Leave it to a team of Pittsburgh women to design a bra that fashions bridge engineering into a support system for fuller-busted women.
Sofia Berman and Laura West, industrial design grads from Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Design, sought better breast support for different reasons. Sofia craved comfort. Laura yearned for a small chest band with a big cup that didn’t drag her down.
“We both knew we hated underwires,” said Berman. “They jab you.”
They went to work at AlphaLab Gear in 2014, a Pittsburgh-based incubator for manufacturing startups in East Liberty where Trusst Lingerie came to life. Trusst aims to revolutionize lingerie through fabric technology, they say.
The final iteration used 3-D printing to create cantilevers and trusses – hence, the company name – to lift and support the breast. They call the system BAST.
“Breast Advance Support Technology – is our internal structure,” explained Berman. “We built a 3-D structure that cantilevers out and has trusses underneath to give the breast support.”
The bra is more than a shelf with architecture, she adds. The patented foam trusses support the breast from below and distribute the weight, in the same way a truss functions under a bridge to support the vertical beams.
The truss – molded into the bottom of the cup – offers comfort and takes the weight off the shoulders, she adds.
A highly successful Kickstarter campaign raised $80,000 last year, three times the startup’s goal. The campaign received international attention, bringing in backers from more than 15 countries including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and Hong Kong.
Trusst has partnered with Garmatex, a maker of scientifically engineered fabrics that supplies an antimicrobial, wicking cotton material that lines the bras.
They launched a Trusst line of three bras this past fall, named after their mothers – Jessica, Susan and Marjorie. In November, they opened a pop-up store in the Galleria in Mt. Lebanon and now sell from their storefront office at 5125 Penn Ave. and through their website.
“Being able to try it on, feel it, find the right size, it makes all the difference,” Berman said.
“It’s like trying on a pair of jeans,” said Susan Banerjee, vice president of technology. “Being a material scientist, I can tell you that different materials play differently. Dyes can affect the straps. We are very specific in our fitting process.”
Trusst comes at a time when women are rethinking lingerie – a $13.5 billion-a-year market – and seeking greater variety and comfort. Traditional retailers like Forever 21, Topshop and Mango have increased the footprint of their intimate departments.
Women – especially millennials – want bras to be more comfortable. A study by the NPD Group reports 41 percent of women favor sports bras over body-poking, wire bras.
A sports bra may be in Trusst’s future, says Berman. For now, a J-hook in the back turns the bra into a racerback for even more support.
“Our internal structure is totally different than anything presented in the market,” said Banerjee. “We have restructured and redesigned to be more supportive, functional and pretty piece.”