Idea to Production: Busty Bras

Sumiyyah Rashed is founder of ANN NAHARI, an upscale lingerie brand catering to the fuller figured woman.  Ann Nahari, which has successfully presented during New York Fashion Week, is based in Decatur, GA and is proud to be American-made. 

The timeline for product development to production varies in duration.  There aren’t hard fast rules but there are steps to the process.  Product development usually ranges from 6 months to 2 years depending on the complexity of the product.

At ANN NAHARI, we produce all work in-house. One unique advantage is that we control technical design work, allowing us to make modifications on the spot without frustrating lag time in between fittings and pattern modifications.  For the following production timeline, I detail the 18-month design-to-production process to create a 3 part cut and sew bra (bra that has an upper cup component and two lower cup components sewn together to form the cup).

Phase One: Research and Discovery 

December to August –  First I needed to decide what to produce.  To understand the complaints and issues of the target groups I used focus groups, field trips, surveys, and most importantly physical fittings.   During this portion of development, I noticed the bras that the women wore at the time of fitting were not adequately holding the breast tissue.  Therefore, my team and I analyzed shapes and the volume of full bust women to determine an accurate baseline from which to start development.  

I developed a survey to find out what participants liked and disliked about their bra.  What do they want to see in the market that caters to their needs?  I organized the women within their localities and took them to the mall and handed each one a form with store names. They were to visit the stores listed and give feedback on the lingerie offered for curvy women.

In the focus groups, I asked participants to describe pain points and things they liked about large cup bras currently offered. Customer research is a critical step many new designers overlook or downplay.  I can’t emphasize enough: Do your due diligence.

Phase Two: Design sketches based on customer feedback.

Pencil sketch lingerie

September to December – This is an important part because these are the items the customers said they liked and would buy.  So why make it hard for yourself.  Keep in mind – it’s not about YOU!  It doesn’t matter how cute you think something is.  It’s all about the customer choices.  I took all the surveys and feedback and developed a spreadsheet with the answers to find a common answer(s) from the responses.   I prioritized the answers from most to least popular.  I chose the top three answers for “What is your favorite style of bra?”  At this point, I also decided on fabric choices and developed my color palette.

Phase Three: Pattern and Prototype Development 

IMG_spec sheet

January to April – In this phase the pattern is developed based on the chosen sketches.  The first pattern is developed manually in my shop. After development, the pattern is cut from sample fabrication, usually muslin, then sewn.  This is a critical component because I am able to analyze the nuances of the garment, such as seam construction, cup formation, strap length and frame (cradle) balance.

The next step is to try the product on a fit model.  Check the fit of the cup, strap and wings(side bands) and if not to our satisfaction, we make notes in red on the bra and redraft the pattern and try it again.  I would like to note that since we make large cup bras, I made the decision to work with the hard to fit band sizes such as band sizes 38, 40, 42, 44, 46 and 50.  So we have the added burden of drafting the bras and fitting them on all cup sizes which elongates the design process.  I chose this route versus simply grading because of the numerous complaints from women with full-breast that their bras don’t fit well.  To find fit models I ran ads in my local paper and specified the bra size needed.   It’s a grueling process but one I enjoyed because I have the piece of mind knowing my product will fit the customer.

Phase Four: Grading and Digitizing

Multiple size bra pattern pieces

May – The purpose of grading is to proportionally increase or decrease the size of a pattern, while maintaining shape, fit, balance, and scale of style details.  There are three types of grading, pattern shifting, cut and spread and computer grading. To start the grading process, I determined the grading rules for the new cup. The grading rules are the measurements used to increase the size of the bra.  The components that are increased are the bra cup, the cradle(frame the bra cups fit into), wing(side band) and strap.  I took my base bra pattern, size 40D, and used my grading rules to proportionally increase my cups.   To grade I use a combination of pattern shifting and digitally grading.  However, to speed up the process I use the GERBER CAD solution to grade the bra components because the cut and spread are performed on a LECTRA system.  Using the combination of GERBER and LECTRA systems, what once took me months now takes a mere couple of weeks.

Phase Five: Produce Sample Run

IMG_cutter

June – Based on the digitized patterns at this point a short run of 12 – 24 pieces are produced.  The short run is produced in order to confirm the spreading, cutting and patterns and sewing time.  This serves as an extra spot check that the patterns have met specifications. 

Phase SixPre-Production Approval   

July – For my company this process is a team effort.  As soon as the bras are completed we gather with our spec and check sheets to review the finished product and take input from the sewing operators and cutting staff.  This is important because we get to discuss nuances in the sewing process that we can include in the standard operating procedure for that particular style.  If we are all in agreement then we start production.

Setting a timeline for production should be based on realistic expectations.  Sure we want to go as fast as possible and see our dream come to life; however, constraints, such as human resources, cash flow, raw resource availability, and time must be taken into account prior to launching the product.

Related Reading:  Weekly Roundup: American Manufacturing in the News

Want to know more about Production?

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