Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Bra-Vo for Lee

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Bra-Vo for Lee

Article excerpt

Byline: By Sarah Ivison,Evening Gazette

At first glance, Amanda Lee looks like any other high street lingerie shop.

Women admire the pretty bras and stylish knickers attractively displayed in the window.

But their clever secret is that the bras are fitted with prostheses made for women who have had mastectomies.

Inspired by research she did as part of her BA in fashion and textile management at Nottingham Trent University, the 26-year-old set up shop back home in the North-east in 2001.

Lee, originally from Stockton, came into the lingerie business when she spent a year as a junior buyer at Debenhams in London as part of her degree.

One of her assignments involved researching the potential of specialist swimwear for women who had had mastectomies.

"I was appalled to discover how limited the range was," says Lee, who moved back in with her parents, Jeff and Denise, in Whitley Bay, where she opened her shop.

The company, formed in January 2001, began with a few samples and cold calling at local hospitals.

Eight months later a small range had been put together, a mini-brochure had been produced and links had been established with breast cancer support groups at 22 hospitals between Tyneside and Yorkshire.

Amanda Lee opened in October the same year.

The first class honours graduate has now branched out into high street fashion and has a second shop with the same name, also on Park View in the seaside town.

"I set up a second company called Amanda Lee Ltd. It is a young fashion range of going-out tops including Bench and Elle," says Lee.

"But lingerie is mostly what I'm about."

The lingerie shop has between 12 and 15 pocketed mastectomy bras.

"We have also started stocking tankini tops and pocketed vests, which are already popular and look great," says Lee.

"There's a gap in the market.

"It's going to take about five years to take the business where I want to take it.

"I have seen the difference in the last year in what companies are providing. They are starting to realise there is unfortunately a growing market and they need to provide pretty and practical underwear. …

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