Does Your Bum Need an Umbrella?

Did you know that restrictive shapewear garments can deliver a world of hurt (in addition to that perfectly smoothed silhouette)? Nerve compression, acid reflux, blood clots in the lower extremities — that's just the tip of the iceberg.

"Most health care professionals would recommend wearing these shaping pieces for no more than three to four hours at a time, thereby making them impractical for daily wear," says Tara Gallagher, whose career in marketing and advertising transitioned to practicing medicine as a physician, where she discovered the shapewear issues that prompted her to launch alternative undergarment brand bumbrella in 2012.

bumbrella is a two-in-one panty-andslip garment that prevents the twisting, turning and riding up often associated with traditional half slips while providing modesty and coverage beneath skirts and dresses. Gallagher was inspired to create bumbrella — "an umbrella for your bum" — by her own embarrassing experience wearing a black jersey dress to an outdoor funeral that unfortunately was revealed to be see-through in the bright sunshine. And her idea for the design came in part from the workout skorts that had become the staples of her daily exercise regimen.

"As active as I was, I never had to think about the comfort of my workout wear," explains Gallagher. "I wanted to bring this same kind of design inspiration to an undergarment that was completely lacking in the intimate apparel market."

Gallagher's mother executed the first prototype, stitching together a cut-up half-slip and underwear and proving the concept to be viable. As a newcomer to the garment industry, the physician researched product development on the Internet, partnering with a pair of industry veterans, including a pattern- and sample-maker with 40 years of intimate apparel experience.

She went through roughly 15 rounds of trial-and-error with different fabrications. "I remember thinking the first sample felt a lot like a bathing suit," notes Gallagher, "which is definitely not what I wanted."

Eventually, her team settled on a lightweight, breathable nylon/spandex blend with just enough stretch to hug the body and maintain its shape without squeezing uncomfortably.

Gallagher had to abandon her initial hopes of manufacturing in the United States once she discovered the dearth of domestic options for producing apparel with fourway stretch fabric. Her product development partners leveraged their long partnerships in Asia to forge a contract with a small Chinese manufacturer, which is especially fortunate, says Gallagher, given bumbrella's startup status and low minimums.

"I was initially hesitant about manufacturing abroad due to the long lead times and perceived lack of control," she adds, noting that the finished product has far exceeded her expectations. bumbrella offers two style options: a hipster panty and a thong, with a boy short version just about ready for production, all available in black, nude and blue.

Although bumbrella's sales are split 50- 50 between wholesale and direct-toconsumer at the moment, Gallagher would like to become a pure wholesaler in the future. Generating traffic to the bumbrella website has been an uphill battle, she says, along with attracting the attention of the all-important retail buyer. "The challenge is not only brand awareness but also creating awareness of a new product category within intimate apparel," she adds.

bumbrella may soon expand its offerings, as Gallagher says she's considering a longer slip length, new colors, and plus sizes. A children's line may also be an option — "I can't tell you how many mothers have said how hard it is to find a girl's slip," she
says — and a maternity product currently in the works will again leverage her medical expertise. "It's so important to consider anatomy, especially the changing anatomy of a pregnant body," Gallagher says.

"I have always loved fashion and am delighted I can couple my medical and marketing knowledge to create practical, modern problem-solving garments that are also fashionable and fun," she concludes.
— Jessica Binns

Editor's Note: To read about more interesting innovations, click here.
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