireless, paddingfree garments are all the rage around the globe as women and women’s fashion ditch restrictive clothing and patriarchical ideas of women’s bodies (and busts) for something a little more freeing.
Societal pressure Yet Yangon local Myat Myat is unconvinced. The 24-year-old secretary of a property company told The Myanmar Times that she thinks cotton and thinly padded bras, as well as the traditional shin myee, yay kuu and bawlis (all variations of undershirts) better suit Myanmar women wearing traditional dress.
“I’m not used to wearing nostring bras,” Myat Myat said, “and when I do, I feel unsafe. It feels like my bra is falling off even if it isn’t.”
Only on special occasions will Myat Myat wear the more expensive, decorative bras, otherwise she’ll stick to various undershirts.
“My family, grandmother, mother and aunts would kill me if I go out without wearing a bra. It is a custom for all girls. If they allow us to go out without them, it is not for comfort but because of the location or surrounding people,” she explains.
Neither Myat Myat, nor Ma Khin May, a 32-year-old NGO counselor, will be joining the ranks of bra-less celebs Kendall Jenner or Kate Moss. Ma Khin May feels that it isn’t out of pressure that women wear bras, but out of habit.
As wire, padded bras were for so long the only option, they’ve become normalized despite their potential discomforts.
“I am not familiar with Alchemy’s bralette but I think choosing to wear one or not depends on every woman’s financial situation,” said Ma Khin May. “If someone … knows about modern life, and she’s up to date, she’ll surely wear these wireless bralettes.”
Creating community While Her Alchemy is just one of the modern businesses competing with time-tested, traditional items, the bralette business is booming. Moreover, it is unfastening a previously taboo conversation.
“We wanted to create a community for young women of Yangon,” Taylor explained. “Basically to help each other, especially as women who are pitted to compete against one another. We want women to come together and be great together.”
With limited funding and difficultly finding a physical space in Yangon, the women decided on an online shop and Bangkok production site – not only an affordable move, but one which makes their products accessible to women around Myanmar and beyond.
In addition to the bralette, Her Alchemy also sells a variety of clothing and accessories. The products are categorized into different collections, each with empowering titles such as All Eyes on Me, Not So Basic, Got Your Back, and Shrug It Off.
With the success of the bralette – all 50 of the K25,000 pieces sold out on opening day – the founders plan to expand their undergarments line to include lace and negligees under the Her Intimates collection.
“We’ve invested so much time, money and strength and in the end, it worked out well,” said Jessica Dada, who has big dreams for herself as well as she works to release a CD of her songs at the end of the year. “We’re surprised how well we’re doing at our three-month mark. We never expected this much growth so fast.”
Part of Her Alchemy’s popularity can be attributed to their active Facebook presence, where the three founders directly communicate with their customers.
“I remember the first time I delivered our items,” said Dada, noting that their deliveries have shifted from one day a week to Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays through Tea Delivery Service. “It was so tiring but fulfilling. I’m happy that people like and encourage our brand.”
Though there are plans for popup shops around the city in the near future, Her Alchemy will remain an online presence for now, with items available for purchase at the Yangon office, 42A Pantra Street in Dagon township. Most items range from K5000 to K30,000. – Additional reporting by Nyein
Ei Ei Htwe
This Thursday’s exhibition comes on the heels of 50th Street’s monthly stand-up comedy tonight, which draws headliner Dana Alexander from Canada and feature comedian Kay Mo from the USA.
It will be 50th Street’s first allfemale stand-up set-list, another indicator that the Yangon comedy scene is expanding rapidly.
“For whatever reason, stand up comedy has come to be a male-dominated profession, so it is great for us to be able to promote the superb female talent that does exist in the world of comedy,” Grill said.
Stand-up kicks off at 8pm, and cover is K7000 in advance or K10,000 at the door. Tickets include one Carlsberg draft beer.
A street vendor organizes the padded, wired bras she sells on Mahabandoola Road yesterday afternoon. Her Alchemy’s black flora bralette sold out within one hour of availability, founders said: could this be a new wave for Myanmar’s undergarments?