Curve model and fashion columnist Jenny Rieu.
Curve model and fashion columnist Jenny Rieu is the face of the new Bloom Bras campaign.

Michigan-native Elyse Kaye created a supportive solution for big-bosomed women.

Elyse Kaye
Elyse Kaye

Elyse Kaye is a runner, dancer and yoga instructor — and wears a size 31G bra. But she could never find a comfortable sports bra to fit her larger breasts. So, she either avoided certain workouts or experienced various discomforts when exercising, including “horrible chafing” from wearing two sports bras during her first half-marathon. “I had no skin left,” recalled the former Detroiter.

Armed with an idea, a thoroughly researched business plan and a lifetime of relevant experiences, this product-development consultant and fitness instructor assembled a unique team of individuals and challenged them to reinvent a sports bra specifically for women like her.

“Having been a consumer who bought every product on the market, I would have spent any amount of money for a bra that fit,” said Kaye, who now lives in San Francisco but has family, including parents Helen and Charlie Kaye, in Michigan.

Play Jewish geography with Kaye, formerly of West Bloomfield, and you’ll learn that she grew up at Temple Israel, was an avid Tamarack camper, graduated from Andover in 1994 and joined the largely Jewish sorority SDT while attending Michigan State University where she studied communications and public relations.

Kaye named her company Bloom Bras as a tribute to her late grandmother, Francis Bloom Kaye Tarter, who died more than 10 years ago from breast cancer.

“I kept coming back to the name because it was easy to remember and it tied in to my grandmother,” Kaye said. “We were very close and I got a lot from her, including my love of food, passion for traveling — and my big boobs.”

Kaye generated more than $36,000 in donations in a few days and sold out of her first order in 82 hours.

In the midst of devoting her career to helping others develop and market their products, Kaye wrote her own business plan for Bloom Bras because, like the old proverb goes: necessity is the mother of invention.

“I brought together minds from NASA and the shipping industry along with a celebrity corset designer to address this as an engineering challenge and not a design flaw,” she said.

After a number of prototypes and a manufacturing snafu (the factory that was supposed to make her bras backed out three days before the product was supposed to ship, thereby delaying the product release by almost a year) Kaye had the bra she knew so many women needed.The bra distributes weight throughout the back and sides rather than putting pressure over the shoulders and across the ribs. Other features include a mesh backing for comfort and breathability and a zipper in the front for easy use.With the tagline of “lift not squish,” the bra, designed without underwire, works like a shelf to lift the breasts rather than squishing them, explained Kaye. Her bra, she said, was designed with lifting straps and cinching cups allowing it to be customized to body and exercise type.

Setting out to change what she calls a dated industry, Kaye said her goal is to “empower women of all shapes and sizes to feel good when moving around, whether it’s their first Zumba class or running their first half marathon.”

A woman performs a one-handed handstand with her arm out and legs spread in a split wearing a sports bra and leggings.Knowing how difficult it is to successfully turn an idea into a product, Kaye could have easily been discouraged — but she had an idea she believed in and a product she thought could help a lot of women. Turns out she was right.

Last summer Kaye turned to Kickstarter, an online crowdfunding campaign that allows those with creative projects the opportunity to showcase an idea and solicit funding from individual donors. Kaye was hoping to raise $20,000. Instead, she generated more than $36,000 from 341 supporters, with donations ranging from $1 to $3,500 in just a few days.

When she finally launched the bras (online orders only), she sold out within a few hours without spending anything on marketing. “Our videos went viral with people tagging and spreading the word before we even finished our first prototype,” she recalled.

While Kaye said that at one time she would have spent anything for a comfortable bra, consumers don’t have to spend a fortune for a Bloom Bra. Her product is only available online for $79.99 plus shipping. Sizes range from 28D to 44K.

Now that her first product launch is complete, this native Michigander plans to devote her next line of bras to pre- and post-maternity consumers, followed by breast-cancer survivors then older active women.

“The bra is truly a convergence of science, technology and fashion,” Kaye said. “This is an industry that has lacked innovation. Bloom Bras will continue to provide solutions that are healthy, comfortable and designed for the evolving female population.”

Jennifer Lovy Contributing Writer

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