millie - a non-wired bra to wear after breast cancer
A soft & shapely, non-wired bra, with a pocketed lining designed for women who want to feel confident again after breast cancer.
Let's get women dressed with confidence
millie was conceived during an emotional moment in a changing room when founder, Sue Pringle first realised how hard it was to find a suitable bra after her breast surgery. Following four operations for breast cancer, and a recurrence ten years on, she understood, like thousands of other women, that she couldn’t wear a standard bra anymore, and how limited her choices were.
Sue was left wondering, "Are these the only choices I have? Is it just me or are there other women who feel the same way?"
Grumpy, but determined to find a solution, Sue researched the scale of the problem, discovering that women face a bewildering series of lingerie problems or “moments” that are hard to solve after surgery and treatment. 50,000 women in the UK alone are diagnosed with breast cancer every year, and 500,000 more live with the impact of it in their lives.
Our original research has identified that 99% of women immediately replace their entire bra wardrobe after breast surgery, and it’s a difficult, frustrating search to find a suitable bra. Their dissatisfaction levels are high, especially in terms of design choice and comfort levels [source: millie lingerie survey].
In 2015, using funds raised from a successful Kickstarter campaign, Sue began prototyping her first bra design.
What are our project goals?
To pre-sell 500 or more bras as a reward - to wear oneself, Gift to someone special, or Gift to a Charity.
The funds will fuel our progress to the next phase of our technical development, which includes grading and fitting.
Funds raised will also fund our first production run, so we can launch the first millie bra to market; the first step in developing our launch collection with more designs, which will follow the Kickstarter.
When we've sent all the millie bra rewards out to their recipients, we'll ask them how it feels to actually wear the bra, giving us vital feedback for our ongoing product development, and further proof of market to future trade customers.
If prototyping was our first chapter, this is second; scaling the business into manufacture and beyond. Your pledges will be the financial oxygen we need to take this pre-trading business to investors, and onto market.
What's special about a millie bra?
millie is a soft cup, non-wired, pocketed bra designed especially for women to wear after breast cancer treatment.
Our first design beautifully addresses all the essential needs of our wearers, such as a pocketed lining (to add a breast prosthesis), and soft, breathable, supportive fabrics and elastics, all sensitively harmonised. We've carefully added feminine accents, delicate lines, and a soft stretch lace that won't irritate delicate skin.
Our volunteers asked for a bra they can wear once the initial rigours of their surgery and treatment are over, something gorgeous to help them to reconnect with their femininity. So that's what we've given them, a little bit of comfortable gorgeousness.
More information on the bra can be seen by visiting our website.
Our first design is the blue print for the bra wardrobe we'll design next, which includes a soft bra to wear right after surgery, sleep bras, non-wired bras for every day, special occasion bras (with ta dah!), and sports and activity bras.
We’ve designed our rewards [on the right ⇒] to make sure everyone can get involved in our project - women, men, children, friends, family, near and far.
Our rewards all revolve around the bra itself, so whether you want a bra to wear yourself, or as a Gift for someone else, it’s easy to support us.
“What if I don’t need a bra myself?” Neil, one of our previous backers asked us, with a slightly bashful look on his face. He is supporting our project again, so we told him about our Gift a Bra to Charity Reward, here’s how it works:
We’ve partnered with charity, Keeping Abreast and The Nottingham Hospitals Charity; both support women through some of the difficult times and choices they face during breast cancer treatment. If you choose our Gift a Bra to Charity reward, we’ll send a bra to a woman who deserves some lingerie loveliness on your behalf, via the two charities, when our bras are ready. For more information, please see below.
How we plan to spend the funds:
- Developing the millie "fit" - the signature for our brand
- Technical size grading and wearer trials
- Cross fitting sizes on a mix of women with different surgery types
- Pre-order materials and components for production
- Manufacture and deliver our first 500+ millie bras
- Complete pattern and grading on our matching knicker
- Expand the bra size range, if we exceed our target of £30K
- Add more bra colours, if we exceed £50K or more
- Begin working on the 'bra wardrobe' we've identified to launch our debut collection, if we exceed £100K or more
Building our business
We're already collaborating with experts in the lingerie industry. Our designer, Laura Stanford, has worked on major high street and designer brands including M&S and Agent Provocateur. Sue's mentor Tony Jarvis, was the Sales and Marketing Director of Triumph UK, and MD of Gossard UK before retiring.
Tony says: "It is such a joy to work with someone so inspirational as Sue. She shows real passion and determination in her desire to 'make a difference' to the lives of so many women. This is clearly being shown in the work she has already put into developing this unique bra."
The product development team also includes a garment technologist and a sample maker, with years of combined expertise.
Materials and components have been sourced and trialled from all around the world, many provided free of charge because our new partners see the importance of what we’re doing, and want to be a part of it.
The prototype has taken a year to complete, and has been taken through multiple rounds of design development. The bra is presently in pre-production technical development and costing with premium quality manufacturing partners, which few startups have access to.
Following a [hopefully] successful Kickstarter campaign, we plan to raise further investment to develop our launch collection, to prepare a our pitch to the lingerie trade, and bring our debut collection to the high street and specialist lingerie retailers. We've already been approached by BBC Dragons' Den, it was too soon, but what a vote of confidence!
We've been featured by the UK's leading lingerie trade magazine, Underlines, and had mentions from The Telegraph, The Huffington Post, and The Nottingham Post.
Size charts and Fitting Guides
We will send out more information after the project closes to help with size selection when we complete the technical work on grading and fit. If you'd like to be a Fitting Volunteer, sign up on our website.
Knickers will be available in sizes 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, and 16.
Our charity partners
We are delighted to be working with Nottingham Hospitals Charity (registered charity number 1165397) which funded the Bra Shop at the Nottingham Breast Institute, opened in October 2016. The Bra Shop stocks a range of bras and swimwear designed especially for women who have had breast surgery. It is the only hospital-based bra shop outside London.
Keeping Abreast (registered charity number 1129522) are passionate about providing women with all the information and support they need to make an informed choice of whether breast reconstruction is right for them, and then be there to support them with the ongoing journey and further decisions.
They say, "We are delighted to be working in partnership with Millie Lingerie as a partner in their Kickstarter programme. We are looking forward to providing any gifted bras to women who have had breast reconstruction and are looking for a piece of lingerie that will give them that much need confidence boost."
We chose these partners because Sue, millie's Founder, was treated successfully in Nottingham, and the bra shop is hopefully the first of many more in the NHS. At the time of her mastectomy ten years ago, Sue found it very difficult to make a decision about reconstruction, and Keeping Abreast now fully supports hundreds of women in that same, daunting place.
Both charities help women to live with the impact of their treatments, kinder and better.
Tried & tested
As a Senior Product and Marketing expert with blue chip companies including Boots and Interflora, Sue Pringle knows the importance of establishing a genuine unmet market need, and if it can be commercialised. Of an estimated 500 lingerie brands in the UK, only a handful target the needs of this group of women; there is a clear, addressable gap.
Ideas have been researched and tested and with a group of over 100 women, all of whom have been successfully treated for breast cancer, to shape the design, including an online survey, phone calls, and face-to-face interviews. We've shared the bra development at Design and Filming Days, and materials and components have been tested for suitability and softness.
We plan to continue involving our volunteers in the next stage of the project in our fitting and wearer trials; it's vital.
Q & A
How do I select my size?
First, check if we have your size on the chart above. When the project closes, we'll send out a size survey for you to tell us which size you would like. If we don't have your size yet, please send us an enquiry and we'll do our best to include it.
If you are choosing a Gift for someone you know, you'll need to check their size first to make sure we have it. When the project closes, we'll send out a survey, and ask for their size, and the recipients name and address. You'll be able to add a personalised Gift message too.
What happens if I'm Gifting my Bra Reward to a Charity?
We will lease with your chosen charity on your behalf and sort out what sizes they need.
What if my bra doesn’t fit properly when it arrives?
We want you to be delighted with your millie bra, and that includes making sure you have the best fitting size for you. Using the information in the chart above, together with the survey information we will send to you when the project closes, we will do our absolute best to make sure that everyone receives their first choice on size for their new bra.
When your bra arrives, if you find your size isn’t quite right, you can return your unworn millie bra, with the tags still on and in its original packaging please. Once we've sent out everyone else's rewards, we will send you another size from our selected range, as shown.
We'll need you to cover the cost of sending it back to us, and unfortunately we are unable to offer exchanges on international rewards. The knickers for hygiene reasons are non-returnable.
Will you be adding more sizes?
Yes, we will add more sizes as soon as we can, but this may take a while depending how funding goes. If you're size isn't in our initial range, please send us an enquiry and we'll add your request to our list, and do our best to include it.
Can I choose which Charity I'd like to support?
Yes, we will send you a survey when the project closes and you can nominate your preferred charity if you wish to. We'll let you know when your bra has been Gifted as well.
Risks and challenges
Whilst we build new working partnerships with suppliers and manufacturers there will be unforeseen challenges along the way which could cause delays.
This entire project is highly technical, things might not go quite to time and plan, but it's what we learn from this that matters so we can deliver the best product to you and to market.
We have a lot of work to do to deliver our promise on sizing and fit to ensure every woman who wears a millie is delighted with her bra. We promise we will deliver.
Please note - exact materials may vary slightly from those seen as we go through the next stage of the development process. The design and quality will be assured.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (35 days)