One of the most significant purchases and rites of passage in a young woman’s life is purchasing her first bra. What should be a special and self-affirming time, however, can be marred by discomfort and awkwardness while shopping in overly mature lingerie shops and department stores. Having witnessed her younger sister’s attempts at finding a properly fitting bra and remembering her own journey in buying her first bra, Jessica Miao started Apricotton with co-founder Chloe Beaudoin. It is the first tween bra company in Canada that takes into consideration what young girls want from their first bra purchase, offering comfortable and adjustable options.
What inspired you to start Apricotton?
It started last year. When we launched Apricotton in November, it took almost six months to stand up. The reason we started it was because my younger sister, who was 12 at the time, was going bra shopping for her very first time. I was taking her to lingerie stores like Victoria’s Secret where she felt super uncomfortable being measured by a sales associate she didn’t know and changing in hot-pink change rooms. None of the molded cupped bras fit her. At the end, we only bought the small-size sports bra and then six months later, my sister grew out of it and had to restart this process all over again.
Obviously, there are bras that are made for younger girls, like training bras, but unfortunately, those department store bras come in cookie-cutter sizing that’s very standard. They were either too tight or too loose and also didn’t provide enough coverage. They were very sheer and flimsy. Watching my sister go through this process, I was just thinking about how I went through the same thing 10 years ago, and no one has disrupted the bra industry since. We really wanted to make a difference for these girls because you’re going through such a sensitive life stage, and the bra you wear can really boost your confidence or take away from it if it’s bothering you every day.
How did your experience at Western University’s Ivey Business School help you in your journey to entrepreneurship?
Apricotton actually started as a school project, and that’s where I met my co-founder, Chloe. We were told to do a mandatory assignment to come up with a business plan. At the time, we were both taking entrepreneurship courses in terms of how to come up with a good, feasible idea. We had a lot of mentors who supported us through the process, and then, at the very end, we just got a lot of really good feedback from our professors and from other women saying that we should actually start the company. I think that’s what propelled us to take the first step.
What do you think is the biggest problem with bra shopping today?
It’s definitely the sizing and how there really is a gap in the market. Aside from what I said, Apricotton is also the very first ever tween bra company in Canada. Just thinking about how there are millions of girls who are going through puberty every single day — and we are the first [tween bra company] — really shows that there just aren’t enough sizing options. The other thing too is girls do grow out of these bras. One of the things we wanted to do was make sure that they could actually wear the same bra when they go from an A- to a C-cup, for example.
How do the bra designs come about? How did you design the first prototype and what have you learned through the process?
That’s a good question. Because, thankfully, I have a younger sister, I was able to interview her and her friends in terms of all of the features she wanted. One of the things — when she was younger — was she didn’t want padding because she didn’t want anyone to be able to even tell she was wearing a bra, so we decided to have removable padding. Girls can actually wear the bras without pads, and they could pull them over like a t-shirt, so it was really easy to put on.
One of the other things was that she felt super insecure when people could see her bra straps at school. Another thing we did was we made the straps adjustable, and they can actually crisscross so that if you’re wearing tank tops, they can also hide under those.
What are your plans for Apricotton in 2022?
We really want to expand our reach. I think I still consider us a small business today. It’s just me and Chloe running the whole thing. One of the great things about it is every single time a mom purchases a bra, we always get really positive feedback. For example, we only have five-star reviews.
I think a really big part of our growth is just helping moms and girls be aware that we exist. As a start-up, we’re fully self-funded. It’s definitely a bit harder, but we’re definitely confident that once people actually hear about the bras, it’s very instant in terms of how we’re able to help them because it’s something that every woman has struggled with at some point in their life.
Rose Ho | Assistant Editor