An Interview With the Founders of Harper Wilde, a Line of Intimates Changing the Way Women See Themselves

Like many women, Jenna Kerner and Jane Fisher were frustrated with their bra-buying experience. Not only are intimates outrageously expensive, but they’re often designed for the liking of men and leave women feeling oversexualized. Determined to change the relationship women have with their bras, Kerner and Fisher created Harper Wilde, a line of intimates that holds three different bra styles for all types of women. Customers are also able to try on the bras at-home for 7 days, for free, before making a purchase. Graduates from Cornell and Emory, Kerner and Fisher are passionate about supporting all ladies, and are working to change the way women view themselves.

Affinity Magazine: Talk a little about your frustration with bra companies, over-sexualization and the standard bra-buying procedure and how this prompted the creation of Harper Wilde. When did you both realize you wanted to pursue this company?

Harper Wilde: The idea came about very organically.  We asked a simple question: “Why are bras so expensive?”

 We did a ton of research to figure out why the industry was so antiquated, but we just ran into more questions. We didn’t understand why brands were hyper-sexualized or why typical models did not resemble the everyday woman. Why did bras come with those odd embellishments that almost no woman wanted, let alone purchased. And we certainly did not understand why bras needed to cost $60-$80 (or more!).

When we began running focus groups and surveys with women to better understand what the true pain points were, one thing became crystal clear almost immediately — women HATED buying bras.  Busy, driven, successful women were so fed up with the process, they were buying bras they didn’t love and keeping them for way longer than they should, just to avoid repeating the process.  One woman even told us “buying bras is like a tax on being female.” Needless to say, comments like this further drove our passion to make an overdue change in this industry.

Affinity Magazine: That being said, was there ever any hesitance about the organization? Did you ever second-guess your decision?

Harper Wilde: We spoke to hundreds of women to learn what their true pain points were. We did individual and group focus groups, qualitative discussions and quantitative surveys. We wanted to learn everything we could about the market and the potential opportunity or order to determine if there were even a problem to be solved. Each step of the way, we tried to disprove the business idea, but as we dug deeper, all signs pointed to an amazing opportunity in the market. We talked to industry experts and startup founders, but most importantly, we relied on user data and information as well as  our unique perspective on what women need and want. This strong conviction led us to pursue the business despite challenges we faced along the way.

Affinity Magazine: According to your website, Harper Wilde was named after Harper Lee and Laura Ingalls Wilder. What inspired you to pick those two women in representing the company name?

Harper Wilde: It took us nearly six months to come up with a name that we felt encompassed the ethos of the brand. We distilled down the most important values of the company and we kept coming back to empowerment and education. We looked to women educators and authors and found inspiration from two iconic authors, Harper Lee and Laura Ingalls Wilder. Not only is it a nod to two influential women, but it refers to timeless classics, much like our everyday products.

Affinity Magazine: What do you believe is the first step in combating over-sexualization in women’s attire? How can the issue be addressed as a society? 

Harper Wilde: The first step in combating oversexualization is to tell the story of real women. Real women want comfort to get them through a long day. Real women say they’ll wash their bras more than they do. Real women may have 10-15 bras in their drawers, but they only wear 1-2 90% of the week. We celebrate these women. We empower them. Our story is not one of commerce, but one of believing women and girls everywhere deserve a brand that represents the modern, empowered woman.

We hope that by setting this example, other brands will follow suit and begin to paint a more realistic picture of the world we live in and stop saking women and girls to hold themselves to an unrealistic standard.

Affinity Magazine: Your website also talks about your “Lift Up The Ladies” program. Could you describe the program and the opportunities it’s providing girls and women in school?

Harper Wilde: Through our partnership with The Girl Project and our Lift Up The Ladies program, we are donating to help put young women through primary school. There are over 62 million school-age girls without access to education, and women make up over two-thirds the number of illiterate adults. Our education – from the curriculum itself to teachers who empowered us – was incredibly important in helping us become the women we are today, and we want young girls to have the same opportunity. The Girl Project takes on the big issues that keep girls out of school – problems like poverty, civil unrest, bullying, homelessness and gender-based violence. With our partnership, we seek to further our mission to build the next generation of leading ladies.

Affinity Magazine: It’s also mentioned that you flew overseas to meet the manufacturers of the bras. What was that experience like? Was it what you expected?

Harper Wilde: We’re thrilled to be working with one of the largest lingerie manufacturers in the world. Once we heard about this factory, we knew we had to find a way to work with them and Jenna fortunately had a connection to someone there through her previous work, which ultimately lead us to the team with whom we’re currently working.  The factory had an unrivaled reputation, but being new to the manufacturing space, we still wanted to confirm that for ourselves. Before producing a single bra, we packed our bags and headed overseas to see the factory first-hand. We worked side-by-side for a week and learned about their sustainable supply chain initiatives and women’s empowerment program. It was beyond evident  they were the right partner. We are proud to be working with a manufacturer who is just as committed as we are to lifting up the ladies.

Affinity Magazine: How important do you see education for women going forth into the future? How has education influenced your life so far?

Harper Wilde: When we started this adventure, we were students, fortunate to be in a position to learn, explore and challenge traditional norms. But we knew there were millions of girls without access to education, and we knew that behind every strong successful woman is an educated young girl.We hope that by supporting organizations like The Girl Project, we can create more opportunities for girls to learn, and remove the existing barriers that prevent that learning from happening now.

Affinity Magazine: One of the conveniences of Harper Wilde is the ability to “take home bras,” describe that process.

Harper Wilde: Our mission is to take the B.S. out of Bra Shopping. Buying bras doesn’t have to feel like a TSA screening at airport security, but for some reason it always has. It isn’t necessary to be poked and prodded and asked way too many personal questions by a sales associate. With our free Home Try-On Program, the Harper Wilde woman can select three bras of different sizes, styles or colors, have them shipped to her home and try them on from the comfort of her couch. She has seven days to decide which bras she wants to keep, and simply send back the bras she doesn’t.

Affinity Magazine: Harper Wilde also has a blog called “Under the Wire,” what does that platform offer customers?

Harper Wilde: We wanted Under the Wire to be a place where women can not only read humorous, relatable content about bra shopping, but also a platform to provide information about topics relating to bras, breasts and breast health. We have a saying that is, “News Flash: Boobs exist.” Under the Wire is a reflection of that. Talking about boobs shouldn’t seem taboo – especially from a company whose sole purpose is to support them.

Affinity Magazine: What’s been the best part of starting Harper Wilde, so far?

Harper Wilde: Being able to incorporate humor into everything we do and knowing that there is a larger purpose behind our work

Affinity Magazine: Where/ how do you see Harper Wilde expanding? What are your long-term goals for the company?

Harper Wilde: Our mission is to take the B.S. out of Bra Shopping and create a brand and experience women can’t live without. Imagine: no more sorting through over 300 options, no more unnecessary bejazzling and bows. One of our biggest priorities is to support as many women as we possibly can. We are small now, but we are focusing on expanding sizes and skin-toned colors as quickly as we can. We aim to be the go-to for an easy shopping experience, and fairly-priced everyday bras.

We also have a very serious mission to Lift Up The Ladies. Not only do we lift a woman’s ladies through our products, but we have partnered with The Girl Project, to help put young girls through school, so we can also lift the next generation of leading ladies.

Affinity Magazine: Any last thoughts or ways to follow Harper Wilde on different platforms?

Harper Wilde: We spend a lot of time on Instagram – sharing quotes from our Wilde Women, providing relatable and witty content and posting stories about our life at the office. We really like to roast each other around here. You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Photo Courtesy of Harper Wilde

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