Do you ever overhear conversations between total strangers, yet you want to be a part of it or to know more? That is exactly what happened to me, as I heard Frances Rather chat with somebody about her company Flat Frances at a juice shop. Flat Frances?! I had to know more.
Quickly, Frances grew up in Austin–her mother a pastry chef with a little bakery in the 90s. Always inspired by using creativity to make something she could share with others, Frances moved to New York City to attend Pratt Institute, School of Design. Frances stayed in NYC for 12 years while working in different design fields including styling for designers and photo shoot editorials. Back in Austin, Frances is making dreams come true.
What is Flat Frances? How do you want the brand to make women feel? Flat Frances makes better fitting bras for empowered women. I want women to feel like they are wearing Flat Frances for themselves. I want them to feel strong and uninhibited.
What have been your biggest challenges personally and professionally with launching? Personally, I think there is always going to be an element of self doubt when you are creative. There is always that voice saying you’re not good enough. That’s the script. I’ve always felt that success in both business and my personal life (marriage, family, etc.) was for other well deserving women, but not for me. That’s a personal demon of mine, I call him Larry. I think everyone has a Larry. It took a lot of therapy bills to quiet Larry. On a logistical level there were so many things that had to come together to even have product. I’m not a very patient person, so constantly pushing my launch date was frustrating. I think with launching something new there is always a huge learning curve. I’ve learned to pretend like nobody’s watching, because they probably aren’t. And to give yourself time, and to live in the process.
What prepared you to start this business? In high school, I was lucky enough to take fashion classes at Parsons in New York. For college, I was accepted to Pratt for fashion, but ended up graduating with a BFA in what I’ll call multimedia arts; I did some very strange video art installations that I’m sure were very deep and important. I graduated in the 2010 economic crisis, and people were not paying a lot for videos of me wrapping my face in yarn. I began styling for fashion designers and editorial photo shoots, including Erin Fetherston, Three As Four, The Wild Magazine, and Claire’s (yes the tween brand). Additionally, I worked briefly for a fashion showroom, it lacked the sort of creativity I enjoyed, but it did teach me a lot about sales.
Did you have any fears? If so, how did you overcome them?
Absolutely! Again, Larry is the worst. I think the fear of starting something, is not the fear of starting something, but the fear of failure; the fear of failing, and then the inevitable embarrassment from that. Thankfully I am a pretty fearless person when it comes to embarrassing myself. I used to do stand-up comedy at night in New York. Some nights the crowd is yours, and you feel really important. Other nights, nobody laughs at your jokes, and you are stuck up there feeling like a little idiot. After your 100th or so time on stage, you really start realizing how much you learn from bombing; how important it is to fail. Of course it feels great to kill it on stage, but failing is how you get better.
Tell us what inspired the “flat-chested” shirt. I think we live in very difficult time to navigate. On a personal level, I feel very helpless when it comes to all that is going on in the world. I wanted to create a one-off item that was funny, related to boobs, and would raise a bit of money for Planned Parenthood. I think comedy is a good way to engage without polarizing people. The quote on the t-shirt says “A woman who is very flat chested is very hard to be a 10.” I’m actually unsure if this is English, but it is a Donald Trump quote. Right now our line caters to flat chested women, I thought it was such a ridiculous quote and it would be funny for beautiful flat chested women to wear the shirt; taking back the power of his idiotic words.
Share a bit about your personal values and how they overlap with Flat Frances. I believe that women are strong, and should be in charge of their own bodies. I believe women have every right to be sexual people (as men so often publicize themselves to be without apology), and have the right to seek pleasure in those experiences. My hope for Flat Frances is that our brand is more than bras, but a space for women to be unabashedly themselves.
I also really believe in trying to avoid fast fashion whenever possible. Buying less, but buying quality. My closet is very small these days; I do not own a lot of clothing. Yes, sometimes I buy things from Zara and all the rest, but I really try not to. Most of my wardrobe consists of thrift store finds, small designers, and designer resale. I rarely buy clothing, but when I do, I keep pieces forever. I think that ethos carries into Flat Frances, naturally being a small brand. We are made in the U.S.A. in a factory that pays fair wages. That’s important to me.