During the GBSB 2021, there were many diverse topics covered regarding bra-making. Not only did courses cover bra pattern adjustments or fitting, it also covered individual experiences working in the custom bra-making space. Below, I’ve noted the memorable things I learned from watching Rujee Rajan and Linda Crawford discuss their journeys to become bespoke bra-makers.
Both parties shared how the pricing is determined for their services. They both require full payment up front, as they find it the best way for both parties. Both said how, in the beginning, they were undercharging. Per bra, Linda started with $100-$125 CAN ($80-$100 USD) per bra. Now they have increased their prices to cover their costs, as detailed below.
Linda’s pricing model
Linda sews does all the sewing, pattern changes, and fitting herself. Because of this, she is the only person she has to pay for labor, which cuts down on cost. Currently, she charges $295-$350 CAN ($235-$280USD) per bra.
Ruhee’s pricing model
Ruhee has a slightly different pricing model. She has a full-time sewer, which adds an additional cost for her. She decided to charge more than Linda does in order to cover these, landing her cost per bra at $400-$500 CAN ($320-$400 USD).
This is a question that was still being solved. Ruhee was trying to figure out if she was responsible for shipping revision bras to-and-from the customer, or if the customer would be responsible for at least some of the shipping costs. Another option was to try and build it into the price of the bra, which she found challenging since the number of alterations changes depending on the customer.
Linda technically offers no refunds, which she states on her site. However, she says she has offered some refunds in the past if she knew she was never going to be able to satisfy the customer. Ruhee, on the other hand, offers a 90-day return policy. She said this was mainly for marketing purposes, as it can make someone more willing to try the process. She has given refunds about 5 times, for a similar reason as Linda.
Running the business
Beyond just making the bras, the business side of things has it’s own responsibilities.
Making a profit
Ruhee stressed that she didn’t start making a profit until around year 5. Early on, she was under-charging and quite timid about making profit a priority, which led to her losing money. She also made the point that the second bra is where the profit is made. Each bra is the same price, and the second one allows her to make up her costs for fitting and materials lost in the first one. She said it was definitely worth charging more, and you shouldn’t feel bad about it.
Ruhee gave a brief explanation about how she communicates with her sewer. To do this, she has what she calls a ‘cut sheet’. This is where she draws the design, gives the fabric information, and other details the sewer needs to know in order to construct the bra properly. This may not be needed if she was making the bra herself, but is part of running the business that I found interesting to note.
Both ladies said they have prepared basic bras in multiple sizes for their customer to try on. This gives them a good idea of where to start, rather than going in blind. Because of Covid, they both moved to mainly virtual fittings. Surprisingly, they both like it that way, as it cuts down time and produces the same result.
Time per bra
Because each bra is different, the time commitment can vary quite a bit. Depending on how many adjustments are made and how long it takes to sew, this can be anywhere from 4-24 hours.
Using the right fabric
To make a mock-up, both ladies highly advised using the same fabric the final bra will be made out of. Not only that, but making it an appealing design or color, rather than the standard white, beige, or black. This is so the customer is not completely off-put by the muslin. A direct quote from Ruhee: “don’t make ugly samples.”
Determining wire size
As many of the fittings are currently done virtually, fitting the wire may not seem as easy as it was before. To combat this, Linda says she sends multiple style wires in multiple sizes. This way, she can likely find one that fits well, and she can work from there. Ruhee likes to do wire-free patterns, so she often doesn’t have to deal with this issue. When she does work with an underwire bra, however, she does it the same way as Linda.
From what I’ve seen, several of their customers have a somewhat similar general age and body size. They mentioned their favorite patterns used, including the Classic, Ruby, Ingrid, Lanai, and Harriet patterns.
One of their colleagues included some pointers she thinks would be helpful for people interested in this industry should know:
- Be clear on what YOU want to do on your website and social media pages.
- Charge more for the things you don’t like doing.
- Set hard limits on your time. This includes fittings, taking on new clients, and fulfilling orders. Don’t go beyond them.
- Create a polite script for saying ‘no’ and stick with it.
- Create a clear FAQ section to avoid answering the same questions over and over.
- Clearly include what is included in your price (materials, number of adjustments/fittings) and what going beyond that is going to cost the client.
All in all, this was an extremely eye-opening presentation. After listening to them speak, I now better understand the amount of effort put into making custom bras. A lot of work goes into each bra, and after that, it is only applicable for a single client. That means you will need more clients to make it worthwhile, and a lot of work will go into each person.
Initially, I didn’t really have the idea of myself going into custom bra-making. I knew I wanted to make my own bras, but I never considered trying to make bras for others, let alone multiple others. Now, I can confidently say that it is not the route for me, at least not now. I simply don’t have the passion for a venture like that, and coming to that firm realization in itself is a positive thing. Just like many of the other GBSB 2021 videos, this was extremely insightful and a great seminar to watch.