Nicola Jane: Restoring Lingerie Confidence Post-Surgery
Above: Nicola Jane’s Classic Comfort Bra (7009).
“One company, not only in the market to help women find the best post-surgery lingerie but also to
join in the fight against the scourge of breast cancer is Nicola Jane.”
During this month of October we are encouraged to think a little harder about breast disease as we observe Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast cancer is a life-threatening illness which affects the lives of many women. Not only can it create fear of loss of life but also of having to live with the possible loss (in full or partial) of one or both breasts.
Despite improvements in detection and treatment, the statistics are still daunting. The American Cancer Society estimates that currently one in eight women will be affected by breast cancer in their lifetime and for the year 2013 nearly 300 000 American women will be diagnosed with some form of the disease.
Research noted by Cancer Research UK reveals that every year in the UK around 12 000 women die from breast cancer despite the enhancements in treatment in recent years.
Thankfully, although there is currently no known cure, there is still treatment out there for this disease which is saving the lives of numerous women and many of them are living today as breast cancer survivors. With constant scientific research, it is hoped that a cure will be found for this disease.
One of the treatments for breast cancer is surgery. Surgery is a big decision as it can mean partial removal or full loss of one or both breasts. The implications of surgery are far reaching as a woman might have to choose to be “less physically whole” in order to save her life. Undoubtedly, this can have serious consequences for her psychological well-being.
Above: Screenshot of the Nicola Jane Website.
According to research reported by MacMillan Cancer Support, one of the UK’s most recognized cancer support organizations, around 75 per cent of cancer sufferers that have had a body change due to their cancer or treatment of it, experience feelings of embarrassment about it at some time. In our society, where breasts are almost worshipped, the loss of one or both of these most visible and defining assets can be debilitating to a woman’s self-esteem.
Surgery can affect the size and shape of a woman’s breasts and therefore how they look in lingerie. Expert lingerie advice can go a long way in helping women immediately after surgery and in the long term in living with changed breast geography.
Since breasts play a very important role in the lingerie industry, it makes sense that the fight against and recovery from breast cancer includes those of us who work in this industry.
One company, not only in the market to help women find the best post-surgery lingerie but also to join in the fight against the scourge of breast cancer is Nicola Jane.
Nicola Jane has been an innovator in mastectomy wear for over 28 years and was established when founder, Nichola Lawrence, realized that there was a gap in the market for post-surgery lingerie when a friend needed appropriate underwear after undergoing treatment for breast cancer.
I linked up with Customer Service Manager for Nicola Jane Mastectomy Fashion, Melissa Reeve and she gave me an overview of the company as both a retailer and a resource in helping women restore their faith in their bodies and lingerie after breast cancer surgery.
Q&A with Melissa Reeve, Customer Service Manager for Nicola Jane
Why is it important to give women lingerie advice after this type of surgery?
After breast surgery it can take time for a woman to adjust to her new body shape. Whether a woman has had a full mastectomy, partial mastectomy or a lumpectomy we cater to all a customer’s lingerie needs after breast surgery. It is important to make the buying process as easy as possible. At Nicola Jane we provide a wide range of mastectomy lingerie, designed to suit all body shapes. We feel it is crucial to listen to our customers’ requirements and give expert advice on which styles of lingerie will best suit their needs. There is often a misconception that post-surgery lingerie is more focused on the purpose rather than the look. We provide lingerie which not only provides a great support and fit but also incorporates feminine and beautiful styles with the added benefit of pockets to hold the prosthesis securely, restoring confidence and femininity.
In your experience, what are women’s greatest concerns about their breasts and by extension their lingerie after breast cancer surgery?
Our customer service advisers and fitters will speak to customers at different stages before and after breast surgery. Every lady is unique and has different needs from specialist lingerie and breast forms. For some ladies their greatest concern is getting back to ‘normality’ and looking themselves as soon as possible, this is usually through finding the right prosthesis and correct fitting bra. For other ladies it is about having the security and confidence in a great fitting bra, some ladies find after breast surgery they are left with high scarring or slight chest indentation, therefore they need a bra that provides a little extra coverage and sits close to the chest wall. Our camisole bras are a great option for these ladies.
What are women’s most common needs/wants from their lingerie after breast surgery?
After speaking to many of our customer’s one of the most common needs/wants from lingerie after breast surgery is beautiful, feminine lingerie that is comfortable, holds the prosthesis securely, provides great support and most importantly provides an even flawless look. All our bras and swimwear have been created by our experienced and expert designers, and have higher fronts and underarms to hide any scarring or indentation, plus fitted pockets to hold the prosthesis discreetly and securely, allowing our customers to live life to the full without compromise. At Nicola Jane we believe confidence in an outfit begins with a beautiful, great fitting bra. It is important for us to provide great value lingerie that is feminine and boosts confidence.
What are some of your most popular products for post-surgery ladies?
• Nicola Jane Best-Selling Smoothing Moulded T-Shirt Bra (7001) is evidence of the innovative and creative minds of our designers. This style was designed after receiving customer feedback and it becoming very clear that there was a demand for a seamless padded T-Shirt bra. The moulded cups are designed to disguise any difference between the prosthesis and natural breast, as well as covering prominent nipples. This bra also comes as a camisole version (7005), which is a perfect option for ladies that require a little extra coverage due to a slight hollow chest or high scarring. The ingenious addition of detachable straps that can be used as a halter neck, crossover or with the free set of clear straps, makes this not only a lingerie drawer essential but a firm customer favourite.
• Fitted Strappy Tops (V007) are a favourite with our customers. The ingenious built-in bra is softly padded with pockets both sides so it disguises any difference between a prosthesis and natural breast, also insuring that the nipple does not show. The high neckline has also been designed with our customer in mind, so that any high scarring or hollow chest is covered, providing the wearer with additional confidence.
• Our Classic Comfort Bra (7009) is available in cup sizes A-G. This cleverly designed bra provides firm support as well as boosting confidence with its great fit and feminine lace. The 3-section lace cup provides excellent support and a natural shape, whilst the deep front on this bra provides extra coverage and the elasticated cup edge keeps the bra close to the chest wall, even when leaning forward.
• Our Comfort Cradle Support Bra (7037) is an innovative new bra which features a clever foam cradle to lift, separate and shape the breast, giving an underwired effect without the wires. The reinforced straps give added support and comfort. The stretch lace cups have a nude cotton lining, designed to provide an even appearance on both sides.
There are specialised retailers like Amoena, Anita and of course yourselves, Nicola Jane who have a good range of post-surgery wear and consulting, but given the frequency of breast cancer infection (one in eight according to latest statistics), should the majority of retailers provide some kind of specialised advice for post-surgery women?
This is a very relevant issue at the moment within the lingerie industry, especially with an increasing demand for mastectomy lingerie on the high street. It is important that mastectomy lingerie is readily available to all ladies. However it is essential that customers have access to expert, specialised advice when purchasing a mastectomy bra. Every lady should be given the care and attention they deserve, so that they are advised on the correct bra to suit their personal needs and wants. Being a post-surgery lingerie specialist we understand the crucial design differences that go into a great fitting mastectomy bra and when you come to us you know that all of the products are designed for you. All our customer service advisers are trained to provide specialist advice as well as being trained to fit mastectomy bras, swimwear and prostheses. As well as our three shops in the UK in London, Leeds and Chichester we also supply many independent lingerie boutiques in various locations worldwide. Last year we saw a significant growth in US lingerie independents stocking our range, encouraged by our excellent price point and value for money; this makes the Nicola Jane brand more accessible to all ladies.
Above: Nicola Jane’s 2013 Real-Life Models Claire Grant and Susie Barker.
“Our Real-Life Models are an important part of Nicola Jane,” says Melissa Reeve. “We feel it is important for Nicola Jane customers to see our lingerie on ladies who have been through a similar experience to them.”
Above: Nicola Jane’s 2012 Real-Models Sue Randall and Jackie Poole.
Besides the physical products that you provide for post-surgery women, how does Nicola Jane reach out to women who need their confidence restoring in their bodies and lingerie after breast cancer surgery?
At Nicola Jane we understand that friendly customer service is sometimes just important as a great fitting bra. Our customers want to speak to a friendly sales adviser that can offer them expert advice. We often go above and beyond the standard level of customer service as is what sets us apart from our competition. We strive to build a relationship with each of our customers so they feel valued and comfortable every time they call or visit us.
We try to include our customers in as much of the business as possible, as it is important that our products meet specific needs and requirements. Our Wear-Testers are customers who have undergone breast surgery. Their important role is to wear-test all of our bras and swimwear, at every stage from design and development to product launch, this ensures our end product is to a high standard both in quality and fit. We also conduct yearly forums, where we get group feedback on the whole product range, giving us an unrivaled insight into what our customer actually wants and needs. It is a great opportunity for our customers to have their say in what our range should include for the following year.
Above: Nicola Jane’s Fitted Strappy Top.
We also feature Real-Life Models in our catalogues. Our Real-Life Models are an important part of Nicola Jane. We often talk to customers who find comfort in knowing that ladies who have been through breast cancer and have had a mastectomy, have had the opportunity to model our collection. We feel it is important for Nicola Jane customers to see our lingerie on ladies who have been through a similar experience to them. We hope by showing customers our gorgeous Real-Life Models modeling our lingerie collection it will help restore their confidence and even encourage them to apply for the following year.
It is also important for us to attend regular appointments in hospitals and support groups across the UK. This means we are able to meet with ladies who may not be able to visit our shops. During these appointments we offer expert support and advice as well as an introduction to our products.
The Nicola Jane team also takes part in regular charity events. This year for the 7th year running three of our staff members: Pete (Managing Director), Claire-Marie (General Manager) and Katie (Junior/Designer) took part in The MoonWalk London 2013. Together the team raised a fantastic £1086.00.
For further information about Nicola Jane you can visit us at www.nicolajane.com or call our customer service team on 0845 265 7595.