In this valentine’s month when love is in the air and we are busy buying gifts for our valentine have we ever loved ourselves? How much time have we spent buying the right brassiere or the right lingerie for ourselves? The latest survey reports show the world over 85% of women wear the wrong sizes – astounding, isn’t it?
For most middle-class women that one special lingerie set she buys is for that wedding night. Do you stop being a woman after that one night…but how much do you care? The world stats are no different in India.
The reason we have never discussed or talked about lies in the middle-class values that we have been brought up with. Right from the local grocer to the medical shop bhaiya still wraps our sanitary napkin in black polythene and in utmost necessity we asked our fathers and brothers to get a sanitary napkin for us. The essential is being tabooed how are we supposed to speak out our mind on a specific Brassiere aka Bra we wanted to buy.
In that era of the late nineties when I was growing up in a middle-class household and studying in a convent school one awareness drive about sanitary napkins and their usage was done through whispers. Was there any awareness campaign on the selection of the right brassiere? Was I not physically growing up? I was physically growing and all my mother did was to hand over a tried and tested local brand brassiere picked from a local store. Was I given the choice of choosing? UFF! UFF! could not have even uttered “I want to choose my own brassiere.” The grind continued in all the growing years with 3 sets of brassieres replaced when they were worn out. Honestly, in those non-internet days, even my mom would not have been aware of style, size, and availability. This is a general story of small-town where choices and availability are big issues and a bigger issue is the right awareness on the right selection of brassiere.
I was a clothing and textiles student, we talked about draping and textiles and garment manufacturing but did we ever discuss the construction of brassiere? No, never in those 4 years of graduation or post-graduation. In my master’s final year a day came when we finally were told to choose a topic and study various industries and one of them was the lingerie industry. Out of the 10 students doing master’s none of them wanted to pick up a survey on the lingerie industry.
The first time I was corrected by my mam on pronouncing the lingerie as 'lin-ge-ri'. That day I came to know that it is 'lawn-zhuh-rei' and I am sure many of you still will be pronouncing it as 'lin-ge-ri' as it is the 10th mispronounced English word, though the word lingerie is a French word. By the way, I did my research on the local lingerie industry in Baroda.
Fascinating facts came out after the research and that day I was feeling enlightened and now I was all the more excited in presenting my findings in front of the whole class. Deepika’s project had now created a buzz in the whole hostel. Even in those non-Whatsapp days, the news quickly floated to the boys' hostel. Yes, you are reading it right everyone was starving for information and my enlightened friends attending the presentation quickly spread the word to others (read boys). The boys felt so enlightened with the variety of fabrics used to create the lingerie, the wires that are inserted for that perfect shape, the various brassiere sizes and various cup size A, B, C, D, E … those padded, front open, non-padded, push up, full coverage, medium coverage and low coverage brassieres were now discussed.
My stint at Marks and Spencer (London) as a part-timer and a student of merchandising brought a whole new perspective to the visual merchandising and selling aspect of the lingerie industry. Right from M&S selling the regular lingerie to Victoria’s secret’s ensemble and its thematic display on Bond street every Monday, changed my whole perspective of looking at the lingerie retail stores.
Can this model be replicated in India? Those were the days of 2008 and malls were mushrooming and the elite wanted to shop. The working women wanted to explore and Shoppers Stop had a first-mover advantage and introduced a lingerie section. Now shopping for lingerie became easier. The sales staff was trained and awareness and knowledge were deciphered to the customer. The right product was there, made available in the mall, promoted well with help of visual merchandising windows. But the price was a point of concern. Will a middle-class woman spend Rs. 799 (those days) on a regular bra. The answer was yes. To get that right fit and shape and with proper awareness, she will become a regular customer. This model was replicated by Lifestyle and later by Central though the economic segment was different.
La Senza the Canadian Lingerie retailer started operations in India in 2008. Still, India was not ready
The worldwide sales of Lingerie were 42.09 billion US dollar in 2020 and is expected to grow to 78.66 billion US dollars by 2027. But why is it still a hush-hush affair? This opportunity was well spotted by Richa Kar the founder of ZIVAME. Even Richa in the initial days of her entrepreneur journey was opposed by her family. Her mother was not happy with the idea of her selling Lingerie. "LOG KYA KAHENGE? MERI BETI KACCHIAYAN BECHATI HAI”. But determined that she was she founded ZIVAME – which stands for “Radiant Me”, in 2011, with a goal of helping women uninhibitedly shop for intimate wear and a clear vision “To Offer Every Women the Confidence, Comfort & Choice She Deserves.”
Zivame is valued at $200 million as per the last valuation. An unsaid need of every woman was now addressed by Zivame.
I was happy they walked on the untrodden path and made a positive impact on the lives of women not only addressing how to choose the right brassiere, to wearing it right on the right occasion. They have a plethora of brands like Zivame, Triumph, Enamor, Inner sense, Jockey, Lovable, Floret, and many more to choose from. All of these made available at one click of a mouse and from safe havens of one’s home.
With their Bra size calculator and Pick your right bra tabs, ladies can actually pick up the right bra. With their 15 days easy return policy they have addressed consumer’s fear of buying the wrong product and trying the bra in an unsafe environment.
Three major concerns are addressed by Zivame:
Right fit and size.
The plethora of options.
Safety of trying the brassiere in your own home.
What Richa addressed, is every women’s wish. This Valentine’s Let’s come out of the closet and speak for ourselves, for a friend, a wife, a sister, and a mother.
Don’t shy away from buying lingerie for yourself or your loved ones. It is the right of every woman to wear smart, stay in shape, and feel comfortable and proud about her own skin.
By, Deepika Udeshi, an entrepreneur, corporate woman, full-time mother.