November 24th, 2010 • Comments: 0 • by Wendy • About this Blog & MeCustomer ServiceInside SnugabellPumping

PumpEase - Not Just Another Pretty Face

PumpEase features a 3-row hook & eye closure

The other day, while in the shower (I do all my best thinking in the shower and the car), I was pondering our slogan (which we love):  "...because women like pretty things EVEN when they're pumping!™" and then I had this horrible thought, "Oh my gosh... I hope people don't think PumpEase is "just another pretty face"!"

You see, we're always talking about how we're the ONLY fashionable hands-free pumping bra (and now of course we're also offering the ONLY organic hands-free pumping bra), but I wondered... do the moms out there realize that when we designed PumpEase, the functionality was right up there in importance with the aesthetic?

After all, if you try on that fabulous Dior dress and it fits like hell, then what's the point? I for one, do not believe in being a "fashion victim". I wear fabulous shoes, but they fit well and are comfortable. Some of them are even pieces of art. (Yes, these shoes do exist!) But I digress...

As you may or may not know, I have over 15 years experience in the apparel and sewn products industries (aka the fashion industry) including designing and manufacturing a women's sportswear line, providing CAD pattern management services (pattern making, grading, marking, technical specificiations) to other manufacturers, custom design and teaching fashion courses at the post secondary level.

CAD pattern making

This reminded me of something that I used to tell my starry-eyed fashion design students in drafting and construction (sewing) class. Often the "design-oriented" students had no use for drafting and construction class (they thought it was boooooring) and so I found myself saying, "A pattern is like the foundation of a building. If you don't draft a solid foundation, your design will crumble."  In other words, anyone can sketch a glorious dress, amazing suit or other fabulous garment, but if it is impossible to create either via flat pattern drafting or draping, or if it is too expensive to produce for the mass market, then you have nothing. Nothing. Well, you have a sketch...

These students figured they could just hire a pattern maker to execute their designs. Well yes and no. In order for a patternmaker to successfully bring a design to life, the designer needs to have a firm understanding of the fundamentals (and limitations) of pattern making, garment construction and mass production. And honestly, although there are a lot of pattern makers out there, a good pattern maker is hard to find. I can't tell you how many times we've received patterns for grading (that were drafted by someone else) that were just... ummm... BAD. Cringe-worthy even! And believe it or not, many of them came from brand name companies! The lightbulb surely went on the next time we were in a "better" store and we tried something on that just felt weird - the sleeve cap was glued to our upper arm or the pants had "hungry bum" - it all made sense now. It was concrete evidence of bad design and it can happen in any market.

So when it came time to create our hands-free pumping bra, there were a few things that were non-negotiable...

1.  It had to be pretty :: you're already aware of this one. Does it matter you ask? Considering the $9.6 billion US lingerie industry in which over 80% of purchases are made by women, I would say it does! The postpartum period is certainly not the sexiest time of a woman's life, so why not spice it up a bit with something fun?

PumpEase works with all sizes of breast pump flanges

2.  It had to accommodate ALL makes and models of breast pump flanges on the market :: we have yet to find a breast pump that doesn't work with PumpEase. We even tried the larger-than-average Simplisse flanges at the ABC Show in Las Vegas last month and yes, they fit too! Our "no-stitch" horn openings are at the heart of our design. It's simple really. Even if you use a stretch fabric, if you finish the fabric with thread, even stretchy thread, the fabric won't stretch as much anymore. Have you ever inadvertently pulled on a garment and heard the "snap, snap, snap" of threads breaking? Go ahead, hook your hands inside the openings and stretch them. Stretch them hard. They are built to last and will always return to their original shape.

3.  The closure had to be adjustable :: let's face the facts: nursing moms have fuller and less-full days. Aside from our fabulous fabric that is super stretchy and has incredible memory (i.e. it doesn't "bag out" after use like cotton/spandex can), PumpEase has a 3-row hook & eye closure for another 1-1/4" of adjustment.

4.  The closure had to be user-friendly :: it's a no-brainer that we chose hook & eye. I don't know about you, but I can do up my bra in the dark and behind my back, sometimes even with a martini or two under my belt ;-) So when a new mom is hormonal, sleep-deprived and gets up in the middle of the night to pump, she will be able to don and doff a PumpEase with ease.

5.  It had to be of EXCEPTIONAL QUALITY :: our fabric is one of the best technical fabrics out there. Quite frankly, it is expensive and although we could buy cheaper we don't, because YOU are worth it. It is also super-soft, wicks moisture away and is easy to care for and yes, YOU deserve it. PumpEase is Made in Canada and we are so very proud of that. Our manufacturer, that we have worked with since Day 1, is top-notch, however even after the goods come out of the factory, our Quality Control team goes over each and every PumpEase one more time before packaging them. Our return rate for BOTH sizing and warranty issues is less than 1%.PumpEase - quality detail

6.  It had to fit the majority of our market :: via our four sizes - S/M/L/XL - PumpEase fits moms from 32AA to 48H (a size range into which over 90% of women fall into). We developed our sizing using ASTM standards for body measurements, with a strong focus on the bust point measurement, which varies as much from woman to woman as the bust measurement itself. PumpEase fits moms with bust points that measure from about 4 to 11" (that's the measurement from nipple to nipple). Just to put this into context, the very first horizontal line that a pattern maker drafts is based on the bust measurement. In fact the bust point calculation itself is based on the bust measurement, and therefore this is pretty much the foundation of the whole draft. If you make an error at this point, the whole draft will be wrong. So bust point is very important in apparel in general, and even doubly so when you are inserting breast pump flanges into your pumping bra and the openings need to line-up with your nipples.

And then of course, we musn't forget that Dr Sears says that the bold colours and prints of PumpEase are better for your baby. It just goes to show that you should never judge a book by its cover...

Have you ever been skeptical of a product because it looked "too good" for the price?  You thought it wouldn't work/wouldn't fit/would be uncomfortable? Please do tell us about it below...

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Leslie Cairns says:

As a fellow pattern maker, I can say that PumpEase is an exquisite piece of engineering, not just a pretty thing! My only wish is that you had invented it when I was pumping for 2-1/2 years while working, 14 years ago!

Posted on November 24, 2010

Claire Reid says:

I am amazed each and every time I work with you Wendy, at your unbelievable attention to the smallest detail of your product. It goes without saying that your dedication to the high quality of your product is second to none, and those of us who have worked with you would sincerely attest to this.

Posted on November 24, 2010

Wendy Armbruster Bell says:

@Leslie - Thank you, that means a lot. And I wish PumpEase had been around for you then too.

@Claire - We're two peas in a pod. You understand how particular I am because you are the same with your work. :-)

Posted on November 24, 2010

MargB says:

There are plenty of pretty, pretty useless things for women. I know you promote the prettiness of PumpEase but I really think more emphasis should be on the quality and effectiveness - I'd be recommending the product on this basis even if it were boring beige. Anyone who can create a strapless bra that stays up on a H-cup woman should be looking to expand into the post-breastfeeding lingerie market.

Posted on November 25, 2010

Wendy Armbruster Bell says:

@Marg - I totally agree and that is why I wrote this post - to ensure that the moms out there know that PumpEase is functional, practical, high-quality AND looks good to boot!

Thanks for your comment!

Wendy

Posted on November 26, 2010

Deidrea says:

I LOVED this post!! For several reasons..for one, I LOVE to know the woman/women/men, etc behind a brand. What is in their past that led them to this position now..and I LOVE that you have the crudentials to back up your truly SUPERIOR product. It was not created on a whim, or to add more product to the marketplace..it was created out of necessity..and it happend to fit a very deep void in the marketplace! You can feel certain that your attention to detail, the particulars, the hardware, EVERYTHING comes thru. As a customer, I know that everything in my PE was deliberately put there, and is there for a reason and has purpose..and I LOVE THAT!! Thanks Wendy for what you have done and what you contiue to do..can't wait to see what's next for Snugabell!!

Posted on November 26, 2010