Brand Bio: Panache Through The Years
If you've visited our retail store or taken the time to peruse the ins and outs of our website, you know we believe in fit above all else. For that reason, Melissa hand-selects every bra that comes through the Breakout Bras warehouse, choosing only the best fitting styles from the best manufacturers. As part of our ongoing commitment to fit, we’re kicking off a series of Brand Bio blogs to better acquaint our customers with the brands they love—their origins, fit philosophies, strengths, and weaknesses. We’ll be taking an honest look at what works, what doesn’t, and which brands are best for whom. We begin our Brand Bio series with Panache, a company we’ve worked with for years. They, like us, are dedicated to providing quality products that fit correctly and inspire confidence in the wearer. Their mantra, “Love the Fit,” is a testament to that commitment. To learn more about Panache, we sent a short questionnaire to their UK team. Our questions and their responses are included below. Before we get to the questions, though, let's talk a little bit about the brand's history.
ORIGINS:Panache is a family-owned business that began in England and blossomed into something remarkable. The company was founded in 1982 by Anthony Power, formerly a National Sales Manager for Playtex, where he'd worked for nearly 20 years. At age 47, he began to buy and sell end-of-line lingerie to retailers, initially as AJ&D Marketing but later as Panache Lingerie. The biggest turning point for Panache came shortly after their 1989 expansion into Hong Kong. John Power, Anthony's son and then-National Accounts Manager for the business, saw a vital need in the market for D+ bras and pitched it to his father. Anthony backed the idea, and Panache shifted their focus toward filling this gap in the industry. Since then, they've racked up awards and accolades, and have competed with the biggest names in lingerie. Today, Panache is headed by Anthony's sons, John and Danny. Danny opened a New York office on Madison Avenue in 2002 and has been instrumental in building the American branch of the company, and John took over as joint Chairman and MD following his father's 2007 retirement. From its humble beginnings, Panache bloomed into a multi-million dollar company with offices in the UK, the US, and China. Today, the brand is sold in 53 countries around the globe. What's the secret to their success? It's their relentless commitment to fit and their ability to innovate in an ever-changing fashion industry. [gallery ids="1284,1285,1286,1287,1288" type="slideshow"] We talked with their UK design team about the company's inner workings, and their responses were fascinating. We began with some questions about the company's core principles. In the following exchange, questions from Breakout Bras (BOB) are written in bold print. The answers from the Panache team (P) are written below.
A WINNING PHILOSOPHY:
BOB: Does Panache have a mission statement? What’s the driving idea behind the brand? What is your business philosophy?
P: We believe that every woman deserves a bra that fits perfectly, and all D+ women should have choice that is unbound by her size, enabling her to express herself with confidence however she chooses. When it comes to trying and buying lingerie, we are her trusted ally, dedicated to crafting the most comfortable, stylish and supportive bras she will ever wear – bras that feel like they were made to measure.
BOB: Panache is one of our bestselling brands. Why do you think your appeal is so widespread? What are you doing so right?
P: Panache achieves the perfect fit for a wide range of consumers who struggle to find a product for them. Our sizing ranges from D- K cups and 28-44 backs. When a customer tries on a Panache bra, she feels like she is wearing something that’s made-to-measure. In addition to the perfect fit, we offer styles like the balconet, plunge, full cup, strapless and more. There is a style and color to suit every body shape and outfit - from our everyday core basics, to our classic fashion-led designs.
BOB: In a lot of ways, the lingerie business is a man’s world. Panache was founded by a man, but the company seems to really know what women need in terms of support, comfort, and style. What role do women play in generating product ideas and running the business?
P: While the company was started by a man (as most executives at that time were male), we have always prided ourselves on having a female design team that is intimately acquainted with the challenges of finding the proper fit. At Panache, we have been making D+ bras for decades. We have a wealth of insight and feedback to ensure we continue to improve and develop our range every day. 45% of our staff has worked for Panache for more than 5 years, and several people have worked with us for over 25 years, allowing us to have knowledge on what women need and find most comfortable. In addition to our committed staff members, we use real women for our fit development, who test every single style in a variety of sizes. It not only helps to ensure better comfort and support, but also helps us gain valuable feedback on styling, comfort, versatility, and fit. Our commitment to celebrating women led us to our Modeled by Role Models campaign, which shines a light on women who do incredible things! We started this campaign in 2015 and have continued this into 2016.
BUILDING THE PERFECT BRA:
Next, we asked Panache about their design process. It takes some serious engineering to make a bra work the way it's supposed to, and that work is often taken for granted. If you wear a 34JJ your breasts probably weigh about 5 pounds apiece, depending on your breast density. Essentially, you’re carrying a 10-pound weight around your neck at all times, and you’re supposed to keep it supported with a garment that weighs, at most, about 6 ounces. Panache has mastered the art of bra-building, and we wanted to know how they do it. Here’s what they told us.
BOB: What goes into creating a new product? How big a role does distributor feedback pay in your design process?
P: Our design process includes a number of stages, which takes each product from concept to production. Designs, ideas, and colors are submitted to the directors and, once signed off, an initial first fitting phase begins. The sample is then put on a real body so we can make sure the wires, wings and cups all fit correctly and that straps, sizing and positioning are correct. Once the sample is right and everyone is happy, our designers, garment technicians, and fabric technicians undertake a risk assessment on every style, where fabric is assessed for quality, strength, durability detailing, and color. Fabric and components are particularly important when you go up to a K cup, so our next stage is to create a number of samples in different sizes and deliver them to wear testers. These are everyday women who use the product as they normally would, and they report back on areas like comfort, support, durability, washing, and drying. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NnudZhMWx9A
BOB: From what I understand, the same designer is responsible for the Jasmine, the 5021, the Tango and Tango II. What do you know about her process? How long has she been with the company?
P: Sam Smith, a senior designer with Panache for six years was responsible for the design of our best-selling fashion style Jasmine. Clare Robertson, Panache’s Head of Innovation with over 20 years of experience, was responsible for the 5021 sport bra and the Tango/Tango II. She has taken the lead on several of our best-selling styles but was most challenged by the sport bra noting, “This was probably the hardest bra that I have ever had to design because there were so many elements to it.”
BOB: Panache is kind of like the Apple of lingerie. How have you managed to innovate so consistently over the years? What keeps you at the forefront of the industry?
P: Our focus has always been about being “Best in Class” when it comes to D+ lingerie. This is not just about designing beautiful garments, but also about crafting products that support and enhance different body shapes. We’re continually improving and developing our range to ensure we lead the way in fit, quality, sourcing, and manufacturing. Perfect fit is the cornerstone of our business, and “Love the Fit” is testimony to our commitment to delivering the best fitting D+ bras on the market, complementing every body shape and lifestyle.
BOB: Your 5021 sports bra has won 3 UK Lingerie Awards. What sets it apart from other sports bras? Is this the epitome of what a sports bra can be, or is there room for improvement?
P: The control and comfort is what sets this product apart from the rest! The construction of the inner cups encapsulates each breast (avoiding the dreaded “uni-boob”) offering full control and a defined shape. The support gives the wearer 83% less bounce while the cushioned straps disperse pressure when exercising. Smooth seams, a cushioned hook-and-eye panel for extra comfort, and a racer back converter that give the wearer options are other features that make this sports bra a customer favorite. Our design teams are always working on new styles and new technology
The Panache 4221 Sports Bra, early precursor to the award-winning 5021.
BOB: You sent us several images of Panache products throughout the years. One of them was the 4221 sports bra. How did you go from that design to the 5021?
P: The 4221 was one of our first sports bras. It is amazing comparing the progression of the sports bras as you can really see how far the brand has come! Clearly it is pinnacle of design as we are often knocked off. Clare Robertson says the following on the progression of the 5021, “4221 already existed when I joined Panache. The first sports bra I designed was 2001 with cut-and-sew foam cups, titanium wires and expensive, ultra strong laminated fabrics. Years later we learned that we could get the required support using lighter fabrics as long as the inner cups were strong enough. We chose laminated foam moulds, as we wanted to make sure the inners were totally smooth against the skin with no seams. Porcelain and Tango were looked at as starting points for cup/cradle shapes and grades. Lots of prototypes using different fabrics/foam/components were made until we were happy with the fit and the performance of the base size. Then a size set was produced which was thoroughly tested by Progressive sports in Loughborough.”
STAYING IN STYLE:
MODELED BY ROLE MODELS:
Last year, Panache garnered a lot of positive attention with the Modeled by Role Models campaign. The campaign, picked up by media outlets from Buzzfeed to Cosmopolitan, sought to highlight the achievements of remarkable women from around the world and to promote body positivity in an industry that has traditionally adhered to very strict (and often unattainable) beauty standards. Kay-Lin Richardson, North American Director of Sales, said in an interview with the Huffington Post, “In our research, we found that 75 percent of women felt they had few or no role models, and that’s what sparked our new campaign. We want to shift the perception of what being a model really is –- being celebrated for contributions to society and personal achievements rather than physical attributes.” The Modeled by Role Models manifesto, as provided to us by Panache, is as follows: “If the world is changed by examples, then we want to show off who’s setting them. Strong, fearless women. Women who carve their own path. Drive the course of history. Role model women. Panache women are role models. They’re influencers. They don’t compete. They empower. It’s these role models, these female one-offs, who show the world that the glass ceiling is permeable. And it’s time we gave these women their stage.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7C1Wxo2a3I Anyone can nominate a role model to be considered for the campaign. This year, the nomination process launched on March 8th in celebration of International Women’s Day. Panache pared the nominees down to a shortlist of 15 remarkable women, then chose the final six by means of a special judging panel. The winners modeled Panache lingerie in a professional photo shoot that showcased their inner and outer beauty. The Modeled by Role Models campaign made such a splash that Panache decided to continue the campaign into 2016. Among this year’s winners are activists, cancer survivors, and ambassadors for an array of important causes. You can read their stories and check out their photo shoots here. Have some tissues handy.
THE BOB BREAKDOWN:
I wanted to get a feel for how our fitters interact with the brand. If you’ve ever visited the Breakout Bras retail store, you know we do sizing a little differently. Our fitters size by sight, taking into consideration the customer’s body shape, including factors like torso length, root width, breast spacing, and the size and shape of their ribcage. Based on this initial assessment (and a few follow-up questions), they choose a few bras from our warehouse for the customer to try. I asked our team members to describe the ideal Panache shopper. “It’s hard to generalize, but I usually recommend Panache bras for women with front-and-center breasts,” said Arielle, our retail store manager. “The wires are U-shaped, so they’re pretty tall on the sides. They work best on women with long torsos who don’t have a lot of side tissue. They’re very structured bras with firm wires and cups. A lot of people come in looking for that rigid support, especially if they have heavy breasts. Nobody does that better than Panache.”
Panache is one of our best-selling brands both in-store and online. The Tango and the 5021 are customer favorites.[/caption] “Panache is ideal for people whose breast size is large compared to the rest of their body. I switched over to Panache after I lost weight,” said Stephanie. “When I was bigger, the bands were too rigid for me to wear comfortably. I liked the support, but I sacrificed the structure for bras with more forgiveness in the band. Now, I still have big boobs but my body doesn’t resist in all the same places, and Panache bands are much more comfortable on me.” “Different brands work for different people,” she continued. “No brand is going to work for everyone, but if Panache works for you, it really works for you."
For more than three decades, Panache has provided top-of-the-line lingerie to women around the world. They've crafted a number of bras with unparalleled support and structure, providing the correct fit to countless women who otherwise may never have found it. For our friends over in the UK, we had one final question.
BOB: What’s next?
P: The future for Panache is bright with expansion in all areas with a particular focus on expanding our Sculptresse line to include a sport option, Panache Black Bridal, and continuing to promote and expand our Modeled By Role Models campaign celebrating real women in our own communities who are heroic ambassadors of the brand. To learn more about Panache, you can check out their website at panache-lingerie.com (there's a nifty timeline located on their "Heritage" page), or follow them on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.