La Belle Femme: Lifting breasts and self-esteem
IT'S not like she's performing heart surgery or dispensing life-saving drugs, but to hundreds of full-figured Jamaican women, Donalda Reid is a God-send.
She is the energy behind La Belle Femme, a retail bra outfit that prides itself on getting women to eliminate muffin tops and other bulges by wearing their correct sizes. The concept she said, emerged from her own struggle of walking from store to store to find a bra that fit comfortably.
"It's very simple: I didn't have any idea where I would buy a bra and I figured if I had a problem, then I was not alone," Reid told All Woman. "The problem is that most women have very tiny backs but are not necessarily tiny in the bust area, and that kind of size is very hard to find in Jamaica, so I figured there was a niche."
So she ventured out and judging by comments from first-time and repeat clients alike, she's been gifting women not just with great fitting bras, but self-esteem boost, too.
"I love the fun materials that they use and I can also get my size in print, which almost never happens in Jamaica. I spent $8,900 for my bra and it was definitely worth it. The way the bra fits my body, it takes a few pounds off my bust area, so I actually look smaller than I am and I love that," said Charlene Michael, after being fitted with a size 36GG at the Knutsford Court Hotel earlier this month.
The size difference came as a surprise, she said, as other stores usually fit her at 42DD.
Kibby-Ann Dixon had a similar experience.
"I know I'm not a 32DD, and the 32D will fit, but it was still lacking. So I came here and I bought a 32GG and it fits perfectly. My boyfriend saw me fitting and he told me not to take it off, and I'll definitely be coming back for more," she said.
"The bra gives good support, especially for my size breasts and it's actually lifting (them). When you enter the store the assistants will take your measurement and from there you start fitting and I think it's much more accurate this way," she added.
Camille Michael-Patterson had gone for a fitting a few months ago, but decided against making a purchase at the time and went to another store instead.
"[But] I had to come back because it wasn't the same," she confessed. "Here, you get personalised shopping experience and they will not send you out in something that doesn't fit. I look much better in my clothes and hubby definitely likes the sexier look that the bra gives me. He is willing to pay the money for that perfect fit."
La Belle Femme's prices range from approximately $3,000 to $9,000. Regardless of that, however, women are eating up the products and Reid said it is primarily as a result of the range of sizes she carries.
"We carry a much wider size range and that's the bottom line. Most women think that if you go up to double 'D' that's as big as it gets (but) we go up to double 'K'. Our friends at Victoria's Secret carry 36 different sizes; I carry over 120 different sizes and that's what it is. The key is being in the right size," she said.
Her best selling size, Reid says, is 34FF, which is where many women who previously wore 34DD end up. One of the problems, she explained, is that they buy bras in the same size even if the style and brand are different.
The secret to that perfect fit, according to Reid, lies in the engineering of the bra.
"The bra is made up of two components: the number -- which is how big your rib cage is -- and the letter -- which is how much breast volume you have. If you are a woman with a tiny rib cage you would be amazed at how quickly you can get to a 'D' cup. So when I put women into a bra that is the right size, they are almost always shocked." Reid said.
That's something Dawn Batts can relate to.
"I was amazed at the size they gave me, I was wearing the wrong size all along," Batts said. "The coverage is good and the bras definitely give you more support.
"I admire the personal attention that they give you and it's good to talk to someone who really knows what they are doing. I shop in the States and they will fit you and tell you that's the one (but) when you go home it's a whole different thing, so I love shopping here," she added.
The outlet, which started out as a one-woman business in 2011, has grown over the years and Reid now employs four assistants. The store is based in Montego Bay but they do frequent fit and sale sessions in Kingston.