VAVA Lingerie is designed and sewn by Alyssa D. Woods on the Oregon Coast. Each piece is made to order using US produced organic cotton and/or surplus synthetic fabrics from the apparel industry’s waste stream.
I started VAVA in 2014 with just a sewing machine in the corner of my bedroom and some basic patternmaking classes. I was dissatisfied with every bra that I owned, and couldn’t find a bralette anywhere that fit my body. My typical size is a 32D, and I found that “small” bralettes left me spilling out of the top of the cups, while “mediums” left me falling out of the bottom of the band. Simultaneously, I found myself at a crossroads in my life- wanting to do something for a living that allowed me to work with my hands as well as my mind, that allowed me the freedom to live where I wanted to live, and to make a living in a way that represented some kind of a positive change in how we meet our needs and desires as a society.
I had gone to school for Philosophy, had decided that my previous plans of pursuing a career in law or academia were not for me, and then spent much of my 20s moving around to places with access to epic natural environments, finding work as a barista, bartender, or waitress. By 2014 I had solidly landed on the West Coast, was spending way too much time thinking about “stuff” and where it comes from, and was itching to work with my hands.
Lingerie appealed to me for a few reasons. It has always been my favorite part of my wardrobe. You’ll regularly find me in a shitty t-shirt and jeans with layers of lace hiding underneath. Something about that private indulgence, like a hidden identity that’s your own secret to keep or reveal, has always enchanted me. I liked that lingerie presented a particular challenge with regards to sustainability because all of the materials that we use for modern lingerie (i.e. lacy and/or stretchy fabrics) are synthetic. Because there are so many problems and no easy, clear solutions it felt like a place where I could be part of a progressive shift towards a more responsible industry.
And then there were the fit issues...
I was done with underwire for daily wear, but the S/M/L sizing of most soft bras just didn't work for my body. I also found that most bottoms cut for my waist were too small through my hips and thighs, and that even if the proportions were right I was constantly in between a size small and a medium. In short, most commercially made garments are not designed for someone with my proportions, and aren’t made with enough size options. I was always having to compromise somewhere.
The more people I talked with (by which I mean grilled semi-invasively about their undergarments) the more I learned that my frustrations were far from unique. Individuals with a small-band and large-cup size were looking for more comfortable bra options without underwire or padding and were failing to find anything that offered support or even a wearable fit. So were individuals with a small-cup large-band size, and the myriad of “plus size” individuals who are not served by the mind-boggling narrow size range that is commercially produced by the fashion industry. Even those who I thought were well catered to expressed frustrations and felt like most of their lingerie didn’t fit well. Everyone felt too straight built or too curvy, too short or too tall, their butt too flat or too round, their torso too long or short, shoulders too wide or shaped the wrong way- any number of the wonderful particulars that make our bodies beautifully unique had become issues to deal with as they were incompatible with the lingerie they could find.
Initially being a micro-business, doing everything myself, was a matter of necessity and a reflection of a bootstrapping-diy-ethos developed during my teenage years spent hanging out with kids who organized punk shows and wrote their own zines. I soon realized that it was also the best, and perhaps the only, way to offer the level of quality and service I desired. Working directly with customers allows me to make sure they are getting the best size, fit, and style for them. It also allows me to offer custom alterations to better suit their needs. If I’m honest, I’ve found that these interactions and relationships are the single most gratifying aspect of my work. They bring meaning to what I do, and every interaction is an opportunity to improve my craft and offerings to better serve the people who I design and sew for.
Building long term relationships is the crux of creating a lasting business. I also think it’s the heart of sustainability. People care more for garments they love, that they feel are perfect for them, and when they find these pieces they tend to stop shopping around for cheap alternatives. With VAVA as a tiny one-woman operation I’m able to keep everything tight with regards to customer service, quality control, and my materials usage and wastage.
I’m incredibly lucky to make my home on Oregon’s North Coast, nestled between coastal mountains and the ocean, where I get to spend my days hiking and surfing, tending to my one million houseplants, and designing and making beautiful lingerie. I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to do fulfilling work in a place that I love for exceptional people.
Really, I just want to create comfortable lingerie that fits, and that isn’t made by exploiting people or destroying the planet.
I’m here as a resource if you have any questions about VAVA, from fit and customization options to questions about my business practices. If you ever have any questions that you can’t find answers to on the website, as a customer or as a human, please don’t hesitate to contact me.