With climate change and resource scarcity becoming a very real issue, sustainable fashion is finally starting to gain serious traction in the fashion world. But have you ever considered what really goes into making your undergarments? Have you ever wondered what happens to your old bras when it’s time for a new one?
Fortunately for us, one very clever cookie, Stephanie Devine, decided to not only answer these questions but come up with a solution: The Very Good Bra.
We caught up with Devine to find out everything you need to know about the soon-to-be-launched ethically minded bra.
Where did the idea for The Very Good Bra come from?
I had been designing and manufacturing non-wired bras in organic cotton for a few years, having been through breast cancer treatment ten years earlier, which made me
acutely conscious of everything I put next to, and into my body. Whilst this brand focused on organic cotton, the more I learned about the apparel industry, the more I realised there was a much bigger issue. I had to recalibrate my idea of what was ‘good’.
Cotton of any kind takes 20,000 litres of water to grow 1kg and this didn’t seem like a sensible use of resources. About this time, I was inspired by my Dutch friends and how advanced they were in understanding and managing waste. Trump had recently been elected in the US and we had a genuine women’s movement on our hands, with women talking of burning bras, and it crystallised this idea in my mind – of creating a bra so pure it could be buried or burned at the end of its life and create no toxicity or waste.
I decided to start something new from the ground up, to see if it could be done, and then to see if consumers would really choose this bra.
Can you talk about some of the materials you use to create The Very Good Bra?
The Very Good Bra is made from Tencel, knitted and dyed in Melbourne, from Lenzing fibres sourced from Taiwan and Thailand. Tencel is made from sustainably farmed Eucalyptus trees which require minimal water used to grow and process. Our elastic is made from natural tree rubber grown in FSC plantations in the Philippines and knitted into organic cotton in Austria. We sew with a C2C gold standard oil-based-polymer thread made in Switzerland, our hooks and eyes are custom-made in France using organic cotton, and cadmium/nickel-free metals. Our labelling is pad-printed in HK using organic inks. We’ve also sourced fully compostable poly bags to ship the goods from our factory.
Is the bra entirely compostable? Does that mean it has a shorter lifespan than your regular bra?
It is entirely compostable, yes! It is very durable during its lifetime and washes and wears well. The fabrics and trims are premium and very well made, designed to survive heaps of washing and wearing over the bra’s lifetime.
It’s a very robust, but also silky-soft, a piece of lingerie made by a factory with decades of experience at the high end of the lingerie market. My big thing has always been ‘buy less buy better’ so I would never make a bra that fell apart quickly, that defeats the ‘sustainable’ purpose.
What was the biggest challenge moving from Bras Without Wires to bras that are environmentally friendly and entirely compostable? Was it an easy progression to make?
I started my previous brand with the aim of creating beautiful, wire-free bras, always lined with cotton, quietly fit for purpose for a woman going through breast cancer treatment, but also the sort of bra all women want to wear. As I learnt more about the apparel industry and the components that go into a bra, I realised I needed to start again, bottom up, to create something that started and ended life as clean as nature.
It’s a common idea that 80% of a product’s environmental impact is in the design phase, so in a cradle-to-cradle world, every piece had to be individually sought out and
created from scratch. It’s not possible to do this with an existing brand, hence me setting up The Very Good Bra which is now my 100% focus.
It’s been enormously challenging, I’ve had to stalk suppliers the world over to convince them I was serious and to get them to work with me. There are 9 separate components in a bra and once you sign off one you realise there is another impossible piece of something to source. Given the price of the materials too, my factory thought (and possibly still think!) I am quite mad but once I’d started I just wouldn’t give in, and in the end, people have been incredibly helpful, and we have finally got there.
Once the bra has reached the end of its life can you just bury it in the garden?
Yes, you can bury it or burn it, with no impact on nature. The metal will take far longer to compost but it won’t create any toxicity during that time. The Tencel can compost in as little as 6 weeks, elastic can take longer but we’ve not actually composted one yet, we just know that all the components are safe to go back to nature.