PatiJo’ is Italy’s first bra-fitting boutique for bras that suit women and not the other way around
If you’re a woman, you probably know how complicated it can get to find a well-fitted bra, that is comfortable and makes you feel good. Two incredibly resourceful women from Warsaw, Joanna Grunt (Jo’) and Patrycja Lewicka (Pati) made this their personal quest. In 2012 they opened in Rome, Italy’s first bra-fitting boutique where women go to find a bra that suits them and not the other way around.
The idea of starting PatiJo’ came during a shopping trip to London in 2011 where both of them discovered the ‘world of bras’ for the first time. “I had just given birth to my first child- Pati says- and I wanted to treat myself; I wanted to find a bra that suited the new shape of my breasts and I couldn’t find anything in Italy”.
“In London, all we bought were bras!” Jo’ adds amused. And in fact, they were so amazed by all the stores and bra fitting services in London that they returned to Italy with the idea of studying the bra fitting market in Rome.
Before the fateful trip to London, both Pati and Jo’ had been living in Rome for a few years. Pati had studied in Rome and was working from abroad with a designer company back in Warsaw. In 2010 she married her husband, an Italian man, and had her first child. She therefore quit her job in Warsaw and started thinking of a more stable future in Rome.
With a degree in International Economics, Jo has had a number of different occupations. She’s worked for the University in Warsaw and the University of Tor Vergata in Rome. Her latest occupation was with a luxury apartment rental agency in Rome. “But -she says- I was tired of my latest job, the conditions were really not great, and I couldn’t find many career opportunities in Rome. So I said to myself that I either started a project that was my own or I would leave Italy.”
After studying the bra-fitting market in Italy, they soon realized there wasn’t this kind of service anywhere in the country. “The more we talked to women the more we realized that there are many needs that are not met by standard bras”- Pati says. Your conventional bra fits a standard number of cup sizes, which in many cases is relatively limited, about five. It also mainly focuses on size disregarding the unique shape of every woman’s breast. A fitted bra on the other hand means it perfectly adapts to the specific shape of each woman enhancing her own unique silhouette. But “it’s not just a matter of aesthetics, it also has to do with health -they tell me- every woman’s breast is different and for it to be supported, the fitting needs to be perfect.”
Many European countries and the U.S. have a number of bra-fitting services in their cities. “We wanted to extend this ‘culture of breasts’ to Italy as well.”
“We wanted to extend this ‘culture of breasts’ to Italy as well.”
So, after spending a few months in Italy they went back to London and enrolled for a Bra Design and Manufacture master in the UK. They then returned to Rome with all the knowledge needed to launch their activity but it took them about two years to open the boutique they are in now, in Rome’s city center. “The main problem was financial. We started out with our own private funds so we really didn’t have that much money” Jo’ says. Their demands for bank loans were declined, they applied for both regional and European funding but received no positive answer. “Nobody believed in us” they tell me.
“The fact is that for this sort of activity you need to invest a lot of money in order to have ample selection” Jo says. So with a limited initial budget, their launch was incredibly slow.
They first started out by opening a show-room in a rented apartment in the Roman area of Marconi. “We wanted to see how it would go, if women were interested, you know, it was a period of economic crisis” Pati says. Luck struck when one of Jo’s good friends and model became their first client. Still in her newly fitted bra she sent a photo of herself to a blogger friend and a few days later PatiJo’ had its first article published on Vogue online.
It was only in June 2013 that they finally managed to move into their current location, in Via Paganica and open their boutique. “Money was a problem but also the incredibly long bureaucratic procedures really slowed us down, nothing was very clear” Jo’ goes on.
Since its opening in Via Paganica, PatiJo’ has been in constant growth. Despite the crisis, despite the lack of funding, they have clients coming from all over Italy. They’ve added a new employee to their crew, in the summer the number goes up to three and they receive innumerable requests to open a boutique in the northern part of Italy. To add to the satisfaction, Jo’ was awarded in 2015 the Money Gram Award for migrant entrepreneurship in the innovation category.
“How did we do it? Well, we really believed in it, it became sort of a mission. There was a lot of interest and we saw that women were happy; in many have written to us saying how bra fitting changed their life. This is why we kept going on” Pati tells me. The fact that they were together and the luck of meeting people who were happy to help them were also important factors, they add.
PatiJo’ is still the only bra-fitting boutique in Italy. There are other stores and online sites that claim to do bra-fitting but the service they perform is very restricted. They don’t actually measure your bust and breasts. “Our success is really mainly related to a winning idea. If you think about it, every woman needs a bra and for a slightly higher price than your high street lingerie store you get a perfectly fitting and supportive bra.”
Their next step is to open a boutique in Milan. “Funding is still a problem -Jo’ tells me- but I’m hopeful. It’s a project we really believe in, we are absolutely committed to creating a ‘culture of breasts’ that doesn’t exist in Italy at the moment.” A ‘culture of breasts’ that is made for women by women.
Photo credit: Federico Mariani
To learn more about PatiJo’ and their products checkout their website
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