KTN Women in Innovation 2022/2023 Applicants

Skarlette® Limited - The history behind the lingerie

The founders of Skarlette® Limited

We started working on our idea over the months of the pandemic, however, this underwear idea was born some good time before.

We researched the availability of underwear for flat women during 2019 and  discovered a distinct lack of choice. We discussed the concept of designing our own lingerie to try to resolve this with some ladies Heather met during the Boobee campaign. 

Heather took part in the Boobee Campaign in 2019, the inspiration of Margo Cornish, in partnership with the Manchester based charity, Prevent Breast Cancer - PBC (Our intention is to donate a proportion of our profits to PBC). During her volunteering, Heather discovered she faced the same frustration as others at being unable to find affordable, comfortable and attractive underwear, having undergone a double mastectomy. It is the general assumption that women will have reconstruction or wear prosthetics, however, this isn’t the case for a  variety of reasons. 

The beautiful Boobee, painted by Justin Eagleton for the Afternoon Bee event in October 2019

Having had surgery as part of her treatment for breast cancer, Heather was disillusioned and disappointed, to say the least, with the lingerie on offer and the price that it cost. Unless your favourite colour is beige, and you like bra straps the width of your grandad's braces, you would be sorely disappointed. Frumpy and unflattering and not at all attractive, this expensive post-surgery lingerie can often be found, even in the most popular stores, tucked away in a small corner, as though hiding from embarrassment. 

The lack of stylish and feminine lingerie, as well as the cost, weren’t the only reasons for founding our company though. We also wanted women, who had not undergone reconstruction surgery following mastectomy, to have the opportunity to grow their confidence and femininity again, as breast cancer can so brilliantly strip these away from a woman. This was equally as important as having a choice of beautiful, carefully designed lingerie at an affordable price.

The concept of this lingerie was born from Heather's experience of living completely flat. For some women, reconstruction isn’t possible or fails and, for some women, it just isn’t wanted - neither are prosthetics. For many, femininity remains hugely important. Feeling attractive and sexy, as healing and recovery take place, is essential for the repair of psychological well-being after such a gruelling regime of treatment and experiences.

We aimed to create something with the sexy lines and appearance of a bralette, without the pockets or darts found in a traditional cup. It would need soft and deep bands, which stretch and sit comfortably over the ribs where surgery and radiotherapy cause discomfort and sensitivity. Some women have limited mobility following surgery, making pull-on lingerie difficult and uncomfortable to manoeuvre over stiff or sore shoulders. For this reason, it was important for it to fasten like a bra rather than a bralette. 

The lack of any lingerie, which could fulfil the above criteria, led to many months of research and design, resulting in the development of the perfect garment, which can offer flat women the opportunity to get excited about purchasing attractive lingerie again.

Heather approached Kate, who has many years of experience designing and making costumes for theatrical performances, in the hope that she could help design and create the vision of this lingerie. After many conversations, illustrations and video meetings (due to the pandemic restrictions) we brought our perfect Skarlette® to life. We chose this name for the brand very carefully: it looks like a bralette, so it’s a play on words. Heather has no breasts, she has scars, so we incorporated the word into our garment and The Skarlette® was born. We envisage a strong, sophisticated and feminine woman when we talk of our brand, and that’s how we want women to feel wearing it.

Kate has been working tirelessly over the last year to create our perfect design. Creating a bra without traditional cups is much harder than it may seem! With many hours spent sourcing the gentle yet supportive materials that were also feminine and attractive, multiple prototypes were created to test out. Her knowledge of fabrics and how they work was invaluable in order to produce the garment exactly as imagined.

That garment is The Skarlette®. The Skarlette® is for strong women who aren’t defined by their breasts; confident women who know they can look great without showing lots of cleavage; mature women who know that the love of their children and partners, family and friends isn’t dependent on having a pair of breasts and active women who enjoy exercise without the impingement of implants or prosthetics.

Our revolutionary, post-mastectomy lingerie is beautifully designed and lovingly made using the softest, yet gently supportive fabric. The Skarlette® has been designed by flat women, for flat women in the prettiest and most sophisticated materials.

Thoughtfully created in colours and fabric rarely seen in post-surgical underwear ranges, the Skarlette® is an exciting addition to the world of lingerie. The  designs are personalised; the first being named after Heather - this pattern was the first prototype that Kate created, the second design is named after our manufacturers at Ella & Me. Each Skarlette® has a beautiful pair of knickers to match and we have loved designing them. We really hope our customers love wearing them. All of our Skarlettes® feature:

  • No cups, pockets or darts
  • No underwires
  • Broad, soft, supportive and comfortable deep under bands
  • The softest fabrics and lace to sit comfortably against sensitive skin and surgery scars
  • Attention to detail for the placing of every seam so as to avoid any irritation
  • Fully adjustable straps in a variety of dainty designs

The Skarlette® concept will be incorporated into swimwear too, giving women a huge array of affordable, stylish and feminine garments. We intend to produce lingerie for women who also have breasts, whether prosthetic or reconstructed, within our range and, therefore, revolutionising the post-surgical lingerie design is in our vision.

Designing, fabric sourcing and sizing have all been a huge learning curve. We have tried and failed, and tried again. We know what we want and there is no room for compromise in design, manufacture or fabric. We will continue to explore and pursue the perfect fabrics and work with the best company to take our concept forward. We strongly believed that Fashion Enter shared our values and philosophy, hence we chose them to create our design competitively in the UK, in order to develop a professional prototype.

We could not have reached this point without the invaluable support and guidance offered to us through Margo. Through her supportive friendship, we were fortunate enough to be introduced to a number of people who were critical in pushing our project forward.

We were privileged to be coached by Angela Luger, who is an Angel Investor, an experienced Chief Executive and Non-Executive Director, and who helped us hugely with her advice. Aliza Reger, daughter of the lingerie entrepreneur Janet Reger, who changed the way women look at underwear, provided us with some invaluable advice and guidance. There was so much we wouldn't have thought about.

It was Sue Fairly, Head of Quality Assurance, Sustainability and Supply Base at New Look who captured exactly what we were trying to produce and she led us to Fashion Enter where our concept really started to take shape. It took all of these things to come together to enable the birth of our new lingerie and bring Skarlette® to life. Once Fashion Enter had perfected the samples made from Kate's patterns, we took our first production line to Ella and Me in the north west. Not only did we achieve production in the U.K. but so close to our Manchester based charity Prevent Breast Cancer too.

Our support doesn't end there however, Heather's friendship with Michelle Eagleton, whom she also met through the Prevent Breast Cancer charity and Breastfest19, led to a phenomenal amount of support for us both in the world of marketing and PR. After all, there is no point having a great product if nobody knows about it! So having our own little army of PR students from the University of Salford helped us to navigate all the traditional and complex digital media avenues.

Finally, continuing with the Boobee mission; raising awareness of breast cancer; the PBC charity work - to predict and prevent breast cancer - and empowering women beyond a breast cancer diagnosis, we are proud and grateful to have achieved what we have. Click here if you would like to learn more about the work of the charity. 

www.preventbreastcancer.org.uk