A BRASSIERE to the untrained eye may seem like a simple piece of garment with hooks, straps and wires to hold it altogether.
But to the professionals, it is more complicated than cups and straps. To the insiders, it is 40 different parts that makes a bra what it is. Yes. Forty. And that it is just for the simplest of bras.
It’s no wonder why this is so. The earlier bras were made of stainless steel and weighed 500 grams. Not very comfortable by the sounds of it.
Over time, bras have improved not only in terms of wearability but also how fashionable and lightweight they are. They have progressed from mere foundation garment that covers, supports and elevates breasts. They are now an accessory.
According to Triumph Malaysia marketing manager Cecilia Wong, bras and briefs are no longer seen as just functional wear but fashion items.
“Women co-ordinate them with their outfits and they are not necessarily always hidden beneath a blouse.
“Therefore, every small part counts and has to be taken into consideration when designing the perfect wearable bra. The cup itself has a few parts - the outer and inner lining. The choice of material, for example, nylon tricot, polyester or micro fibre, is also important. Its weight has to be considered and which combinations works in order to come up with a better shaped under cup.
“Then there’s also the back panel, hook, straps, rings, slides, bones, materials and more. You get the picture.”
Hence, when the idea of holding a competition of lingerie design was mooted – and to first timers in this area of design at that – it got Wong rather “worried and apprehensive” about the quality of the creations.
“We want a designer to create something that jumps out and grabs our attention. All students can draw sketches. That part is easy, but sewing a bra can be quite difficult.
“It’s not just a show piece. They have to be creative yet design something wearable that lifts the whole bosom.
“But we were pleasantly surprised by the 84 students and their 300 entries,” said Wong of the work submitted for the Triumph Inspiration Award (TIA) a competition initiated to challenge young talent from 32 countries to design undergarments.
Themed “Female Fascination”, the TIA is divided into two stages: a national final and an international final. Winning the national final will automatically qualify the student for the international final. Their inspirational creation will then be presented to the international media and judged by a jury of internationally-renowned experts from the fashion, design and media fields.
In Malaysia, Triumph Malaysia has partnered with Lim Kok Wing University, with 12 students shortlisted from a hopeful group of 84 Diploma in Fashion and Retail Design candidates.
The finalists premiered their masterpieces during a grand gala night at Bintang Circle in Pavilion Kuala Lumpur in May and Merlin Yuwita’s A Gift For Marie – inspired by French queen and historical fashion icon Marie Antoinette –scooped the grand prize.
Surprised by her win in her first competition, the 20-year-old student revealed that she drew inspiration from the pastel colours and costumes depicted in Sofia Coppola’s biopic Marie Antoinette.
“I was really impressed by the soft and feminine mood of the pastel colours especially the combination of pink and blue of her clothes,’’ she said. The costumes reflected the ``classy yet seductive qualities of the women in those days’’, according to Merlin. ``That led me to my design.”
“All the works featured (by the other 11 finalists) were so nice. I didn’t think I’d win this because many told me my design would not work.”
Her design was strongly motivated by the appreciation of Marie Antoinette as a trendsetter. Merlin created the gift-wrap idea as a compliment to the former Queen of France for the everlasting dress sense that inspires fashion even today. She was adamant that her one-inch strap across the cups and around the body, to reflect the idea of a pretty gift could work, though she was told otherwise.
“As fun yet seductive as the fashion icon herself, my design is innovative, fresh and original. I combined the style of a half-cup bra and bikini, and added lace materials over the stretchable net that wraps the bra cups.’’
The result was an interesting texture effect.
“I’m grateful for the feedback and advice to improve my design. I will do my best to make Malaysia proud,” said the Indonesian national.
Wong described Merlin’s creation as different with a lot of detail and beautifully blended colours.
“She carried the theme through from the hair and make-up right down to the shoes. Themes have to be complete and well co-ordinated. That’s probably why she stood out.”
On the other winners, Wong said: “They all have their “wow’’ factors and their creations were well beyond our imagination. The one from Japan, for instance, was very bold with eyes for the cup and lips on the panties.
“They are all very impressive and it’s evident the students put in a lot of effort. Malaysia stands a fair chance but it’ll be very, very competitive.”
Triumph, she adds, hopes the competition will be well received and enhance the case for the design showcase to be turned into an annual affair.
“This competition gives the contestants a lot of exposure and Merlin, to me, is already a winner,” said Wong.
A total of 32 countries, including Brazil, Belgium, Britain, Japan and Germany, are taking part in the worldwide contest to be held in Beijing on July 31.
The winning piece will be produced as a limited edition and sold in selected Triumph stores worldwide. It will also be completed with hang tags featuring the name of the winner and its concept name.
The prize money is 15,000 euros (RM75,727), 10,000 euros (RM50,487) and 5,000 euros (RM25,243) for the first, second and third place winners, respectively.