Posted On Apr 17, 2017
Squeezing our bodies into form-fitting undergarments that can nip and tuck without any surgery has been a women’s secret weapon ever since the needle and thread were invented. From corsets and girdles to present day Spanx and push-up bras, we have performed contortions to knead our bodies into hourglass shapes, that are worthy of an Oscar. Are we comfortable? It depends on who you ask. Most of us dream of slipping on a muumuu the minute we get home from work. So imagine our surprise when we reviewed a new line of shapewear that not only promised to replace your bra but also allowed you to shop for your style via a direct-to-consumer business model (think Tupperware). Anna Zornosa, CEO of Ruby Ribbon, is the woman behind this exciting new brand that’s empowering women to go bra-free. The corporate powerhouse founded her company in 2011 in response to negative experiences she and her friends had while shopping for undergarments. We stole some moments with Zornosa to learn more about Ruby Ribbon’s revolutionary shapewear designs that allow you to even go bra-free.
What inspired you to design shapewear that would replace the bra?
I actually did not design shapewear that would replace the bra. My ambition was simply to take a product category that was known for discomfort and ugliness and make it comfortable and pretty. When we brought these products out, and we explained the support, women started saying, ‘oh my gosh, this isn’t just shapewear, this is a bra replacement.’ I haven’t met too many women who will tell you that they like their bra. If you could get them out of their bra with something that was really comfortable and really pretty they would jump at that notion, so we were just completely surprised that we started out making the best shapewear in the market and ended up making the best bra replacement in the market as well.
How does the bra replacement concept work?
Our shaping camisoles hold in place right at your hip. They can be paired with a shaping brief so that you have sort of an all-in-one catsuit but very often a woman will just wear a shaping brief. So it starts around her hip and it goes up over her shoulders and the thing that has made the Ruby Ribbon Intomi™ so unique is that we use variable compression. Most shapewear in the market uses uniform compressions where everything pushes in the same way and everything pushes out the same way. We use seams and release points to actually have portions of the garment that are doing the shaping and portions of the garment that isn’t so you don’t spill out of the shapewear where it doesn’t exist. We’re actually making intelligent decisions about what’s getting shaped and how it’s being done.
How do you prevent, for example, shapewear petticoats from sliding up your legs?
Most shapewear, because it’s shaped, starts to migrate towards the smallest place on your body. Ours doesn’t do that. I knew that one of the things we had to address was how to keep the product down. We use something very distinctive to us, called the invisible gripper edge. It is silicone heat sprayed to the edge of the garment so that where you put that silicone, it actually sticks to your skin and stays down all day. One of the things that made me the happiest of all the experiences I’ve had with Ruby Ribbon is that nurses will choose to put on our camisoles before 18-hour shifts. You’re not going to put something on during an 18-hour shift that you’re going to have to adjust and move around on you. They wear it because it’s so comfortable and it gives them support and it stays down all day. People who are busy in professions where they cannot be fussing with undergarments love this undergarment.
What about people in very warm climates? Does the fabric breathe?
Yes, the fabric is wicking so it actually takes heat and moisture away from your body. Some of our biggest markets are places where comfort is important such as Florida, Texas, and Southern California. This product is a lot more comfortable than a bra in really hot, sticky weather.
Have you ever thought of making something that is almost nude?
We make things in pale, like for a Caucasian woman so that it’s very like her skin tone. We make them in mocha and caramel for women of color so that it would also blend into her skin tone but we haven’t done something that is completely sheer like something that is so sheer that you might see nipples and things under it but we do have colors that are intentionally designed to blend into the skin tone.
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome?
I wanted to invent products that hadn’t been invented before. I’ve started and sold other companies and the bar that I put on this one, which I funded for myself until we became venture capital funded, was if I couldn’t figure out how to make shapewear comfortable, I was not going to start the company. It broke my heart, the idea that women wear shapewear at these entirely emotional moments of their lives – weddings, graduations, awards, funerals – and the idea that at those exact moments in life they were looking for something to give them more confidence, but instead, it was giving them pain. So that was a huge challenge.
How long did it take you in the initial capital state?
I had done business plans before so I can move a little bit faster than most people so I think from the time I first started having the idea to a time where I got my first funding was a year. That’s pretty quick but I put a lot of my own capital in the beginning to speed things up to find the contractors and things I needed. So that was one challenge. Now, I don’t know if you know this about Ruby Ribbon but we’ve also created, at this point in time, over 1,800 jobs for women – jobs that they can do when they want and how they want. We’ve done this while giving our customers incredibly personalized service. All 1,800 women who sell our products work for themselves. Some of them have had sales experience before, some of them have worked in boutiques and athletics, some of them were personal stylists, but some of them hadn’t sold clothes or done sales before. So one of the challenges that I have had to embrace early on is that as much as my company was making a unique product line, what really mattered was teaching women the skills to be entrepreneurs with selling skills, managing skills, and coaching skills. We’re as much a training company as we’re a clothing company.
What is the feedback from some of these women out in the field?
First of all, I want to say that it’s a work in progress. There’s not a market in the United States that has enough representation of Ruby Ribbon. The thing about our product is it is completely universal in appeal. We have stylists who have sold to high school cheer squads and we have stylists who have sold in assisted living homes so there’s still much need for our product and yet we’re still at a stage where there’s no representation in the majority of markets.
How do people buy it if they don’t know somebody selling it?
They can purchase it from the website (www.rubyribbon.com) but we would like them to purchase from a stylist so that they really get the service that’s associated with a stylist. For the most part, the stylists find the stylists. A woman will start to represent the product and she’ll invite her sister to take a look or she’ll reach back out to her sorority sisters where she went to school. Her customers will fall in love with the product and realize that she drove an hour to get to their market and that their market could use a representative so the stylists find the stylists and that’s fantastic because the stylists then go forward to help each other, train each other, and make sure they’re successful.
What is next on the market?
At the end of April, we are introducing RR swim. It’s our very first swim line. It’s something that our customers, women, have been asking for for a long time – a swim product that has the same properties as our camisoles. There are one pieces and two pieces that will have the same shaping properties as our camisole so for most women when they put this swimsuit on, they are going to look 10 pounds slimmer and they are going to have a waist that is an inch smaller. This is truly a flattering line of swimwear that is still comfortable and still does not have underwire.
Where did the name Ruby Ribbon come from?
There is a parable in some Asian countries that if two women love each and they’re not related, all they have to do is put their two fingers together and bind them with a red thread and they’re sisters for life. So Ruby Ribbon comes from the red thread of that parable. The fact that any woman can be a sister to another woman, love another woman, and all it takes is a little connection between us.
What has been the most heartwarming feedback you received?
I have had so many women cry. It was not our intent and we don’t view these products as therapeutic, but there are some women who have fibromyalgia and they can’t wear an underwire, there are women who’ve recently had a mastectomy and they can’t wear an underwire. There are a lot of reasons why women can’t wear an underwire. The most beautiful thing that happens is when we give a woman a product that makes her feel feminine, beautiful, and comfortable while answering to something she had no idea existed.
And it doesn’t squash your body and ruin your body, right?
We don’t believe in uniboob, pancake butt, none of that. All of our products are lifting and embracing of a beautiful figure.
Ruby Ribbon’s Golden Rules of Shapewear
Wear one, Rest one, Wash One
Just like a bra, you’d never want to have just one! So remember these important rules:
Step into all of your shapewear garments and make sure the invisible gripper edge rests flat against your skin.
It’s important to give your shapewear at least one day of rest between wears so the memory kicks in and gives you a fresh hug.
Machine wash garments on delicate cycle on cold water. Avoid harsh chemicals, and choose a gentle or lingerie detergent. Lay flat to dry.