Comfyist: From vision to prototype

By Anna Lardinois

Startup Storyteller

Nothing stands in the way of progress, not even a global pandemic and the resulting supply chain issues. But, they do make progress a bit slower, and least that is what Amy Fallucca, CEO of Bravent, discovered as she is working on the launch of her new business, Comfyist.

The athlete and serial entrepreneur is hoping to shake up the athleisure industry with her uniquely designed cami top that offers integrated, rather than removable, bra cups. We last checked in on the development of this brand new product in November. Since then, another prototype has arrived, and additional modifications have been made to get closer to the product envisioned when she launched Comfyist in April 2021.

We asked Fallucca to share with us her reaction to receiving her second prototype of her athleisure cami and what is next in the process from her eureka moment to getting Comfyist camis in the hands of her customers.

CEO Amy Fallucca

What do you think of the second prototype?

AF: The second prototype was so much better than the first. We have selected better bra cups, we came up with a new method for integrating the bra cups, we changed the method of stitching to remove what’s called FOB trim. We changed the straps, we finalized the adjustment method of the straps, we modified the back scoop cut out to be a bit more narrow, and we updated the sizing to fit a little bit more true to size for small. The first (size small) prototype fit more like a medium. Overall, I was very happy with the second prototype. We’re almost to final product!

It sounds like there are significant changes between prototypes one and two. Are there still tweaks that need to be made for the third prototype?

AF: There are still some tweaks, some minor design things I noticed. For example, the strap that we chose is plush. When I washed it, it frayed at the end which is not acceptable.

We can select a new strap which would delay the process maybe 6+ weeks and add cost. We could fold the strap over to finish it but that would add bulk and additional labor cost. There’s a solution they can dip the edges in to treat it and ensure it doesn’t fray. There’re all these different options to deal with that. So, it’s just figuring out which one makes the most sense.

 I just heard there’s another option which is to heat cut the strap so it kind of burns itself shut. It sounds like this is the best option all around.  If someone puts it in the wash, and it’s fraying, and there’s thread sticking out, it’s going to seem cheap. That’s a big deal to me. Especially because it is not cheaply made at all!

We’re reducing the length slightly, because I had some people who were taller and people who were shorter try it on. And on the shorter people, it was quite long, so we’re just reducing the length by an inch.

The final change is just to bring the scoop back in a bit more to ensure comfort for a variety of body types.

When you get the prototype, do you get several different sizes of the garment?

No, I only receive one prototype in our base size, which is a size small. I am what’s called the “size model” so this is literally being designed to fit me. There is only one prototype. I brought it to a cooking club with my girlfriends, who are all my target demographic, and just had different people of different shapes and sizes, try it on and give me their feedback.

Is this a costly process to get a new prototype? Is that a big expense?

AF: I paid a flat fee for the development of the product. If there are things that I change or want to do outside of the scope of that agreement, then it’s additional fee, but the flat fee includes three prototypes. After the third prototype, they’ll do what’s called a size set which means they will produce one (of the tops) in each size in the finalized design. So next I am waiting on my third prototype.

Do you think the third prototype will arrive in March?

AF: Probably. I’m hoping February since we mostly minor changes. Typical product development is six months to a year. I think when I talked to you last time, I had hoped it would be more like six months because I can make decisions quickly. But the supply chain, issues with materials, those have been the things that have really been slowing us down.

I’m trying to be proactive so I can get the product to market as soon as possible. For example, I know for sure I’m doing the Comfyist Basic Cami in black. So, I have to decide – should we order the black fabric now if the black fabric has a 12-week lead time? Will it actually be 12 weeks, or will it be shorter or longer? It seems to depend on the day. Supply is very volatile right now. I’m always asking the design firm questions about what we can be doing now that might cause delays later if we wait. Their design process is pretty linear. I’m used to a more agile environment where you can run things in tandem. We’ll find a good middle ground.  

 Is that new? Is the lag time for the supplies part of the pandemic?

AF:Lead times are extended significantly because of COVID. Another thing that we’re fighting right now is just the Chinese New Year because so many of these suppliers come from China.

From what the designers say lead times are longer than usual, and I believe that’s true.  The hard thing is, I’ve never done this before, so I don’t quite know what’s normal and what’s not normal. As a consumer I just expect you could order it and they’ll ship it to you right away, kind of like Amazon. I’m learning that’s not always the case. Logically, I knew business to business (operations) would be different than business to consumer. Sometimes the vendors just don’t have it sitting around. In some cases, they might have it, but they still have other orders to process. My small order may not be the top priority.

If you get the third prototype and it meets expectations, then the scale sizes will be sent to you. Once you have the scale sizes, are you going to start marketing the product?

AF: Absolutely. I’ve got my pre-order up right now, and I’ve sold some tank tops that way, which is pretty great considering there’s not even an actual image of the product – just a computer design. I hesitate to do a full-on marketing campaign right now because I don’t know exactly when I will have the product. It’s a strange thing as a business owner not to know that, but I’m learning to accept there are just some things out of my control here.

I am trying to develop the brand and a following. On social media I’m posting to bring people along on the journey: showing them the prototypes, noting the material changes that we’re making, asking for input on colors and the label. For people who have ordered, just keeping them posted on what’s going on in the development process.

Is the key takeaway for you as a first-time manufacturer to realize how much is out of your control?

AF: Definitely! The two key takeaways are firstly, a lot of things are out of your control and secondly, however long you think it’s going to take, it’s going to be two to three times longer, probably. Overall, I’m considering this first cami design as a learning process to get familiar with the industry and process. It’s very interesting to me and I’ve already learned a ton!

Follow the development and roll out of this groundbreaking luxury cami top by connecting with Comfyist here.

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