WisBusiness: New bra with a natural touch brings relief for women

By Kori Freeman

For WisBusiness.com

Everyone enjoys the soft feel of a cotton T-shirt, smooth cotton sheets or warm cotton socks. Why should women have to compromise that feeling while wearing a bra? The Wisconsin-based creators of the Mili Bra are coming up with a solution.

The Mili Bra is a 100 percent natural cotton bra designed with comfort and style in mind. This product provides relief for women who experience irritation and allergic reactions due to the synthetic materials used in common bras.

Leena Palav, the Sussex-based entrepreneur behind the bra, became interested in designing bras with natural materials after experiencing discomfort with her own bras.

“I would get really uncomfortable during the day,” Palav said. “I couldn’t wait to get home and just take it off.”

Experiences such as Palav’s are not uncommon among women. Feedback from boutiques indicates that one in 10 women seek bras made of hypoallergenic or comfortable materials.

There are already bras on the market that are 100 percent cotton, but the Mili Bra is unique in several ways.

Most cotton bras are simply a cotton sheet with or without an underwire. Other bras may have cotton on the outside, but use synthetic materials in the inside padding. Some cotton bras contain cotton padding that loses its shape in the washing machine.

The makers of the Mili Bra have designed a “natural touch bra,” meaning the cup, the trim and the elastic in the straps are completely covered with cotton to provide the touch of natural materials to the skin. A patent has been filed. In future designs, the padding material will also be replaced with bioplastics.

“There is really nothing like it on the market,” Palav said.

The Mili Bra will soon be sold in boutiques and on http://www.amazon.com as a specialty item of mid-range price. Their diverse line of products would include sports bras, underwire bras, lingerie and underwear.

“I want to make good things accessible to everyone,” Palav said.

Her goal is to build costumer brand loyalty and the create awareness regarding bra material. Also, the current trend toward all-natural products and healthier lifestyles makes the Mili Bra appealing to the general public.

The natural touch bra reached the semifinals of Wisconsin’s 2012 Governor’s Business Plan Contest. After 15 years working in supply chain and product management with General Electric and earning her MBA, Palav became interested in entrepreneurship. She believes her work experience and knowledge has allowed her to come up with a competitive business plan.

Palav started her company in 2011 and the Women’s Business Enterprise Council has certified the Mili Bra as a women-owned business. She is currently funding her business through a personal line of credit.

Palav had a clear vision of how she wanted the bra to look and feel, and where she wanted to go with this product. She chose the name “Mili” because it was pretty, light and feminine. It is also a girl’s name in her home country of India. In the future, she wishes to invest in research focused on materials and breast cancer.

Palav believes the Mili Bra is an innovative step toward the comfort, beauty and health women deserve.

“I want to take it all the way. It is so important to give the best thing to women, material-wise,” Palav said.

— Freeman is a student in the UW Department of Life Sciences Communication.