1) Can you share your founding story? What was your inspiration for creating Cosabella?
I became involved in the lingerie world by chance after my husband Ugo took a job in Miami in the early ‘80s. Although it was a temporary move, I still felt the need to keep myself busy with some sort of hobby. My so-called hobby started with a bunch of cotton underwear samples sent from my friend back in Italy.
I tested the market in the United States and quickly realized there was a void for luxury Italian-made cotton underpinning. My insight and first successes prompted my husband to leave his job as an engineer and commit to a new venture together.
The American market was much more open to innovation and novelty than the very traditional Italian lingerie market. We experimented with new materials like stretch mesh and burnout fabrics in bright colors inspired by the ready-to-wear runways, instead of the usual muted shades or neutral intimate tones. Pretty soon Cosabella became recognized as the innovative and fun “in and out” lingerie that could be worn not just at home, but also for going out. And the rest is history.
2) You’ve been in business for 39 years, which is a tremendous accomplishment — congratulations! We’re sure this wasn’t easy, but you persevered and are now globally recognized for your quality Italian craftsmanship, beautiful colors, silhouettes and size/gender inclusiveness. What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs just starting out?
Be open to opportunities and take chances. If you have a project you truly believe in and are passionate about, then that is worth betting on. There will be ups and downs, there will be successful moments and less successful ones. Only great passion can help endure and overcome the difficult moments and achieve your goals.
3) We understand you’re also celebrating 10 years of breast cancer survivorship — that’s something to celebrate! Can you share a bit about your breast cancer journey?
Each woman reacts differently to that diagnosis that leaves her so vulnerable. There is disbelief, fear, anger, and rejection. I too had my fair share of emotional chaos and fear for a couple of weeks. Then I went into problem-solving mode. I read, asked, and inquired about all the specific alternatives for my diagnosis, focusing only on that and the options that science offered. Sometimes not much can be done, but fortunately, in my case, I could opt for total or partial amputation of the breast. Considering the grade and stage, there were many possibilities with which neither chemo nor radiation would be necessary later on. I opted for quality of life rather than aesthetics and put aside the body image considerations that came with my choice. At that moment the only thing I wanted was to tear that thing away from me and throw it behind me as far and quickly as possible.
4) How has your line evolved to address the needs of the breast cancer community?
Whether you’ve had reconstructive surgery, a lumpectomy, a mastectomy or have sensitivities to radiation or chemotherapy, it can be overwhelming to search for a bra that can accommodate our new bodies and our suddenly changed shape. I experienced on my own skin how a simple and once-gratifying moment like fitting for a new bra had become a reason for embarrassment and discomfort.
That’s why I wanted to design bras that could support women in that moment of their life. Bras that could be at the same time comfortable and practical, but also sensual and beautiful, in lace or fabric that looked nothing like a post-op bra.
5) Cosabella is well known for its soft and unique lace motifs, some taking as long as 3 years in development. Can you tell us more about the production process?
Our production process, specifically when it came to pre- and post-operative intimates, was extensive and research-heavy. When we began speaking to women who have battled breast cancer, one of the struggles was their loss of femininity and sensuality both in their identity and in their wardrobe. There are also technical aspects that must be considered — features like tubes for drainage, pockets for implants (if needed), easy wearability in the tender stages right after surgery, fabric that doesn't irritate the area, and wire-free support, to name a few. We took this feedback into account when we were selecting fabrics and designs, and I think we’ve done a wonderful job of crafting products that not only have all the technical features that are needed in this category, but also look beautiful, feminine, and sexy. We have seen the demand from our customers and have had positive feedback where women are finally able to find exactly what they are looking for!
6) We love how you use color and style to empower women to be their most confident selves. What tips would you give to a recent survivor looking to regain her confidence?
It is hard to give advice as we all react differently and every case is different. Increasing progress in treatment and early detection of breast cancer has led to improved survival for people of all ages and races, and for all stages of breast cancer. However, the psychological implications that come with the diagnosis and afterward are difficult and unavoidable. My only advice is to get back to your life, your work, and your hobbies as soon as you are physically able. Do not indulge in overthinking about it, do not let fear and insecurity take over more pleasant thoughts, and most of all, do not let your changed body make you insecure or depressed.
7) Finally, what’s one piece of advice you would give to a patient preparing for breast cancer surgery?
Once you know what kind of surgery and treatment you will receive and you are just waiting for the day that life will feel normal again, take your time and do your research on post-surgical intimates. You may be coming to terms with how your boobs and body will be different after surgery, but remember that this does not define you, and there are solutions to make sure you still feel feminine and sexy long after your breast cancer surgery.