Sisters Adelene and Carolyn Tan created Sophia Rose Intimates after their mother had a bilateral mastectomy in 2012.  Surprised at how few mastectomy bra options were available with support and beauty for a breast prosthesis, the sisters committed to designing a bra that would provide style, comfort, and quality for women who have undergone a unilateral or bilateral mastectomy or lumpectomy.  Made with elegant European lace and finely crafted without underwire, Adelene and Carolyn want all breast cancer survivors to look great, feel comfortable, and exude confidence.  Learn what inspires their design process, their advice to women launching a line, and how you can be smart with your health.

Learn what makes Sophia Rose Intimates different with their design, support, and comfort.

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Sophia Rose Intimates provides encouragement and support for breast cancer patients and survivors.

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Empowering Intimates

What inspired you to create elegant mastectomy intimate apparel?

My sister Carolyn and I were inspired to create a beautiful, comfortable, and quality non-wired mastectomy bra when our mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012.  After she underwent a bilateral mastectomy, our mom couldn’t find a mastectomy bra she found comfortable and elegant.  Her only options were plain and old fashioned, and she couldn't find anything that made her feel feminine and beautiful.  After talking to other breast cancer survivors, we realized there were other survivors in the same situation.  We couldn’t believe there were so few lingerie brands for breast cancer survivors, especially given the size of the lingerie industry!  We started Sophia Rose Intimates when we were home spending time with our mom after her bilateral mastectomy.  My sister came up to me and asked, ‘Why aren’t there beautiful mastectomy bras in the market?’ then after a pause, she followed with, ‘Hey you can design and sew, why can’t we make one?’

What is your design process like for creating Sophia Rose Intimates?

My design process starts with the wants and needs of a breast cancer survivor.  Sophia Rose Intimates aims to add beauty and renewed confidence to the lives of these women, and this mission drives every design decision we make.  I learned how to sew with my mom’s old sewing machine and have picked up more formal design skills along the way through my architecture studies.  While I’m focused on the creative side of Sophia Rose Intimates, I discuss all of the final decisions with Carolyn.  She also has a great eye for identifying what looks good and is appealing.  As a designer, it’s always productive to get opinions from others because working on something for too long on your own can sometimes give you tunnel vision!  Designing is a very personal process, and it’s sometimes hard to hand control over to a consultant or the manufacturers we’ve worked with.  Luckily, we’ve had the pleasure of working with amazing and talented industry professionals, which has made it much easier for me to trust the development of our design visions when I have to pass them along.

We couldn’t believe there were so few lingerie brands for breast cancer survivors.

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How do your bras provide comfort + confidence for breast cancer survivors?

Our bras have been designed with nine unique structural and aesthetic features.  Each feature addresses a specific concern that breast cancer survivors have identified when shopping for a mastectomy bra.  The most pressing concern we faced was providing a bra that was both incredibly supportive, but didn’t have an underwire.  Underwire bras sometimes irritate scarring from having a mastectomy.  Instead of using underwire, we incorporated foam technology in select parts of the bra to achieve support without adding bulk to the bra.  It’s also very important to use a moisture wicking fabric for the interior pocket of the bra that holds the prosthesis.  This allows the wearer to feel cool, comfortable, and confident all day long in our lingerie!  Other details include European sourced lace and scalloped necklines.  We believe that putting on a beautiful lace bra in the morning gives the Sophia Rose woman a little extra spring in her step as she starts her day!

Can you share a Sophia Rose customer success story that has impacted you?

Our mom (besides being the biggest inspiration behind the brand) was our very first customer.  When we first received our manufacturing order from the factory, we immediately sent her a complete set to have.  We knew she loved wearing the bra, but it was two months later that she told us in passing that she wears the bra every day.  She loves the soft lace and how supportive it is, and how confident it makes her feel. Needless to say, we've since sent her another set so she doesn’t have to do laundry so often!

Our bras have nine unique structural and aesthetic features for breast cancer survivors.

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What is your vision for Sophia Rose Intimates 10 years from now?

In 10 years, we would love for there to be a Sophia Rose bra in every breast cancer survivors’ intimates drawer.  We have plans to expand our product line by offering new comfortable and supportive bra styles in a wide range of soft and luxurious laces and fabrics. 

Apart from lingerie, we hope to introduce a range of beautiful pocketed mastectomy swimwear.  My sister and I love going to the beach with our mom and we would love to also develop a swimwear line for breast cancer survivors.  The women who wear Sophia Rose deserve to choose from a variety of products that will make them feel beautiful and exude confidence.  Apart from an expanded product offering, part of the Sophia Rose vision is to build a strong community of breast cancer survivors, who see our brand as a reflection of the powerful, strong, confident, and beautiful women that they are.  We hope to continue cultivating such a community until a cure can be found.

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My design process starts with the wants and needs of a breast cancer survivor.

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Work + Wellness

What are you most proud of accomplishing since launching your business?

We’ve had many little victories along the way since launching, from avoiding a branding disaster with our packaging colors to receiving a wholesale order from a stockist!  However, what we’re most proud of accomplishing since launching Sophia Rose Intimates is receiving positive feedback on our Sophia Pocketed Mastectomy Bra from breast cancer survivors.  Our company is built around the needs of the survivor and the confidence and strength we hope she feels, this positive feedback gives us the added confidence that our product does just that.

What have you learned having your sister as your business partner?

My sister as a business partner is what keeps me going when I run into challenges and feel like giving up.  We motivate each other when one of us is feeling overwhelmed.  That’s not to say we don’t also have our fair share of disagreements!  Giving ourselves clear roles within the company so that we don’t step on the other person's toes has helped us work through our disagreements.  Working on a team with my sister has been such a rewarding experience because I know that I can trust her with all of the decisions she makes.  However, we do have to remind ourselves to separate business decisions from personal decisions.  Keeping these boundaries in mind has helped us to continue to love what we do with Sophia Rose Intimates!

Our company is built around the needs of the survivor.

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What is your advice to a woman who hopes to launch her line one day?

It may seem obvious or cliché, but it’s what I’ve found to be true.  My advice would be to persevere.  Trust in your own instincts and surround yourself with people you enjoy working with.  You will make mistakes and will need to keep working on your line even when everything seems like it’s falling apart.  It’s much easier to work through that when you have supportive people around you.  From a designer’s standpoint, it’s also important you believe in your own work.  While it’s absolutely necessary to take constructive advice on board, do not second-guess yourself!  It’s been difficult for me to trust my instincts, but I’ve found that it helps when I constantly remind myself that I know what is best for the brand and my designs will reflect that!

How can caregivers of cancer patients give and receive support?

Everyone gives and receives support in their own, unique, way and you’ll intrinsically know the best way to be there for the person you’re caring for.  I can only speak from my experience supporting my mom, but I tried to let her know that I loved her and that I was there for her whenever she needed someone to talk to or just to sit next to her and be present.  I didn’t bombard her with too many questions, but would wait for her to come to me when she was ready to share.  Throughout the experience, my friends were overwhelmingly supportive toward me.  They would always check in and ask how my mom was doing and would respect boundaries if I was not ready to talk about it.  During that period, I didn't feel that any of my friends overstepped any boundaries because I knew that they were always coming from a place of authentic kindness and concern.

Trust in your own instincts and surround yourself with people you enjoy working with.

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What are steps every woman can take to be smart with her health?

Be aware of your breasts!  Conduct self-breast examinations regularly, and if you feel anything suspicious make an appointment to see your doctor.  If you’re over 40, get your annual mammogram.  Early detection is key.  The American Cancer Society has a lot of helpful information on breast cancer prevention and early detection, including paying for breast cancer screenings.  Through interviews with breast cancer survivors and links to relevant features on other sites on our social media pages and blog, Sophia Rose Intimates aims to provide encouragement and support for breast cancer patients and survivors everywhere.  Customers can always give us a call or drop us an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if there's something in particular they would like to see addressed!

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My sister and I were inspired to create a mastectomy bra when our mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. 

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Meet Adelene Tan

Occupation: Graduate Student in Architecture

Must-have Shoes: Black flat ankle boots

Signature Scent: Nectarine Blossom & Honey by Jo Malone

Beauty Essential: Fresh Lip Balm

Cocktail of Choice: Old Fashioned

Best Date: The kind where the company matters more than the place!

Travel Destination: Any beautiful beach in the world

Current Craving: It is always chocolate.

De-Stress Technique: Vinyasa Yoga

Favorite App: Google Maps, I would never get anywhere without it!

University: University of Pennsylvania, Harvard University

 

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