Canadian women who need a better-fitting bra frequent Secrets From Your Sister, whose two Toronto locations stock a whopping size range of 28-46 AA-L in hard-to-find yet in-demand brands, including Fantasie, Freya, Chantelle, Harlequin and Pleasure State.
The priority at SFYS, whose classy decor is French boudoir with a hint of the rustic, is fitting. All 25 women on staff are certified fitters, whose main job is to educate customers of all types on what they should be looking for in a bra. This is a service that's hard to find - especially in Toronto, says owner Jen Klein.
"[They're] young professionals, nursing moms, post-nursing moms, ages 20-65, all incomes," Klein said of her customers. "Women who want good-quality service and want a well-fitting bra. Women who know how important a well-fit bra is and would like to be helped by sales mistresses who know what they are doing and know their product."
The fit formula seems to be working. For eight years, Klein, who began her career in theater costume design, sold these bras - that's all she carries, bras and their coordinating panties - from a single store on Bloor Street.
Last fall, she outgrew that store and moved to a 1,400-square-foot location on Bloor Street with more fitting rooms. In September, she opened a new 1,200 square-foot store on nearby Yonge Street, and plans for a third store are in the works.
"Our customer database was growing so quickly we needed to match the growth and make room for more," Klein said. "Our new space allowed us six rooms and a beautiful, spacious boutique."
Fit isn't the end of the equation, however. The most requested brands are Freya, Empreinte and Betsey Johnson, and the most requested item is a seamless T-shirt bra, Klein says. But the bra can't just be functional - it also has to be sexy, with a demi-cup or plunge-cut or something to make it stand out.
"I think the [trend] in intimate apparel is that women want all the sexiness of a fashion bra in a bra with no seams that will not show through a shirt," she said. "They want it also to be convertible. I think to service the American desire of seamlessness, many bra companies are trying to fulfill this demand."
SFYS draws in its clientele primarily through word of mouth, but also does regular advertising through various media, including NOW magazine, local newspapers, Facebook, MySpace and a company newsletter. SFYS also keeps a database of customer files, which stocks information on preferred sizes and brands for easier repeat shopping.
Once they're in, customers are brought back by the one-on-one service, Klein says.
"Our service is unparalleled!" she says. "We enjoy bra fitting; we enjoy empowering women to understand how a bra fits well; we enjoy making women happy!"
SFYS also gives back to the community through an annual fundraiser. The Dead Bra Day Sale allows customers to turn in a dead, worn-out bra and receive 20 percent off a new one. Healthy bras are donated to the SISTERING, a local charity for homeless women.