But Susan Nethero believes the right one can change a woman’s self-esteem for life.
“I struggled with bra fit my whole life. … I never realized other women struggled with fit issues,” Nethero said. “As our bodies change throughout life, women get disgruntled about their bodies. I became so much more aware that all women struggle with body image issues.”
She opened her lingerie boutique, Intimacy, in Phipps Plaza in Buckhead in 1992, and there are now 18 locations countrywide. Her husband David has worked as her partner for the past 10 years. To help start her company, Nethero conducted a study on women’s fitting needs with more than 500 frustrated females.
“We became aware that so many people are wearing the wrong-sized bra,” she said. “No one had really taken an active role in the industry to educate women about how it should fit, how to care for it and what is the right size.”
Nethero said the research found 85 percent of women are wearing the wrong size. In 2004, Intimacy expanded to Madison Avenue in New York, and Nethero appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in 2005.
“The Oprah effect” created a demand resulting in a $700 million growth in the industry in the following year. Nethero said Intimacy was the first store of its kind to carry European-inspired lingerie collections.
“The American brands are primarily mass produced, so the objective of the brands is to make as few sizes as possible and sell as much as they can. … It becomes limiting,” she said.
American brands take about six to nine months to create a certain bra from development to production, and European brands take more than twice the time, between 18 and 22 months, Nethero said. She said most American bras have less than 20 parts, while European bras have about double the number of parts.
“That makes the bra stronger, more stable and a better fit,” she said. “Sometimes in the process of doing all that, it can even make it more attractive and beautiful. You find the embroideries and laces and quality are a lot more durable in Europe.”
While it normally costs significantly more for a European bra, Nethero said it does not actually cost more in the long run, because it will last longer, fit better and feel better.
In 2007, Intimacy and Van de Velde, a 100-year-old Belgium-based luxury lingerie group, formed a partnership, and gave Intimacy access to expertise in the international industry. Over the next five years, Nethero passed day-to-day operations to Van de Velde but is still heavily involved.
“Helping women to be more confident, that’s the joy of what we do every day, and that’s what makes our service more extraordinary and our professional life meaningful,” she said.
Every woman who comes into Intimacy gets a free bra fitting with a salesperson.
“We really do take more of what I would say is a spa-like or doctor-type approach. It’s a very individualized experience,” said regional manager and Roswell resident Eve Turner, who has been with Intimacy for nine years. “We take a much more in-depth approach. … It’s a much more hands-on, customer service environment.”
During the bra fitting, the salesperson teaches everything from how a bra should fit to how often it should be washed and worn.
“Spending time in the fitting room with women, seeing how beautiful they really are, changes their perception of themselves. I am so proud to be part of a company that helps women embrace themselves,” Turner said. “We’ve been able to have a vision and stay the course and uplift so many women and make them realize their own inner beauty. Women are their own worst critic. We don’t allow ourselves to see our own beauty.”
Information: visit www.myintimacy.com.