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!
Before anyone panics, Anna Pardal closing does create logistical issues for the shop, but the quality, fit, and shape you love is not gone forever. Anna Pardal was actually made by Polish powerhouse Comexim also run by an Anna, so the same team who made your Anna Pardal bras also makes Comexim pieces. Under the Reviews tab, you’ll note I have tried both brands and adore them equally, and if you haven’t already done so, check out Comexim’s website. They have some gorgeous new styles available that are lust-worthy! Furthermore, if you loved a particular Anna Pardal fabric, do not lose hope as many of the fabrics from her collections are still available to be produced through Comexim.
Over the last couple weeks, I have transitioned from working primarily with Anna of Anna Pardal to Anna of Comexim, and together we developed ideas for how to ensure a smooth transition and ordering process. However, whereas Anna of Anna Pardal spoke fluent English, Anna of Comexim does not. I do not speak Polish (yet!), and as a result, we communicate primarily in Spanish, which has been an interesting learning experience since none of my vocabulary words en escuela revolved around bras. I’m also rusty on verb conjugation, which has become a new project for this year. Anyway, after weighing my options, I developed a new policy for ordering Comexim or the remaining Anna Pardal bras:
Customers can order Comexim and Anna Pardal products while fabrics are available but must pay a deposit equal to 50% of the order’s final total at the time the order is placed. This deposit is non-refundable but can be transferred to store credit provided the bra is returnable. If you require alterations to any items, additional fees and conditions apply:
- All generic alterations add a $3 fee per bra. This is non-refundable service fee that we pass directly onto the consumer and is not transferable to store credit if the item needs to be returned.
- Any intense alterations or pattern changes must be clearly stated by the client at the time of order and may not be returnable. Comexim reserves the right to charge a separate fee for these services on a case-by-case basis which is non-refundable or transferable to store credit.
When the item arrives from Comexim, the customer will receive a discount based on the timeliness of the payment:
- Items paid for in advance or picked up within two weeks of arrival at the shop qualify for a 10% discount or a 5% discount with free US shipping.
- Items picked up between two and four weeks of arrival at the shop qualify for a 5% discount or free US shipping.
- Items picked up after four weeks do not receive a discount. These items will also be placed on the sales floor at this time.
Special order discounts do not apply to any alterations fees. The discount will be calculated from the retail price of the items.
The Future of the Frankenbra
Frankenbras, as I affectionately call them, are bras which fall into the category above referencing “intense alterations or pattern changes” and usually are born from a client’s need to achieve the perfect fit within Comexim’s general pattern. On more than one occasion, Anna of Anna Pardal and I consulted with customers to discuss potential design tweaks which would hopefully yield the perfection creation . . . erm . . . bra. Under the best circumstances, the process was challenging, time-consuming, and fraught with the peril of the product not panning out perfectly, particularly because most Frankenbras originated with clients I have not met or fit personally. With a foreign language factor now, it has forced me to reevaluate how we handle these orders, if at all.
- Standard Alterations: All standard alterations, we will still continue to honor. Standard alterations include reduced cup, lowered gore, straps moved in by Xcm, raised arm, etc.
- Extreme Alterations for Existing Customers: If you ordered a Frankenbra from me, I am grandfathering you into the new policy because there should be notes on file for what was performed to the bra.
- Extreme Alterations for New Customers: If you have not ordered from me and need significant pattern changes, I will submit the order under the following two conditions:
- You know exactly which alterations you need and can articulate them to me as clearly as possible. Because I need to either translate this to Spanish or Polish, I cannot have any vague phrasing like “reduced the cups more.” Instead, the request needs to be phrased like “reduce cups by 3cm.”
- The bra may be non-returnable.
- Consultations: In the past, I have offered fit consultations to people regarding Comexim bras, and I will no longer be offering this service if you do not plan to order from the shop. I know this may sound harsh, which is why, because I haven’t drank much coffee this morning, I am making an inelegant segue to:
The Mad Rabbit aka my Email
One of the reasons I opened A Sophisticated Pair was because of my earnest desire to help people find the right size and style bra for them. It’s not a clever PR ploy, and not to sound conceited, but I am damn good in a number of skill sets that would afford me a better paying, lower stress job than running this store. The only reason I’m here is because of that desire, but I have to be honest that I’ve reached a point where I am stretched way too thin. In a good week, I spend about ten hours answering emails, or roughly one quarter of the time the store is open (so if you have visited and see me running over to my laptop, you now know what I am doing). I have lamented before to friends that my work inbox is like some mad procreating rabbit beast reproducing new emails at three times the speed I can answer them and gobbling up all of my time, and the fabulous Ali Cudby gave me some very good advice about the subject: “Your time has value.” This has been something I have been mulling over more and more lately.
A few months ago, I drafted an FAQ and removed my email address from most places with the hope people would do as I asked and read through the resources readily available to answer their questions. It’s helped to an extent; however, I still wind up with a lot of emails from people who really haven’t done any research first. It may not seem like such a challenge, but I write slowly and take my time answering questions (as my friend Iman told me “You can’t give anything less than all of you.”) so the time adds up quickly. Please don’t misunderstand: I like helping people, but the bulk of these conversations, roughly 80+%, do not yield any sales. Sales are what keeps the store in business, and to spend, let’s say 8 hours dedicated to an activity which does not result in any monetary addition to the store is not a fiscally sound plan. My time does have value. I have spent over 4.5 years absorbing and learning everything I possibly can—listening to my customers, talking with reps, and meticulously researching new products. A consultation does not need to end in a high dollar sale, and admittedly, I cannot mail five or six bras out for all of them to be returned either. However, we sell items as low as $5, and even a $15 purchase is one that still helps us remain open. Financial reasoning aside, answering emails for so many hours per week has also cut into other projects for the shop like blogging and implementing changes to the bra calculator too.
With regard to Comexim, I find it challenging to determine exactly what needs to be done to a bra from pictures. We’ve done remarkably well overall, but without having you in front of me, there’s a lot of wiggle room on what is the best course of action. With consultations, there is usually significant back and forth in email, and I have had more than a few consultations where the client ends up ordering directly through Comexim instead. Because of this, I am only going to be working with clients who want to purchase through us, and while I can provide some guidance on alterations, my advice is still based on examining fit based on photos and descriptions.
When I decided to write this post, I really struggled with finding a way to discuss the email issue because it’s not my intention to offend anyone, and unlike the Oatmeal, I don’t necessarily hate my email. There are quite a few people I have become pen pals with because of email, and I genuinely enjoy corresponding with people about bras, lingerie, life, you name it. I just need to find balance within my business so that I can continue to help people as well as to grow and improve the store as a whole.
Circling back to Anna Pardal and Comexim, there are a few final details I need to squeeze in:
- Ordering Time Frame: Comexim requested we place orders with them once per month with the ability to tack on a few extra bras up to 1.5 weeks after submitting the order. Orders take a minimum of three weeks to make plus another week in shipping. Depending on the production schedule, they can take up to five weeks. Because every single item I order must be made before anything can be shipped, ordering through us is slower, but I hope we compensate with our willingness to accept returns and our ability to provide customer service.
- Order Dates: Since we will be limited to a monthly order, I am not setting a firm date for each order, such as the end of the month. Instead, I will submit orders about a week after my previous order arrived. Rolling the orders in this way allows everyone the opportunity to try on bras from past orders and submit new orders or for us to make any necessary changes. I will post on our Facebook page to give everyone advanced notice of upcoming orders.
- Rewards Program: This falls more in “semi-related,” but we started a customer loyalty program which gives $10 off future purchases after you spend $100. The loyalty program works in conjunction with our special order discounts, and I mention it here as another incentive to consider placing Comexim orders with us.
Have a great week everyone!