By Lisa Green
I’m not positive about this, but it’s extremely probable that some of those celebrities you see on the red carpet are wearing a Braza Bra
product, and that’s not an interesting fact just because the products are the kinds of things that prevent wardrobe malfunctions. It’s actually a point of pride, because the strapless panties, backless bras and various (ahem) enhancers underneath those designer gowns come out of an unassuming building in Lee, Mass. In other words, it’s what you don’t see that’s made this 31-year-old Berkshire-based company the success it is today. From its first product, the stick-on bra, Braza has grown into a line of 200 “solution oriented" products for women.
Ted Davis, the twinkle-eyed creator behind Braza Bra, didn’t start his career as an expert in lingerie. As a textile exporter, he had a customer in Brazil whose wife discovered a precursor of Braza’s stick-on bra. He brought the product to the U.S. and an industry was born. Shoulder pads, bra extenders and clothing shields followed, and so did the customers. Retailers first sold them in the lingerie department, but soon the line extension carved out its own niche.
“We created the lingerie accessory business," says Davis. “People would have an idea for a product, we’d listen, and create a solution to an undergarment problem." He points out that one of the company’s new products, the backless freedom bustier (“wear the strapless dress of your dreams!" declares the packaging), took a year to get right. While he uses fit models in New York, a lot of the testing was done by the employees.
The growing business called for a larger space than its original New York office, and so in 1993, Davis and his wife, Karen, moved Braza Bra to the Berkshires (they had a house in Becket). They built a 10,000-square-foot building in an industrial park in Lee and, when space grew tight there, they added on another 20,000 square feet. Now, Braza employs 40 people, who often suggest ideas for products, and who seem totally nonplussed that they are handling products that might make some people blush.
To be honest, I wasn’t even sure what some of the products were for, but the packaging is informative and the names are clever. The Silicone Magic Super Dolly offers “super duper" enhancement; the reusable Petal Tops (nipple covers) are “comfortable, convenient and economical;" Flash Tape, the original double-sided dressing tape in a dispenser is “perfect for all fashion emergencies." There’s a reason the company’s tagline is “Problem Solved!"
“The package has a promise, and you’ve got to make sure it’s going to work," Davis says. He says friends are envious of his job — yes, he looks at some of the finest breasts when working with the fit models — but it really is about the fit.
Karen, the spokesperson for the company (a.k.a. Braza Queen), who gives seminars for retail salespeople on how to help their customers use the products, backs up her husband’s quest to produce products that help solve a problem. “He lives, breathes, eats and sleeps how to make things better," she says.
April Burch, co-owner of Bra and Girl, shows the bestselling Magic Clip, which creates a racerback for any bra.
And it’s not just about preventing those embarrassing wardrobe malfunctions. Braza has expanded into footwear comfort solutions, hair wraps, hosiery and pumice stones (for removing pilling on sweaters). There’s a whole line of “swimwear essentials" that includes cleavage kits, water-resistant Flash Tape and Swim Petal Tops as well as products for nursing mothers and affordable breast forms for post-surgery (most insurance plans don’t cover additional prosthesis products).
From its warehouse off Route 102, the products go out to more than 4,000 retailers in 32 countries, including Ricky’s of NYC, Faces in Northampton and Victoria’s Secrets. In Great Barrington, the clear bra straps and converter clips are best sellers. “They’re kind of like our nuts and bolts," says Dan Alden, co-owner of Bra and Girl.
“It’s been 31 years and you can still find people who have never heard of us," Karen says.
Well, not that they’re admitting, anyway.