Stephanie Devine from The Very Good Bra
The Very Good Bra is the latest innovation that makes me so incredibly excited for the future of the planet. Stephanie Devine, a lingerie designer from Bondi Beach in Sydney is the first to create a completely zero-waste bra. Her aim was to completely 'close the loop' within the fashion industry by creating a revolutionary bra that can dissolve back into nature at the end of it's life.
Somehow, in the midst of launching a Kickstarter and all the things involved in bringing such an incredible business to the life she found time to answer my questions. I'm excited for you all to learn more about The Very Good Bra. I have no doubt it'll soon become a household name.
What made you start The Very Good Bra?
On the way back from a trip to Europe two years ago, I read that people in New Delhi were dying from the pollution originating from burning rubbish to keep warm.
At the same time, we were seeing women’s marches and returning to a ‘burn your bra’ movement, and I decided there and then that a bra had to be designed with its end in sight, a bra so safe that it could be burned, or buried in the garden at end of life, with no impact on the natural world.
As I’ve learned more about the fashion industry, I realised that waste-free isn’t enough. The frenzy around fast-fashion has seen global production between 2000 and 2015 double, fashion is cheaper now than it was 25 years ago, and on average we wear a garment 36% less than we did in 2000.
Fashion is the second most polluting industry on the planet behind oil and gas, with 40% of landfill comprising of cheap and toxic clothing.
What is something others wouldn't know about starting an ethical business that you think they should?
It takes a long time and it costs a lot. It’s frustrating when people compare your pricing with the big global chains. The elastic for The Very Good Bra for example costs 100x times more than regular elastic, and to date, I’ve only found one company globally that produces it.
What has been the most challenging thing you have uncovered since beginning to create a zero waste bra?
Definitely the sourcing of materials, as above. There are at least 9 components to the bra and it’s a lot to source. We are still working on the hooks and eyes which have to be custom made in France using organic cotton.
What is it about The Very Good Bra that makes it zero waste? Can you explain some more about the different components that went into making it?
Absolutely everything that goes into it – the fabric, dyes, elastic, metals, ink, sewing thread and packaging are 100% compostable and leave no toxins. Yes, some components will take longer than others to compost – Tencel can compost in 6 weeks, the metal will take a long time, but it won’t seep noxious chemicals into your veggie patch.
Within the ethical fashion community, there's a big question that we ask which is 'who made my clothes?'. In the scope of The Very Good Bra, who made your bras? Can you tell us a bit about them?
This is harder with lingerie as it's a very technical, complex product.
In Australia, we no longer have the expertise or the machines to make large quantities of complex lingerie. I have a great, well-established and premium factory in China. I meet with them four times a year and they have been absolutely behind the making of this product.
The Chinese fully understand pollution and they are very keen to encourage companies like ours. They have absolutely partnered us 100% and are ready to open their factory doors, should we be lucky enough to reach our goal and go into bulk production, to the assessors for Cradle 2 Cradle.
We are hoping to become the first Australian Cradle 2 Cradle fashion line and the first lingerie brand in the world. Our factory is confident that its practices in terms of power, waste and social responsibility are very good.
Best piece of advice you have ever received?
Start before you’re ready – otherwise you’d never start!
One tip you'd give to others who are wanting to start their own business?
Be prepared to give it 100%, and be prepared to fail. If you can’t do both then you should think twice.
Where do you envision The Very Good Bra in the future?
I’d love to diversify into more men’s and women’s basics, as well as expand the range of bras. It may be that not all are fully compostable, but they will all be made from recycled materials and use the core compostable elements wherever possible.
What or who inspires you to do what you do on a daily basis?
I think I’m just like a dog with a bone! I totally believe in The Very Good Bra. My unshakeable belief keeps me going, even when I’m exhausted.
Do you have a morning routine? If so what is it you do to set yourself up for the day ahead?Absolutely! I always do at least one lap of Bondi beach, and most days two. I’m lucky to live nearby and just that 30 minutes of mindfulness that connects me with nature is non-negotiable. Most days I don’t get out again unless I have meetings, so it’s really important to me.
One book everyone should read? Why?
Ken Robinson – The Element. Just really inspiring about how non-linear real life is in terms of work, education and overall career.
Are there any other Movers & Shakers out there in your world that you think people should know about?
I’m keen on local ethical businesses so I’d recommend Charlotte Evans In the Beginning PR for ethical PR, Salt Gypsy for eco-surf and active wear, La Luna Rose for recycled silver Jewellery and their closed loop system, Natalie Sehata for starting the wonderful Tommie magazine, and Kristina Ammitzboll at Pigna Studios for the most beautiful edgy semi-precious jewellery.