Kathryn: Candid Insights From the Corner Office
Kathryn From, CEO of Bravado and mother of two shares her candid insights from the corner office and the nursing lounge. Get the inside line on the company that has defined breastfeeding as well as the very personal journey of the woman at the helm.
Yesterday was one of those days. Not a bad day – but rather an enlightening day. It was a day that serves as a (not so gentle) reminder of Bravado Designs’ role in women’s lives. Bravado has the absolute privilege of being a part of the powerful journey into motherhood – the good and the challenging. We are there for all of it. And again, that comes with a real responsibility – one that we have always taken quite seriously.3:16pm on Wednesday March 28
For those of you following along at home, you know that here at Bravado we are passionately committed to supporting all mothers. For the past twenty years, we have strived to offer the highest level of care for all mothers. You see this in our product and you certainly see this in our community - we are all about support. This support often focuses on the more serious side of breastfeeding - from how to talk to your employer about pumping in the workplace, to negotiating and nourishing your baby in a public space, to breastfeeding through food allergies. And while we're extremely proud of the resources and community that has flourished to help women through these challenges - there is a fun side to all this as well - and that is fashion!10:31am on Friday August 19
It has been quite incredible to experience the outpouring of congratulations on the news that Bravado was purchased by Medela. Thank you for the wishes and also for helping us to grow to this place. While we have received many calls supporting our decision, not everyone shares our enthusiasm for our new partnership.
At Bravado, we have always been and remain totally committed to supporting every new mother’s breastfeeding experience – no matter how she chooses to define that experience. We passionately believe that every new mom must do what is best for her baby, her, and her family. Just as every child is different, we know that every mother’s circumstances are different: what might work for one does not necessarily work for another. We believe that the last thing that new mother needs to deal with as she juggles the joys and challenges of being a new mother, is for anyone to judge her on her choices. For almost 20 years we have consciously and carefully taken a position of non-judgement, choosing instead to focus on the support and encouragement of new mothers, all the while telling it like it is. Our candid, caring approach has been our signature – along with our much-loved bras and tanks, of course – during this wonderful, yet often challenging time of a mother’s life.11:54pm on Thursday April 7
LAST JUDGMENT IN PARIS: HIDDEN BUMPS, NURSING-LINGERIE UNDER-COVER and WHY THE WORLD LOATHES A BEAUTIFUL PREGNANT BELLY
I have just returned from the International Lingerie show in Paris. It's the world's largest professional trade show for the lingerie industry. I can assure that you've not seen nor experienced anything like it. Companies put on elaborate fashion shows featuring the latest in lingerie. Part of the focus is a catwalk on which (I must say, hurray), even those professional lingerie models have bits that jiggle as they walk! The floor is littered with scantily-clad (and I do mean scanty) models teetering along in 5 inch heels wearing nothing but teeny push-up bras and g-strings. A booth near us hosted a burlesque show every 2 hours that featured models stripping down to sparkling tassels on their nipples, which they spun in time to the music. And who could forget the woman parading around in a full see-through fishnet body stocking and nothing else? My description cannot do this place justice – picture a Victoria's Secret fashion show, remove a lot of fabric, multiply by 100 and you might get the idea.
Bravado exhibits at this show. Much like at other shows where we highlight our wares, we include our own model. In our booth we feature a local, beautiful pregnant woman with the singular goal of better showcasing our collection to buyers. This year our model was Sam – she was 30 weeks pregnant with her second child, and simply radiated motherhood, warmth and beauty. After losing two babies – including one at 20 weeks – she was understandably joyous, proud of the impending arrival of her newborn, and she literally glowed. She was funny, warm, energetic, and eager to do a good job. She looked simply beautiful – complete with her lush curves which were modestly – certainly by this show's standard – covered.
Sam attracted a lot of attention. Major French and Italian television stations filmed her, as did numerous smaller international ones. Journalists popped into our booth. Customers loved her warmth and her ability to showcase our products. Italian men called out "Bella Mama" as they walked by, and I lost track of all the well-wishers, double-takes with smiles, and congratulatory remarks that she received.
All in all, you could say that it was a great 3 days for showcasing the beauty of pregnancy and motherhood, not to mention the commitment Bravado has made to creating wonderful products specifically suited to a woman's changing body, her changing needs and her desire for both care and comfort. Except. Except...
Except for the looks of disgust – and no, that is not too strong a word – that Sam engendered from more than a few passersby. The frowns, the disdainful glances, the muttered whispers. The pointing, the sneers and the general looks of horror that a pregnant woman dare to show her curves. And just who were these people? Not men (young or old), not conservatively-dressed women. No, the primary attackers were young, fashionably dressed European women, too stylish for their own good and apparently too hung up on their own selves to appreciate that beauty comes in many forms.
This was not a question of someone being offended by partial nudity. This was a judgment that pregnant women should be hidden away, covered up and shoved in the closet until they are no longer offensive to look at. And this I am afraid is spot on with the American outcry at the Curve show as featured in the New York Times. So this prejudice seems to know no boundaries geographic, industry (yes this happened at the ABC Kids Show as well) or otherwise – and still we show up. We are, and we have, Bravado.
At Bravado, our primary goal is to support a woman at the most wonderful, yet challenging time of her life: having a baby. Yes, we provide her with the products that she needs to successfully navigate through pregnancy and new motherhood. But above all we offer her support and comfort in the larger sense: tools, encouragement and a sense of community that bolsters her self esteem and sends her with confidence onward to make her own personal choices. We are incredibly proud to stand up and shout from the rafters that pregnant women are beautiful and inspiring, as they literally create new life. And we will not bow to nay-sayers and those who stand in judgment.
At the show, Sam took the negative looks in stride and her smile never wavered... at least publicly. Privately she acknowledged that it was difficult to be on the receiving end of negative judgments that a pregnant woman has no business showing her belly. Remember, this was a trade show – not open to the public – and there were literally hundreds of virtually naked women parading around, flaunting their barely-there outfits. Sam looked fully-clothed in comparison.
I was very proud of Sam and her ability to showcase motherhood at its finest. I am ashamed that in this day and age, at a trade show where nudity is de rigueur, that the biggest obstacle to promoting pregnancy as a time of beauty was the young modern women who will one day be walking in Sam's shoes.2:33pm on Thursday February 10
I watched the new PSA from WIC New York – the one that has everyone talking. Basically, it’s a woman who touts breastfeeding as the ultimate weight loss tool. Some are screaming that the ad is condescending to the lower-income women to whom it is targeted; others say that even the most brilliant ad in the world won’t work when there isn’t enough support for breastfeeding mothers at home, at work or in society at large – implying that perhaps this ad is, indeed, brilliant.
When I watched the ad, I was initially shocked, then horrified. I kept waiting for the punchline, sure that it was a joke or satirical Saturday Night Live – style ad. Nope, it was serious. The breastfeeding supporter side of me is disgusted that the PSA is so “light”, so callous, to put a new mother’s insecurities about her weight at the forefront of reasons to breastfeed.... and, frankly, not just in the top 5, but really, THE number one reason to do so. It reminds me of a newspaper column I once read about a journalist’s decision not to breastfeed because she didn’t buy into the argument that breastfeeding helped a new mother lose weight – she figured she’d do a better job on the treadmill. I was livid – what a terrible message to put into the heads of new moms: that, really, breastfeeding is all about getting back into your old jeans as quickly as possible. I ranted about that article for days to anyone who would listen. It speaks to a much bigger issue, perpetrated by the media, that we all need to be focused on how we look. I’m as vain as the next person, but c’mon folks – seriously – you’d think that after going to all the trouble to have a baby in the first place, that a new mom isn’t so shallow as to exclusively focus on her appearance right after giving birth. At least I’d hope so.4:42pm on Thursday November 4
Recently, there have been books and blogs written by moms as a warning to those thinking about having children. Kids are expensive, they take away any free time you may have, and they will hurt your relationship – let’s face it, they ruin your life! No more free-wheeling vacations, partying all night or sleeping in.
No question, having children changes your world – actually, the most apt description might be that kids blow it up and rearrange the pieces. And, as I spent 45 minutes at 2 a.m. last night massaging Logan’s foot cramp while bouncing Riley on my lap until finally succumbing to giving her a bottle just to get her back to sleep (I know – bad mummy, but at a certain point you do what you have to do) – I confess to longing for uninterrupted nights. However, I honestly think that I am a better person for having had my children. Here are my top ten reasons.
1. Only wusses need 8 hours of sleep: You learn that not only can you survive, you can actually thrive on 4 hours of sleep a night. Having a full 8 hours of sleep is like a mini-vacation without the price tag.3:42pm on Tuesday September 7
I have a confession to make. Not necessarily a good one, given that I own a nursing bra company. Stay with me though, as there is a happy ending.
In 1997, when I was talking to Shery (my business partner) about joining Bravado as co-owner, I didn’t think that there was any reason that I couldn’t get involved in the business, and not – gasp – formula feed my future offspring. I had discovered Bravado through my consulting business and fell in love with its potential and the founders’ passion for the subject. I knew that Shery and her original partner Denyse were onto something special with their Original Nursing Bra, which garnered huge word of mouth buzz by moms in-the-know. So what if I didn’t share that same passion for breastfeeding? My passion was in building a solid business, and Bravado was, to me, very cool and very niche. I loved the company and its mission “to help promote a new mother’s self-esteem at this wonderful yet challenging time of her life”. However, I was very ambivalent about the whole concept of nursing for myself. This was of course something that I kept very private, as you can well imagine what my passionate breastfeeding advocate partner Shery would have had to say on the subject!3:31pm on Tuesday August 3