Double Dee’s : Bra’nching the Lingerie divide for Busty Women in Kenya

Let me start by saying that I appreciate the irony of this situation. As a member of the fun-size community, bras are just another accessory. Do you want ribbons, Russian dolls on it? Bedazzled? You got it! I’ve never experienced walking into any lingerie store and being told ‘madam, hatuna size yako’. But the reality on the ground is, for all the praise that larger breasts get from society, they don’t get the support they really need. Literally. So when four women, Stella Langat, Charity Migwi, Constance Tipis and Millicent Njoroge, all in their mid-twenties had the idea to start a store that catered for the bustier females, it was a welcomed change in the local scene. TDS meets Constance and Millicent at the chic Double Dee’s boutique in the heart of Riverside to found out more about this venture:

How did you choose the name Double Dee’s

C: It started as a joke while we were shopping for bras. How we’d manufacture our own bras and we’d call it double dee… and we laughed because it sounded like a strip club’s name.

M: Even when we were looking for people to do branding, they were sceptical

C: But Stella followed up on this idea and when we were registering the company, the name had stuck…. Also, no one had taken the name.

Have most of you experience issues when trying to find bras?

M: Yes! We’re all DDs and up.

C: I’m the smallest at 34DD… my problem is I have a smaller waist size and a larger cup size. Stella has the same issue, she’s a 32G but a small waistband. Stella and I rarely found bras in our sizes unless we got them from abroad.

M: I used to be 38DD now I’m 36/ 38E and Charity is 38DD

[Image: Courtesy of Double Dee's]
[Image: Courtesy of Double Dee’s]
The aim of Double DD…. When you realised this wasn’t a joke anymore.

C: That’s a question we don’t struggle with because we knew where we wanted to go from the very beginning. That is, manufacturing our own stuff. We manufacture as well as retail other brands that exclusively deal with DD cup sizes and above. Our first exclusive line is in the works and hopefully we will be able to host our own fashion show like Victoria Secret’s Fashion Show. We want to build a brand that will be readily available on the continent.

But you did have Double Dee created lingerie at some point, didn’t you?

C: That was in 2015 and we called it ‘back to basics’. We also decided to redefine ‘nude’ colours in this market. It sold out as soon as it arrived! In fact, it was our families and friends that cleared the stock. We were also our own best customers!

M: We started with simple black and white version because we really weren’t sure what colours and designs the market really wants. So we went with a very simple, double strap, lace design to make sure they were functional and aesthetic. But those ones went immediately.

When did you launch?

C: We started the company in 2014. When we sought funding in 2015, we already had our first bra out and we realised that people saw this as a great idea. We decided we needed a lot more money to put out a line that’s exclusively Double Dee’s. The retail store would also be used to help raise capital towards that line’s creation.

What other brands do you have stocked?

C: We source from the USA, UK and Europe in general… brands such as Fantasy, Curvy Chic and Primadonna (which is one of our favourites). Sometimes we go to smaller brands that exclusively work with full sizes and select a few pieces that stand out for us.

M: This is also because we want to offer a variety to our clientele. I think we are all in the same school of thought but we wouldn’t want to restrict our clients. We want to cater to different preferences.

[Image: Courtesy of Double Dee's]
[Image: Courtesy of Double Dee’s]
Size range?

C: We start from 30D all the way up to M. The largest we had was a 42JJ and I remember the day it went. We had a client in for a fitting, which is an entire process on its own, and everything we tried on wasn’t fitting. So then I told her ‘I think I know the bra for you but I don’t want you to get shocked by the size’.

M: You know, even as a busty girl someone will show you your size and you’re mind just can’t wrap itself around it. There’s no possible way that that size will be perfect for you.

C: It fit perfectly. But the first question she asked me was ‘why am I not feeling the band’? Because she was so used to her straps digging in, so much so that she had discolouration in the areas where her straps are.

M: You’ll generally notice women with a larger bust tend to have tan lines where there straps are because the straps keep digging in due to the fact that you’re wearing the wrong size. Then there is also the common  scars around their band size because the straps keep digging in.

DD offers free fittings, and often share tips on how to tell it’s the wrong bra for you. Are these really common in fuller cups sizes?

M: Yes! That’s everyday life for a busty girl.

C: It’s like when we do a fitting here,  tell you to bend forward and jiggle. If there is any spilling out, you know there’s a problem with that bra and you’ll have to do what Millicent calls ‘panga boobs’.

M: When the four boobs appear, you need to arrange the boobs. This happens because the cup size is actually smaller than you and cuts across the boob. People will call it half coverage but in actuality it’s the wrong bra for you. This is because you end up having to keep tucking in your spillage or side boob. Those are some of the ways you can tell you’re wearing the wrong size.

C: Another is back band of the bra is raised on an arch. The band is supposed to be parallel to the ground, cutting across the mid-section of your back.

M: The physics behind this is the weight of your boobs is spread out across your back and your shoulders. This means that it’s not digging into your shoulders or pressing your rib-cage. But then when it’s in the arch, it’s risen up to get more support from the shoulders.  Now you’re getting shoulder and back aches. You also assume a hunched position because your body is trying to find a comfortable position and support the weight.

C: There’s also under-boob. It appears to fit well but underneath your bra there’s another entire boob on its own. We’ve also heard horror stories of people who bleed in that region because of sweat and friction from the underwire. It reaches a point you have to have constantly powder your boobs anywhere the wire touches. You can imagine that it affects your self-esteem to some extent.

M: Another indicator is when the centre of the bra doesn’t rest on your chest. It’s supposed to be resting there and if it’s not, that means that your boobs are in constant contact. So you get the bruising, heat rash, friction, and sweating.

[Image: Courtesy of Double Dee's]
[Image: Courtesy of Double Dee’s]
There seems to be complaints about the lack of variety… it’s all bullet proof vests for functional purposes only.

C: That’s why in the store we’ve tried to offer more than just the black bra. And if they are black, they have details that make you feel sexy. We want to bring sexy, functional bras that are affordable…and that’s where we are heading to because even as we speak we want to bring the current prices in our stores even lower. The only way we can do this is by exclusively retailing our own brand.

What is the current price range?

C: Four to five thousand. You’ll find in other stores they start from six to seven thousand and that’s for the smaller bras.

M: The reason why most companies will stick to the dull, unattractive bras for bigger sizes is it’s expensive to manufacture big bras. Rather than add lace, ribbons and colours, they opt for basic material, or the ‘nude’ bra which is actually beige, throw on thick straps and you have a functional bra. We want to offer the alternative which isn’t available.

[Image: Courtesy of Double Dee's]
[Image: Courtesy of Double Dee’s]
When do you expect your first collection to come in?

C: It’s a work in progress and we’re in the designing phase of it. Millicent is working on this and we pitch in with comments and ideas.

M: I’m working with designers to come up with something more presentable. By the time we got to the simple collection it was quite the journey. We started with a basic bra and then we tried to infuse an African feel to it which was a little ridiculous but we needed these prototypes to help seek funding. We had to show that this is what we’re doing,where we have reached and where we hope to go.

Funding you say?

M: Before we started applying for the competitions, we had a small Chama situation in 2013. We contributed KShs1,500 each monthly. It was a small kitty but it helped with logistics such as research and basic meetings. It didn’t bring in much but it taught us discipline and showed commitment.

C: Shortly after that, we entered one of the first competitions at Skidmore College and we came in third. We won $1000 dollars which was taxed to $600 since we aren’t Americans; but it helped.

We used that money to pay for the registration and legal aspects of the business. We also used it for the website creation. At the time we also met a graphic designer who really let us down and showed us not everything is smooth in business. He asked us for 80% of the fee for operation costs and we didn’t end up being able to use anything of what we go to back.

M: We enrolled in our first competition in 2014. Stella went to Skidmore College where she applied for the Kenneth A. Freirich Business Plan Competition and the Harvard Undergraduate Women in Business Innovation Competition. We won $25,000 and $2,000 respectively, which helped to create the start-up capital.

C: From the $25,000, $5,000 went to legal fees and the balance was taxed. We ended up with only $14,000. We then decided that the next best step was to open a shop to ensure the money worked for us… retail other brands and use it as a learning experience from the feedback we received. With that, we opened the store in June 2016.

M: It also helps that we were strategical about the competitions we got into. The ones we entered have an accountability clause where we have to show the progress we’ve made.

[Image: Courtesy of Double Dee's]
[Image: Courtesy of Double Dee’s]
You previously mentioned that you found it hard to find mentors

M: Yes, most people assume that we’re a bunch of young girls with a lot of money who don’t know what to do. So either they want to buy as out in the name of shares or they want to have more control over our ideas.

C: I think it’s our state of mind. I know it’s going to sound cliché but you can’t afford to not be at your optimum. When you stand with your peers, what do you have to show for it? If you are going to do something do it to the best of your ability, strive and be at the top. You said we can’t do it, we’ll show you we can! That’s how we’ve overcome most trials. If someone turns us down we take it as a challenge.

We heard you showcased at Miss Plus Size Kenya fair … without any product?

M: Yes! We hired a booth at KShs10,000 and didn’t have any product to showcase. We looked at it as a chance to do market research, and spend time with potential clients. We only had candy and a few banners at the booth but we ended up being the busiest stall there. It brought in so much traffic, and that really helped in the decision on what to order, what we’ll make in our collection and the price structure that would work. There’s no need to go into the market with your own ideology of what you think the market wants.

C: We gave free fittings too and realised that most people didn’t really know their correct bra size. We even had ladies that denied the sizes we told them they actually were. We had to gently persuade them to try their correct sizes.

 [Image: Courtesy of Double Dee's Lingerie]
[Image: Courtesy of Double Dee’s Lingerie]
Is that why you offer delicious treats like cupcakes and wine during fittings?

C: We always offer something to get you relaxed. Being at the shop, I’ve realised that most busty women have had a rough retail experience. You go to stores and nothing fits, you get frustrated.

M: Most busty girls I talk to express how being busty has affected their self-esteem. You’ll rarely find a busty girl in a sleeveless dress or plunging neckline. You have to change so many aspects of your life just because you can’t find a fitting bra.

How exactly do you do a proper fitting?

C: Disclaimer, the tape measure is only a starting point. It gives you a rough idea on where to begin. We actually start by asking you to take off your shirt so that we can make an analysis on how your current bra is affecting you.

We recommend that you make an appointment so you don’t feel rushed through the process. That’s why we also feed you, you need all the energy you can get.

M: We then take your bust and cup measurements.

C: The lower measurements have to be a little tighter… and the difference between the two makes up your measurements and lets us know your cup size.

 [Image: Courtesy of Double Dee's Lingerie]
[Image: Courtesy of Double Dee’s Lingerie]
What is in the works for DD?

M: In the next two years, we want to have an exclusive DD line where we don’t retail any other brands.

C: In the next ten years, we want to move the production here, still keeping the prices down. The only problem is there isn’t a company at the moment that makes bras in Kenya. People assume bra production is easy and patch work. It’s actually a science.

And the collection you’re about to put out?

M: It’s a work in progress but we’ve given ourselves two years. Taking into considerations how quickly trends change, we want a timeless collection and so we’re still working on the final look. We definitely want the names in the collection to be African and have even considered naming collections after ourselves to reflect our different personalities. Charity is the office girl –powerful woman, Constance is more adventurous and flirtatious so that line would definitely have gutters, stockings and lace. Stella’s would scream elegance and mine would be focus more on the functionality.

DD is also big on CSR [corporate social responsibility] it seems

C: We are really keen on women’s health and in particular breast cancer. We’re raising awareness and are working on a campaign to make Mastectomy bras more readily available and affordable.

M: One thing I love about us, we’re using what we’re selling. We’re invested in what we’re doing and tend to be our own biggest critics and supporters. If we are not willing to do something, why would we expect a client to?

 

 [Image: Courtesy of Double Dee's Lingerie]
[Image: Courtesy of Double Dee’s Lingerie]
We’ve noticed you’ve applied for a lot of funding  from abroad… aren’t there any avenues to receive funding locally?

C: The issue we’ve faced locally becomes ‘are you ready and willing to give them the terms they want?’ For example some want a stake in your company. Or what interest rate are they giving the loan to you?

M: Our pro and con has been our stubbornness. This  [company] is ours so when people come at us in a manner that they’d want to influence or own a part of it, or we feel trapped in an agreement that doesn’t benefit the brand… we shy away from those deals. It’s the longer route to work for yourselves but it’s that much more gratifying.

C: We never want anyone to change the concept of Double Dee’s and why we started this in the first place. We know that eventually we’ll get to the point where we will have to transform the business, and we’re open to it, but we first want to reach a point where we can stand on our own and we hold the cards in the conversation.

M: A common suggestion has been we should start with the smaller bras to raise the capital and then work our way to making the bigger sizes, but this already draws us away from the main reason we opened. We’d become like everyone else who started with big bras, realised its hard and decided to go to the comfort of  selling the more profitable sizes instead.

C: Another thing that has been a challenge, most people in the market are coming from a point where they’ve been buying bras for KShs500 to KShs800 from the Second Hand Clothing market. Therefore trying to convince them that buying a KShs4,ooo bra is a good investment has been a difficulty. We actually recommend potential clients to come to the store and experience quality products that will last longer and give you the support you’ve been long for. When you feel the difference, then you can decide whether it’s worth the money.

 

The idea may have been born out of necessity but the sheer drive and passion of these four women makes this venture a worthwhile experience. As we eagerly wait for their exclusive line, you can book your appointment for free fittings, have a cupcake and get some cute bras through:

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