Today I would like to focus on an often underrated but important topic: the bra. It sustains the female breast which, after all, is central to all our lifes since it plays an indispensable part in human reproduction.

Nurture: A woman breastfeeding her child. Pciture: David D (12. July 2014) CC BY 2.0
Nurture: A woman breastfeeding her child. Pciture: David D (12. July 2014) CC BY 2.0

The way this important body part is being clothed therefore should reflect its importance to humankind. However, the modern bra doesn’t seem to really live up to this task – wearing a tight ribbon around your chest all day must be a bloody pain in the…

Revolutionizing the bra business

If you’re struggling with the physical limitations of modern bras as well, Priyanka Thakran might have the solution for you. After co-directing the Bollywood film Rush (2012) and launching her own brand of organic nut based butters, this energetic entrepreneur from Mumbai recently decided to revolutionize the bra business by reinventing the traditional Indian angiya bra.

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Reinventing the Angiya bra: Priyanka Thakran. Picture: Philippe Stalder (March 2016)

I had the chance to interview Priyanka at the Goa Project 2016, after she presented her ideas for the first time to the general public:

What are the problems with modern bras and why is there a need for your alternative?

It’s like a love-hate relationship. You love the way they make your breasts look like but at the same time you hate their discomfort. Indian markets are full of bra options, but if you find one that offers comfort chances are that it is not looking pretty. Even the elastic ones which my mum wears do stick into the sides as well, and come with a design that can definitely be perfected upon.

I was also watching my cousin who is 2 years older than me having her own struggle with it as well. We were both well endowed when we were younger. She was even bustier than me, and kicked the bra before I could. Nowadays she prefers not to wear one at all. But, I think it can be a bit of a nuisance. We live in India after all. And you can imagine the looks we must get for going braless. So, I think there is definitely a market, because a lot of women feel the same way we do.

You address this issue by producing organic bras that contain no hard materials and are based on a traditional Indian design. How did you come up with the idea in the first place?

One of the most vivid memories I have growing up is one day helping my mum clean out these large wooden trunks called sandook in the home of our ancestral village. And out came just yards and yards of material. These were my grandmother and great grandmothers ghagharas (traditional Indian dresses) and angiyas (traditional Indian bras). I tried on an angiya and it was extremely snug on me and looked sexy at the same time.

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Snug and sexy: Priyanka poses with a new version of her grandmother’s angiya bra.

Honestly, I was quite scandalized by thinking about how sexy my grandma would dress back in the days. What I also liked about them is that they were made out of pure cotton. Organic cotton too, since all the other Bt and GMO stuff came out in the 60’s with active irrigation in the 90’s. So back then it was all organic. And these were soft and sturdy, and obviously had serviced woman kind successfully.
So, I decided to recreate the angiya bra and add a modern spin to it. Which means we use the technology and innovations in making it even more user friendly (easy to take on and off), not to mention more sexy.

Which designs are you going to use for your collection?

For the first collection I am focusing on creating 15 different designs in fabric and color variations. We want to create cups with Rajasthani quilting. And one of the weaves will be a basket weave, which will take on the shape of your body but also provide you additional cover. So it’s another option to the cup.

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Angiya bra: Form and comfort before convention and restriction. Picture: FUFA 2016

Also we are making an India-centric bra. These will be the colors and patterns of India. And there is an anthropological background to it too. I don’t want to compare it to the bra that is already there. Obviously that’s beautiful too. But ours will have a beauty and sensuality of its own. Call it the Mystic Eastern Bra.

Which position do women have in Indian society and how does it reflect in their clothing habits?

Indian women have the position of cows in society. We are worshipped and revered from afar, but how we actually treat our cows is criminal. When I was younger my mum was my biggest critic about what I could or couldn’t wear and especially the length and depth of things. But in India there is something called “marriageable age”. At 40 I have crossed that long ago, so, no one really cares what I wear or don’t wear anymore. At least no one in my family. However, for most Indian women the reality is quite different, they are not in a position to wear what they want.

Sexuality is still a touchy topic in India. Do you think that your bra can empower female sexuality?

I think my bra will first off empower female comfort. And if your sexuality is connected to your comfort, then that would be possible too.

You are in the funding process right now. How is it going along?

The funding project has been interesting and a journey of its own. I’m asking for 30 lakhs (45’000 Dollars) which is not a whole lot for a start up. A lot of my friends tell me they plan to back me but haven’t yet etc. But we are running out on time. And I wish we hit our target because 80% cotton in India is Bt Cotton. I used to help my grandma pluck cotton in the winter sun while visiting her on her farm. I know from first hand experience how detrimental chemicals and Bt and even Hybrid’s are to earth health. Unless we give incentive to farmers to grow organic they won’t. As consumers we have the power to create the kind of world we want.

Mumbai is full of start-ups like yours. How hard is it to come up with a sustainable business idea in such a saturated market?

Mumbai has always been the city of dreams for Indians. It’s full of challenges, but also full of opportunities. In Mumbai, you are never bored; life always surprises you with what’s around the corner. But that said. It’s full of opportunities and one has to just find one’s own.

How can we help funding your project?

If you want to help us actualize our dream by raising 30lakhs by April 18th you can do this on Wishberry. Wishberry is a win or lose platform. This means that if we don’t make our target, you will get your money back.