To be blogging again feels amazing! Writing fulfills my soul, even if I am just chatting about bras, lingerie, and walking pneumonia. Today is all about the Samanta Desert A170 bra and how it relates to the ways European companies curtail their offerings for the North American market. Several months ago, Marzena of Samanta sent me the A170 to examine the fit because the bra specifically targets consumers wanting a minimizer. In the US, the term minimizer is fairly well known, and as the name implies these bras redistribute breast tissue to make the overall shape of the bust anywhere from 1″ to 3″ smaller than it is. Most accomplish this through the use of structured 2-ply fabric which helps compress while simultaneously shifting the bust vertically and horizontally across the chest.
Let me preface this review with a note about the weather. When we had the wonderful snowstorm back in January, I closed on a Saturday due to the inclement road conditions. Now, did I take Saturday as a snow day like any sensible thirty-something? Of course not! I schlepped out my camera and took pictures in the snow of the bras on my review docket thinking a) natural light means no need to edit any brightness/contrast issues created by the camera, b) it’d be pretty, and c) it would still be freakin’ winter when I had time to film the videos and write the reviews. While my bronchitis did contribute to the problematic nature of point C, we also must state the obvious. North Carolina took a vote, and apparently, everyone decided there would be no more winter after January. As a result, the photos for this review are in the snow . . . and so are the pictures for the next two reviews.
Since the Sculptresse Candi narrowly missed being chosen for our first bra review of the year to the Freya Fearne, it seems only fair that Candi should be the second. Candi is a new style from Sculptresse and focuses more on a softer, rounded look as opposed to the structured, forward-projecting Chi Chi. When I first saw images of Candi in my catalog, my gut reaction was: “Dayum! Panache has the tenacity to challenge Elomi’s powerhouse Cate/Caitlyn style.” Then there may have been some childish “Let’s get ready to rumble” nonsense going on, but in all seriousness, I think it is natural to invite comparisons between the two. However, since I have never formally reviewed Cate, I will focus more on Candi and only compare to Cate when I feel appropriate.
This product review has been a loooooooooooooooong time coming. First, I’ve mentioned before how hard reviews are when you are not feeling the most body positive about yourself because, hey, there you are in all your unphotoshopped glory for everyone, but especially yourself, to see. Motivation to be in front of a camera dissipates rapidly, but the world doth not stop for a forty pound weight gain. Consequently, I shot this video and planned to review it a few weeks ago, but in the chaos of the move, Thanksgiving, gift guides, bronchitis, and now Christmas, I have had “Chi Chi Review” on my project list for some time with no forward progression. Friday, in between helping last minute shoppers, I squeezed together enough time to jot down the written portion as well as to organize the copious number of products I plan to review in the coming weeks. Basically, I told myself, and pardon my language, “Girl get your shit together.” And I am, and I will, and you lovely readers get a review in the process.
My intention was to post this review about two weeks ago, but if you follow our Facebook page, you’ll remember we spent about a week hanging new fixtures and reorganizing the store. Every time I undertake a new project, I always forget to multiply whatever my initial time estimate is by three, and I distinctly recall thinking while my dad and I plotted out the placement of our new efficient and stylish wall mounts was “Oh, this shouldn’t take more than two hours to hang and maybe another two to put everything up.” Oh how foolish I was!! Even though it is totally unrelated to the review itself, I thought I would share a before and after picture here of our progress:
We now return you to our regularly scheduled review. In my recent reviews of the Freya Fancies bralette and the Fit Fully Yours Kristina, I mentioned how wireless requests have exploded in the last several months, and as part of my scrambling efforts to expand inventory, I began eying the Goddess Sports Bra. One of the challenges of running a lingerie store and planning inventory assortment is determining what to sacrifice carrying on-hand in order to stay open—an agonizing process the result of which customers do not always understand. Sports bras (and to some extent strapless bras) have always been underrepresented because they both are utility pieces, often not purchased until the client needs them. A notable exception to this is the Panache Sports bra which is one of our best-selling bras, and my personal favorite sports bra of all time. As with normal bras, sports bra are available in multiple styles in a range of sizes and fabrics, each designed for different tissue types, breast shapes, and activity levels. Because of this, sports bra could easily have a dedicated department all their own, budget and space constraints notwithstanding.
In conjunction with the bralette trend sweeping the lingerie world, many retailers are fielding more and more requests for normal wireless bras. During our first two years of operation, the stock of wireless bras in the shop was abysmally, embarrassingly low because demand was non-existent when compared against traditional wired options. However, in the last year, we have seen tremendous growth in the need for wireless bras, leaving me scrambling for a strategy to expand successfully. Comparatively, wireless customers still occupy a lower percentage of sales, and even factoring in the demand we are presently unable to meet, I estimate that at most wireless requests would only occupy approximately 15% of cumulative bra sales. Despite the lowness, the aspect worth noting is that before last year, wireless accounted for less than 2% of bra sales, meaning the increase itself is phenomenal. However, the inherent challenge for me as a retailer is to manage our budget for stocking more wireless options, knowing that for every dollar I spend on this market, I am taking away from a wired style which may sell better or faster. Furthermore, like underwire bras, there are multiple sizes which need to be represented as well as different breast tissue types, colors, and budgets. As if the challenge did not seem insurmountable as it is (so much so that I have questioned whether I even want to tackle it all), there is the added issue of finding quality, affordable wireless bras that fit well and meet the demands of our customers.
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!