Raise your hand if you hate wearing bras. Raise your hand if you hate wearing bras, but need to wear a bra for support purposes. If these statements resonate with you, you should have New York-based label Buzzoms, founded by Marshay Clarke, on your radar. The brand specializes in creating clothes with built-in bras that are comfortable and practical. Think minimalist dresses, tank tops, and bodysuits that all feature a special mesh construction on the inside.
The material mimics the function of a traditional bra, but without all the pesky underwires and straps digging into your skin. Your boobs rest comfortably inside the soft mesh pockets while the elastic band underneath holds them up. (I can personally attest to this.) Clarke launched her brand in January 2020 after she noticed how difficult it was for women with larger busts to find bras that complemented the clothes they were wearing. (Clarke herself is a size 36F.) “I started to look inward at the issues I was having and how I could solve some of the problems that I think other women probably have too,” she says to TZR.
The solution was clear: create everyday basics that allow you to ditch the bra, but that also still felt supportive. “Whenever I’m thinking of a design, I’m like: ‘What is a basic that everyone should have in their closet, which hasn’t yet been created for curvy women?’” Currently, her clothes with built-in bras range from sizes XS to XXL and caters to bra sizes 32A to 40K. Ahead, Clarke shares her journey in building her brand with TZR and why size-inclusivity matters when it comes to undergarments and fashion.
What struggles or challenges did you encounter while building Buzzoms?
We launched in January 2020, so we were in the thick of everything. I remember our very first launch. We dropped four pieces in three days before my factory told me that everyone had gotten COVID-19. So they had to close down the factory, and here I was, ready to release everything. I was going to have a three-week delay in all my shipments.
I think this [whole ordeal] taught me to be communicative with my customers and to establish trust [with them] — to be overly transparent with everything going on in the business. If you can make it through an era like this, I feel like you can make it through a lot of easier times.
How are the built-in bras in the garments constructed?
I call it the boob pocket, and we even got a provisional patent on it. Think of a bra shell that you would have in a tank top or a swimsuit. There’s a comfortable inner lining with a thick elastic band at the bottom. We use this breathable, power mesh fabric and elastane for comfort (and to hold in the bust). The material is very similar to something you might see in shape wear because it has that stretch and takes the shape of the garment. Also, we use bamboo fabric for the clothing because it’s more sustainable and a breathable material. Boob sweat is a real issue, so we use bamboo for its moisture-wicking [properties] and it drapes well on all body types.
Can you explain your “BFF” sizing process?
How [some] fashion companies generally decide their sizing for clothes is that they’ll start with a size two or four. From then on, they’ll add two inches or one inch to every single garment and proceed to call it a medium or large. For us, we took over 300 random people’s measurements and submitted them to our factory with the average [from those] and said, “This is what our sizing’s going to be.” To validate this, pre-launch, we had a survey up on our site where women could submit their cup size, band size, measurements, and their top and dress size. I also collected the sizes from women in my network. Then, I would find the average of all women who said they were a size “medium,” for example, and use that to inform our size chart.
Buzzoms Flawless Fit (BFF) is our label’s cup size chart. The concept of the BFF size is that standard sizing models did not include enough room in the chest. Our BFF sizing model has a bit of extra room in the chest to accommodate larger bust sizes versus the standard size chart. We continue to collect measurements always to refine our sizing and use fit models of different sizes (this is called wear testing in the industry) to try the clothes throughout the production process. Every time we make something new, we make sure that we fit into an actual body and numerous people. We want to ensure you get a piece of clothing that fits you properly.
What does it mean for you to own a fashion company as a POC?
It means a lot. Sometimes I get overwhelmed because I don’t have a factual fashion background. Since I only studied business, there was a lot of imposter syndrome when I first started. Being a Black woman, I think you tend to have imposter syndrome in many different spaces, fashion included.
That’s why every time I feel like I'm trying to make up for something. I always remind myself where I came from and remember that I can do it because I’ve gotten this far. For instance, I went to Columbia Business School on a scholarship. Then, I graduated with an MBA in marketing and technology and have worked at various finance and tech companies. Therefore, I can do this and I’m good enough to start my own business.
What is Buzzoms’ message as a brand?
When people try on a Buzzoms top or a dress, I want them to feel like: ‘This is made for me. I’m cool as I am. There’s no reason for me to try and do something to myself or to change something for myself. I have finally found something that works.’ There are a lot of women who are constantly questioning if the skin they’re in is good enough. And I say the answer is yes.
Which piece should a first-time buyer invest in?
I always say the tank top, which might seem boring. However, I say it because of its versatility. I find myself falling asleep in it, and I know moms who even breastfeed in it. Some people throw a blazer on and wear it to work. The tank top is a game-changer for basics, and people always order more of them once they buy one.
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