Model Aubrey Ebony in pieces from Hanna Broer's spring underwear line
It’s finally spring. The birds are chirping, the sun is shining — sometimes — and we're pushing heavy outerwear to the backs of our closets. It seems like a good time to introduce a new blog series focusing on Vermont designers, stylists, fashion mavens and textile-oriented entrepreneurs. For this inaugural post, meet eco-friendly designer Hanna Broer.
Broer first started designing under garments in 2011, when she was still living in her native Montréal. "One day I needed underwear, so I made some for myself and had a lot of fun," she said. "I was working for a Montréal fashion designer, [Katrin Leblond,] at the time, and I got a lot of encouragement, so I made more to sell. I’ve evolved a lot since then, but that’s how it started."
Now, the 27-year-old designer lives in Craftsbury, where she makes all of the organic cotton bras, panties and loungewear in her eponymous lingerie line. Her work features nary a whisper of underwire, relying instead on high waistlines downstairs and sleek-yet-comfortable cuts upstairs.
Lace makes an occasional appearance in Broer's ever-evolving lineup of intimates, but, for the most part, she produces comfy underwear sets in printed and solid organic jersey fabrics. Seven Days caught up with the designer over email to learn more about her business.
SEVEN DAYS: What was that first underwear like that you made, and how have things changed?
HANNA BROER: My first pair of underwear was the wide-band panty style. I was working in a fashion studio in Montréal at the time. I was wearing a pair of baggy jeans — really baggy, like some men wear it — and I was so frustrated with having to wear shorts underneath, so I made myself some undies that would give a similar effect to the boxers that show under men's pants. One of them even had a plaid print. I've refined the cut since then for a better fit, but the style is still the same. I've added other panty styles since, and I eventually started making bras to go with the bottoms.
SD: Why no underwire?
HB: There are a few reasons. First, comfort is essential to me, and underwire bras can be very uncomfortable if they don't fit perfectly. Then, a more practical reason for me is they are very time-consuming to make, and getting the right fit through only measurements can be quite tricky. I'm slowly teaching myself to make them fit comfortably and reliably. There are people who do prefer underwire bras for support, and one day I might offer them, but I'm not there yet. I do offer some bras that are still quite supportive for not having wires, and I have many happy customers in all ranges of breast sizes, including in my XL and XXL sizes.
SD: On to materials. Where do you get your fabric? Is it hard to find organic materials, and how do you verify that?
Sierra McKenzie models Hanna Broer's spring line.
HB: I buy most of my fabric online from a few wholesale companies. It is difficult to find organic materials and especially organic stretch jerseys, which I use for my undergarments. I spend lots of time searching!
SD: Why do you hand sew? Couldn't you get a factory to make all your designs and save time?
HB: I love to sew! I'm a very creative and hands-on person, and I love being part of the whole process. I also think that there are starting to be many lost arts in our culture, and I want to keep the craft of sewing alive here. Eventually, if I can't handle all the sewing, I will want to hire someone,
or a few people, locally.
SD: What dictates how your designs change between seasons? For example, in 2017, you're using the same print in a variety of natural-looking colors. For 2016, you used more lace and added more loungewear to the line.
HB: I like to create inspiration boards for myself with colors, textures, trends and details that inspire me. Ultimately, the decision is often more practical. Some of it depends on what fabrics I can find, and which colors compliment each other. Some of it depends on the season; some of it comes from wanting to accommodate different body types, and it's all based on what I'm inspired to make.
SD: It looks like you recently started making swimsuits. Is that material harder to work with? Do you think you'll continue offering them?
Cait Lion in items from Hanna Broer Designs
HB: There are some challenges to making swimwear, and the material can sometimes be tricky, but it's not much more challenging than lingerie is for me. The biggest reason I haven't done swimwear until now is that I've committed to using environmentally friendly fabrics as much as I can. Since swimwear has to be made from synthetic materials, that has been a setback for me.
Recently I was able to find a company that uses polyester that has been produced using significantly less water than conventional polyester. I've been using that fabric for a small test run, and hopefully this summer I will be offering more swimwear made out of recycled polyester.
SD: What are your primary means of marketing your product?
HB: At the moment my primary marketing comes from social media (mainly Instagram
), and through Etsy