My Brilliant Career:
Retailer demystifies the discomfort of brassieres
Businesswoman Penny Parolis believes that a well-fitting bra can make a big difference to a woman's self-esteem
What led you to set up Inner Secrets Lingerie?
Having started a distribution company with my son in 1994 that imports lingerie, swimwear and shapewear brands, and supplies retailers in Southern Africa, it seemed like a natural progression to go into retail.
On one of our trips to Paris, where we were visiting our suppliers at the major international lingerie trade show, they too advised us that we had enough experience and knowledge to branch out into retail. This was the push we needed to take this next step.
Our first boutique opened on the Atlantic Seaboard at the end of November 2005.
The motto and the ethos of our business is to make a difference in the wellbeing of every woman, uplift her psyche and make her feel beautiful. And our trained corsetiéres offer the service excellence and experience that go with selling luxury brands.
What are you most frequent requests from customers?
Because we specialise in bra fitting, we are often challenged by ladies, particularly with large cup sizes, who are unhappy about their shape and the discomfort of ill-fitting bras. Our cup runneth over - pardon the pun - when we find the correct shape to enhance and fit the client's bust.
Some studies have found that up to 80% of women are wearing the wrong size bra; what effect does this have?
The underwire should not hurt or dig into her flesh. This is not good for the health of her bust. If the measurements are wrong and the cup size is compromised, the bra straps could cause scars on her shoulders.
What five pieces of advice do women need when it comes to their bras?
- The back band must fit snugly, as this is the part of the bra that supports the bust;
- The cups must cover the bust without cutting the flesh;
- The straps need to be supportive enough without digging into the shoulders;
- The bra shape - half-cup, full-cup, control full-cup or padded - must suit the bust shape; and
- A bra should fit on the first hook and eye; this gives the bra its longevity.
What big work mistake taught you an important lesson?
Early on we added beautiful evening wear, but soon realised it was a big category that needed a lot of time and energy. And our passion actually lay in the specialisation of well-fitted lingerie and shapewear, which are the foundation of successful dressing.
What did you want to be when a child?
I had an inspirational mother who cared for people and supported all feminist advancement. These must have been what led me to choose a teaching career.
What do you enjoy most about the work you do?
I love the excitement of selecting our ranges together with our corsetiéres, and launching our brands simultaneously with the big stores of the world. It makes us feel that our business is part of the global village.
What would people find most surprising about the work you do?
That many women have no idea at all about how to shop for a bra and that the most common size they seem to assume they are is 34B.