Be­yond the wire: Her Alchemy un­fas­tens bra stan­dards

The Myanmar Times - - The Pulse - NANDAR AUNG nandar.aung@mm­times.com

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.

Photo: In­sta­gram/ Her Alchemy Photo: Thiri Lu

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?

Photo: Sup­plied

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