The Inspiring Journey of The Very Good Bra, the world's first Circular Economy bra

In February, eBay Australia supported by the Australian Fashion Council, proudly announced The Very Good Bra as a runner up of eBay’s 2024 Circular Fashion Fund, marking a significant leap forward in advancing circular fashion within Australia.

Stephanie Devine's journey from battling breast cancer to revolutionising the fashion industry with The Very Good Bra is nothing short of inspirational.

Faced with the daunting reality of a limited selection of non-wired bras made from natural fibres during her treatment, Stephanie saw an opportunity to fill a crucial gap in the market. In 2016, amidst global turmoil and tragedy, she embarked on a mission to create the world's first Circular Economy bra—a garment that not only provided comfort but also left no trace when disposed of.

We had the privilege of speaking with Stephanie about her ambitious plans for the future, including the development of organic cotton knits and pioneering compostable textiles, as well as the inspiration behind starting The Very Good Bra.

Tell us a bit about your background and why you started the Very Good Bra?

I have a background in financial services both in London and Australia, but in 2006 a devastating diagnosis of breast cancer completely derailed my life. I was unable to find a non-wired bra made in a natural fibre to get me through 7 months of treatment and beyond. 

The only bras available were maternity ones, a stark reminder of the devastating news I received that after chemotherapy, I would never conceive. I knew before chemo and my search for non wired cotton bras, that my fertility was over.

The weight of that realisation lingered heavily. Five years later, spurred by a desire for change, I took action. In 2016, amidst the backdrop of Trump's election and women symbolically burning their bras, it was the burning that was key here, as it generated toxic fumes. Coinciding with the tragic deaths of Delhi's impoverished from toxic fumes emitted by their desperate attempts to stay warm, I resolved to pioneer the world's first Circular Economy bra.

My bra had to leave no trace at the end of life whether buried or burnt, and after 2 years scouring the world to source plastic-free materials, I launched The Very Good Bra via Kickstarter in 2018.

Can you tell us a bit about your business model?

The Kickstarter model proved to be immensely successful as it enabled me to secure funding without relying on external financial backing from investors, a factor that had previously led to the failure of my two prior attempts at bra manufacturing. Opting to continue operating through pre-sales, I offered customers a limited-time discount approximately two months prior to delivery.

This approach not only facilitated funding but also provided valuable insights into the most popular sizes. In a business offering up to 34 bra sizes, each with high minimum production quantities, this data is crucial for avoiding overproduction of less sought-after sizes.

Despite the slow organic growth and the challenges faced, this model has allowed me to maintain control over both finances and our mission. We typically introduce only 2-3 new designs or colours per year, and the pre-sale strategy continues to be effective.

The Inspiring Journey of The Very Good Bra, the world's first Circular Economy bra

Congratulations for being named as one of the runner ups of eBay’s Circular Fashion Fund, can you tell us a bit about what’s next for the Very Good Bra?

 

I’m delighted to have been a winner in this competition! Right now I have a 200 year old factory in Germany working on making 100% organic cotton broderie anglaise knit to allow us to make something super pretty. I’m also able to custom make some world-first tencel and tree rubber elastic which is expensive and has high minimum quantities. 

Plus I’m going to start focus groups to potentially launch a teen/trainer bra as much as an education tool as to mitigate waste in a high-waste sector. We recently tackled Nursing Bras and this quickly became our 3rd best-selling product which is great, the average nursing mum goes through 4 and they all end up in landfill.

In addition, we are working with a team of experts developing a world first Australian Standard for Textile Composting which is very exciting.

 

What drives your commitment to sustainable business practices?

This business was founded with the mission to pioneer the world's first plastic-free bras, briefs, and sleepwear. That core objective remained unchanged from its inception, requiring no pivot or reinvention. The primary goal was always to create botanically circular clothing.

My passion for nature and the environment grew as I delved deeper into the textile industry, realising the magnitude of its environmental impact. I am driven to make a positive difference by reducing micro-plastics in our oceans, minimising air pollution, and decreasing landfill waste. Through The Very Good Bra, I aim to showcase a new approach to clothing design and manufacturing—one that is environmentally friendly and attainable for many.

The Very Good Bra is compostable and will breakdown in a worm farm

 

 

 

 

 

What do you envisage as being the wardrobe of the future?

 A smaller one I hope! I love clothes, but I think fashion has to focus on enduring style and quality that is not faddish and short-term. 

More than 60% of our clothing is currently polyester, which is oil, and we need to use more natural fibres which are low impact throughout their lifecycle in order to curtail the disastrous effects our clothing choices are having on the planet. Smaller, smarter, cleaner! 

Discover more about eBay's Circular Fashion Fund here, or stay informed about The Very Good Bra’s progress through their social media channels or official website.

Seamless announces inaugural CEO and Board of Directors

The AFC is proud to support Seamless as it enters its next phase, welcoming the announcement of its new CEO and Board of Directors. We look forward to continuing our support for the new organisation, as well as current and future members, in 2024.

Seamless appoints new CEO, Ainsley Simpson

The recently formed Seamless Board, today announced the appointment of its inaugural CEO Ainsley Simpson, effective from 4 March 2024. Seamless is about creating a sustainable fashion future for the Australian clothing industry by transforming how clothing is made, used, reused and recycled in Australia.

In speaking about the CEO appointment Seamless Board Independent Chair, Rosanna Iacono, said.

‘As a respected, inclusive and values-driven business leader, Ainsley is an outstanding choice to champion our ambitious vision. She brings a wealth of strategic leadership experience and proven ability to drive sustainability best-practice, building strategic partnerships spanning government, business and industry peak bodies for intergenerational impact’.

Deeply familiar with driving sectoral change, Ms Simpson is currently the CEO of the Infrastructure Sustainability Council, a purpose-led not-for-profit, assuring economic, social and environmental outcomes for over $290 billion infrastructure investment across Australia and New Zealand. She has amplified the organisation's impact, serving a member base with a combined annual turnover of more than $50 billion.

Ms Simpson has worked in executive roles in public and private sector organisations, and holds non-executive roles on other not-for-profit boards and global committees which systematise continuous improvement and inform policy leadership so people, nature and nations thrive.

“This appointment marks the start of an exciting new chapter, and the board looks forward to working with Ainsley to drive responsible change toward effective clothing stewardship and circularity by 2030’, said Ms Iacono.

Commenting on her appointment, Ms Simpson stated “It is a privilege to be leading this important work on behalf of the founding and future members who are at the forefront of circularity in Australia; and contributing to transforming the way clothing is made, enjoyed and recirculated on a global scale’.

“My immediate priorities will be meeting our existing and imminent members and activating initial outcomes across our four strategic objectives; circular design, circular business models, closing the loop and citizen behaviour change.

The appointment represents a major milestone toward activating clothing stewardship in Australia.

Seamless Board of Directors

The Seamless Board is made up of a representative from the Australian Fashion Council and nominated representatives from each of the eight Seamless Foundation Members :

The Board is also currently recruiting two independent directors that will bring relevant specialist knowledge and skills across the clothing supply chain from clothing design, reuse and recycling and an independent director acting as Guardian of Nature, that will bring relevant specialist knowledge and skills in relation to the natural world and the non-human species that inhabit it and/or social impact.

Brands are encouraged to register their interest to remain up to date with Seamless.

Progress Update: Seamless Completes Phase One, Achieving Key Milestones.

The National Clothing Stewardship Scheme, Seamless, is a first of its kind and aims to transform how clothing is made, used and recirculated in Australia to achieve clothing circularity by 2030. 

On October 28, 2023, the Seamless Transition Advisory Group (TAG) concluded its fourth and final meeting, passing the baton to the new independent not-for-profit stewardship organisation under the oversight of the Board of Directors.

Since its establishment in June 2023, TAG members have demonstrated remarkable dedication to establishing a new entity in line with the transition plan's first stage. 

“The core goal of Seamless is creating a circular clothing industry by 2030, where responsible stewardship and citizenship are embedded across the entire clothing lifecycle.” – AFC CEO, Leila Naja Hibri said. 

Key achievements of the Seamless TAG to date:

“Change starts with all of us, and industry collaboration is a huge part of making the greatest impact,” said Michelle Pacey, General Manager for Product. “Cotton On’s partnership with Seamless is an important step in the right direction as we work together with other brands to find industry-wide sustainable solutions.” 

The TAG is made up of Foundation Members of Seamless along with a range of clothing supply chain specialists including NSW Environment Protection Authority, Charitable Recycling Australia, and Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association. 

The clothing industry was further represented by A.BCH, Bassike, Future Fashion Agency, and the Australian Fashion Council. 

“The diverse thinking and thoughtful contributions of all TAG members have resulted in the development of a Constitution and the appointment of an Executive and Governance Board where joined-up thinking and action will underpin the delivery of ambitious industry transformation and optimal outcomes for all key stakeholders” – said Rosanna Iacono, Independent Chair of the Seamless TAG

In November, the newly formed Seamless Board will initiate the selection of an independent Chair, Directors, and the CEO.

Brands are encouraged to register their interest to remain up to date with Seamless.

Womenswear giant Sussan Group joins Seamless Foundation Members

The Australian Fashion Council is proud to share that the Sussan Group (Sussan, Sportsgirl & Suzanne Grae) have proudly signed on as a Foundation Member of Seamless, Australia’s national clothing stewardship scheme that aims to make Australian fashion and clothing truly circular by 2030.

The landmark scheme has been set up to change the way Australians consume and recycle their clothes and reduce the 200,000 tonnes of clothing that goes to Australian landfill each year.

The Sussan Group is delighted to join fellow Foundation Members David Jones, Big W, Rip Curl, RM Williams, Lorna Jane and The Iconic. “Together we are working towards shaping a sustainable future for the fashion industry,” Group Retail CEO Rebecca Hard said.

“The Sussan Group is looking forward to helping shape the conversation and recommendations for the proposed scheme. We are excited to be working alongside our Seamless partners on potential solutions to solve the issue of textile waste,” Ms Hard continued.

"It is so pleasing to see Sussan Group stepping up as a leader in our industry by becoming a Seamless Foundation member and making a genuine commitment to the future of the Australian fashion industry,” said Danielle Kent, Project Director of Seamless. “These organisations will play a pivotal part in building the foundational elements of the scheme and ensuring it has the best chance of success.”

The National Clothing Product Stewardship Scheme design and the Roadmap to Clothing Circularity will drive the industry towards clothing circularity by 2030 through:

Register your interest for Seamless