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Curvy Couture Founder Dora Lau’s Love Affair With Lingerie

According to Dora Lau, the president of Dora L. International Inc. and founder of Curvy Couture, a legend in the lingerie industry who got her start in fancy formal wear, “Both categories are very similar because eveningwear deals with a lot of draping on the body and intimates touch the body in a very precise way, too.”

How precise? Several of the bras her company makes have more than 30 components. In fact, one back-smoothing bra in particular involves 150 steps in its production.

“Every quarter-inch is crucial, especially when it comes to curvy girls or full-figured ladies,” she explained, adding, “Even an eighth of an inch matters. Especially at the center gore (the front panel of an underwire bra), the part that separates the two cups. It should be as close as possible so it doesn’t separate too much. It should push the cups in. Or the molding depth of the cup—if you mold it a quarter-inch deeper, that might not lift her up.”

She added, “There’s quite a bit of science and a lot of thought behind every single bra. It’s not just a pretty bra that attracts people to buy it but what really gets the sale is the support, that it’s comfortable.”

That attention to detail is likely why her company, founded in 1991, has accumulated such a wide range of private-label clients, from T.J. Maxx and J.C. Penney to Nordstrom, Lane Bryant and Victoria’s Secret, to name a few.

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How Curvy Couture came to be

After years of making intimate apparel for other brands and retailers, Lau decided it was time to try putting her own label on the market.

“When I do private programs, it’s very confined by the budget. And with all the new technology that’s come out within the last 10 years and so many different fabrications, yarn and molding, everything that comes up that’s fascinating, that it was not able to really do justice to a lot of my curvy girls,” Lau said, explaining what triggered the 2012 launch of Curvy Couture, with cup sizes ranging from 36C and up. “In general when I do private programming we’re always concerned about the five cents, the one cent, but for Curvy Couture I put in what I feel is the right thing to do… I just think the bra is such an investment because it brings out the best in a woman.”

For Spring ’16, Curvy Couture is releasing fresh takes on old favorites with a collection titled “Colors Reinvented.” Bestsellers such as the brand’s Matte & Shine T-shirt bra, a smooth-contour that goes up to an H cup, and second-skin microfiber boy shorts, double-lined for tummy control and featuring a bonded back leg opening, will be offered in new colorways like a neutral gray. Likewise, the unlined wire-free bra from the Cotton Luxe collection, currently retailing in black, mauve and natural, will come in blush pink in January.

“We bring in the comfort, the core and the support of the body with a little fashion flair,” Lau said, noting that in her competitors’ collections “the money is spent on the embellishment of the bra without thinking as much about the support or comfort level. At Curvy Couture we combine both.”

See, for instance, the cooling fabric material for spacer bras that she launched last spring. She created more than 200 prototypes before settling on the finished sample which she then used to build a spacer bra in a 44H—an industry first.

“I’ve worked with spacer for more than 10 years. It’s a very difficult fabric to work with because with the yarn that’s knitted, the air is trapped inside the yarn—that’s why it’s breathable,” she explained, noting that spacer bras that go up to an H cup are few and far between because they don’t offer much support. “I partnered with a fabric mill to knit a spacer that’s a lot tighter in the back so it will offer that support without stretching out.”

She also recently launched Curvy Studio, a Target.com exclusive designed with full-figured Millennials in mind, as well as a Curvy Couture collaboration with Vivica A. Fox.

“Because of how the retail business is changing, I’ve been challenged with delivering a product that’s superior but at a competitive price point. That’s one of the reasons why we started Curvy Couture,” she noted, adding that having her own label allows her some leeway with time constraints. “Sometimes we fit a bra for over a year until we know that it works. We fit and fit until it works before we release it.”

Next on Lau’s list is athleisure, or athletic bras featuring the feminine details of lingerie—“Athletic wear is the hot thing,” she quipped—and a special Valentine’s Day collection with Fox.