Earlier this week, I reviewed the fabulous Samanta Mintaka A925 bra, and today, I am following through with my promise to review the other bra gifted to me by Sweet Nothings: The Hana A111. If you have not already done so, I recommend reading the Prelude to a Product Review post I wrote before continuing forward as I discuss Samanta’s sizing, pricing, and brand strategy in depth—all of which I will not rehash here. Also, please check out the original review written by Sweet Nothings on both the Mintaka and Hana as she has additional insights and photos you may enjoy.
When launching a new product or brand in the store, I prefer if I can see samples to determine quality, fit, and materials, especially if those samples are in a size I can try myself. However, given my current size of UK 32H, my ability to try before buying is somewhat limited, but Polish manufacturer Samanta—in addition to molded cups, push-ups, and delightful vertical seam half-cups—makes a few bras designed to fit larger sizes. Since shipping from Poland can be pricey, I was thrilled when Sweet Nothings sent me two of the Samanta bras she reviewed on her blog as gifts. Since we’re size twinsies, it was a fabulous, risk-free way to determine if the designs and products met my exacting standards. As a result, today I will be reviewing the A925 model from the Mintaka collection with a second review of the A111 coming later this week. (Note: If you have not already done so, I highly recommend you read the Prelude to a Product Review post I wrote last week as it covers information on Samanta’s brand strategy, sizing, and pricing that I will not be covering in today’s review.)
Slowly and steadily, I am chipping away at a (still growing) backlog of bra reviews, but I am extremely excited to finally reach the two Samanta lingerie reviews I planned. As long time readers know by now, I am a fan of Polish lingerie design and appreciate their unique approach to both bra fit and aesthetic. As a result, when Marzena of Samanta contacted me back in December about potentially carrying the brand in the store, I was excited but reserved. I had never tried Samanta before and was going to order a style or two direct from her as samples to test the fit and quality. Enter the amazing Sweet Nothings! A while back, she reviewed three of Samanta’s popular designs on her blog and was gracious enough to give me her A925 Mintaka and her A111 Hana Claret because she’s totally awesome like that. Since we’re in the same size range, I was excited to see how this brand compared to the other UK and Polish companies I tried in the past. Initially, this post began as a review of the A925, complete with video review and pictures, but my penchant for detailed explanations turned a “brief” discussion of the Samanta brand, their model numbers, and sizing system into a 1500+ word epic better suited for a post of its own. As a result, before delving into the product reviews, I am taking today to provide some background on Samanta for anyone not familiar with the brand.
When bloggers, retailers, and industry professionals talk lingerie trends, the discussion includes multiple elements like color, print, embroidery, unique detailing, and even popular styles, and lately bralettes have been red hot from the fires of demand, leaving many manufacturers scurrying to release multiple versions in exciting colors and using a variety of fabrics ranging from silk to two-ply modal to soft lace. However, the bralette world has largely targeted the 32-38 AA-C cup crowd with the occasional style able to accommodate a D or DD. Most bralettes do not feature an underwire and either use X-Small to X-Large terminology or a band size only, e.g., 30, 32, 34, for sizing, and the designs themselves tend to rely on triangle shaped cups as well as deeper v-necklines for a lighter, comfortable appearance. For the fuller-bust and/or 38+ band customer, these limitations pose unique fit challenges, particularly in terms of coverage, support, and shape. Freya hopes to address the deficit in the market place by offering a new alternative: the Fancies Bralette!
Back in December (or was it November?), Dixie of Rixie Clip contacted me about her amazing product, and I snagged some for the store in January (note to self: buy more Rixie Clips) with the intention of writing a review that same month. So, yeah. Welcome to Review 1 of the 20 or so in my backlog!
Oftentimes when I do product reviews on the blog, they are usually bras, underwear, or bust-friendly clothing, and I realize I have done my readers a disservice in largely ignoring the wonderful world of bra accessories. Bra accessories are typically designed to solve common bra problems in an easy, no fuss way and range from silicone nipple covers to bra extenders to low back converters. In some cases, these nifty products can even salvage an unwearable bra, giving you more time with a favorite piece.
My recent collaboration with Bluestockings Boutique on small business ownership inspired me to explore one of the core elements of our discussion: the price of lingerie and how consumers perceive it. Do a quick search on Google (or your search engine of choice) for core bra styles from major lingerie brands like Panache, Natori, and Affinitas, and you may be surprised at how challenging it is to find discount pricing anymore. If the bra is black, beige, white, or a newly released fashion color, it is probably listed at full price, and if it’s not, wait a few days. Eventually, someone will report the infraction, and the item will quickly return to its original Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP). But why have retailers all across the US finally agreed to uphold the same pricing schema despite years of competing for consumer dollars based on low cost? Simple. Manufacturers have grown tired of watching their carefully designed, high quality products be associated with low prices and discounts. Unlike many avenues of retail, intimate apparel remains fairly exempt from what’s known as inflationary pricing—a practice where the retailers and/or manufacturers inflate the price of a product beyond its true worth to allow for constant discounting and price-based competition. As a result, the suggested retail price on most items has been determined by the manufacturer to be a fair evaluation of the design process, fabrics, manufacturing, and associated retail expenses like rent, utilities, and the cost of a professional fitter. In short, there’s no wiggle room for lowering that price and maintaining a successful profit, particularly for boutique retailers. Enter the advent of MAP Agreements.
My beloved blog has been rather silent this year, not for my lack of wanting to write new content, and today I want to briefly update here why posting has been irregular. Last year was not a good year. Between chronic illness and then my brother’s attack in September, the store truly suffered from closures, inconsistent hours, and order delays. We managed to keep our doors open and to even eek out a minuscule growth rate, but there were many times I questioned my decision to continue forward with A Sophisticated Pair. This year, however, has really seen an explosion for us. It feels like we are back on track with our customers and with our plans for expansion, and I cannot be happier. However, busy days, last minute appointments, and all the added responsibilities involved in strengthening our business have tested my time management skills to the limit. Blogging, despite being an outlet for my writing passion, was continually bumped to the bottom of my ever-expanding “To Do” list, along with posting updates on Facebook and Instagram, developing a new fit tool, dying my hair, and cleaning out my shed.
Today, I am tickled pink to be spotlighting a personal friend of mine: the one and only Iman Woods! Iman and I met when she came to the store in search of bras, and we immediately clicked. Both of us love being personal cheerleaders for people, empowering them to see the beauty within themselves and to appreciate their bodies as they are. Meeting Iman was not like meeting a stranger but more like connecting with a friend, and her generosity of spirit is inspiring. She volunteered to loan me the gorgeous pinup paintings—which she did herself by the way—to decorate the store, and she constantly refers clients to the shop. In keeping with her goals of building a supportive community, Iman often hosts “Girls Night Out” parties to introduce her friends to each other, and every single one of them has been a blast with lots of great conversation and laughter. I love when people build each other up and find ways of working together to create something wonderful, and Iman channels this energy into all of her endeavors.
I know it’s been a while since I checked in here, and I have a post planned which talks more on my absence plus upcoming plans for the blog. However, in the meantime, I wanted to pop in with a quick product review of the Freya Enchanted! I mentioned in my Freya Hero review the potential for carrying Freya’s non-padded bras in the shop again, specifically for the 28-34E-G customers who enjoyed the lightweight fabrics and comfortable fit. Because of Freya’s fashion forward nature, I wanted to select a style with longevity and multiple core colors to make replenishment easier, and Enchanted seemed like a contender with its smoother profile and adorable details.
When I received an email from Anna of Anna Pardal after attending Curves NY for the first and only time in February of 2014, I was giddy with excitement and knew instantly this was a marvelous opportunity for the shop. Over the last two years, I have thoroughly enjoyed working with her personally and professionally even though importing made-to-order products from Poland was not always easy. Anna and I certainly faced numerous challenges in ensuring all of our customers ultimately received the correct item, in the right size, and with the perfect combination of alterations. However, despite the problems, many clients found working with Anna to be a life changing experience. Our guest blogger Trycia was able to request a gorgeous custom Sabine set, including matching panties specifically designed with her needs in mind. Then there is Tami, a woman who suffered long term from chafing by the straps, too tall cups on the side, and a lack of center depth. Anna, Tami, and I collaborated together to engineer pattern changes that yielded a fit so perfect Tami felt like “superwoman.” Tami and Trycia are not alone either. Countless people took advantage of a generous alterations process to find the fit tweaks which worked best for them. Some people, like myself, fell in love with the classic shape immediately because of the low wires and deep cups that were more comfortable than UK brands while still others appreciated the luxurious, sophisticated aesthetic honed by Anna’s keen eye. Despite the lows, our relationship with Anna Pardal is defined more by the highs, which is why I was so saddened (okay, devastated) to hear that Anna was closing the brand for personal reasons. Running a small business is one of the hardest things a person can do in their lifetime, and I am glad she decided to put herself first and find some balance. Hopefully, we’ll be seeing her artistic perspective again in the lingerie world soon, but in the meantime, we wish her nothing but the best!