Hamilton bra school aims for prime time TV

And it’s a cut.

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Beverly Johnston (centre) teaches some students how to make a corset.

Hamilton’s Bra-makers Supply is aiming for the stars with its own television series on prime time.

As the only teaching program of its kind in the world, Bra-makers Supply attracts international attention from individuals who flock to Ottawa Street North to take courses.

But last year, owner Beverly Johnson had a visit from someone looking for something else.

“We were approached to create a reality TV show about the school and the store, which I thought was a great idea because it would educate people about the needs of creating your own bra,” explained Johnson, also known as the Fairy Bramother.

Almost a year after the initial pitch, Lifetime, a small U.S. network, launched Atlanta-based Double Divas and Johnson knew she had to pitch the idea again.

The idea for the TV series would be pitched to Slice TV sometime this week.

“At the time it was pitched to all the women’s networks but it was turned down,” she added.

Where the front of her store sells top quality, professional and bra-making supplies, her backroom is a classroom where she teaches individuals how to make intimate apparel, including bras, corsets, underwear, swim wear and body shapers. The store itself has attracted students from all over the world.

Courses range from the one-day underwear ($100) to a 10-day corsetiere’s course ($1,000). The Made-to-Measure Bra-Making course for advanced students runs nine weeks, at five days a week and attracts individuals from Italy, Sweden, England and Africa.

Johnson estimates she has taught more than 10,000 women, from accountants to doctors to waitresses.

Bra-makers Supply opened 14 years ago and sales and interest have steadily increased.

Internet purchases and online requests are the biggest part of her business but classes and walk-in traffic have also increased over the years. In its first year, she noted it grew 50 per cent from $18,000 and another 30 per cent in its second year.

As her business stabilized, she noted it still continues to increase 20 per cent on average per year.

“Now classes alone account for $80,000,” said Johnson. “After I wrote my first text book (roughly 200 pages in December 2005), sales doubled. After each publication of my text book or patterns, sales will always jump.”

Tallying over 500 pages in total, Bra-makers Manual Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, along with her other books and her Pin-Up Girl Patterns have been translated to French and German.

Wendy Chisholm, owner of Elegant Silhouettes in London, Ont., noted she heard about the bra-making store after taking a course from a former student of Johnson’s.

“I love to sew and I can never find a good fitting bra so I thought I would give it a shot,” said Chisholm.

Taking the course for the first time on how to make a corset, Shayla Notman, 19, aims to use this experience in her own store, Smitten.

“It’s a really good pace,” said Notman, whose store opens on May 3 and features vintage-inspired clothing. If you know a lot about sewing and construction, you can go as fast as you need to, but if you need help you’re welcome to ask questions. It’s a comfortable atmosphere and really awesome to be in a class with three people.”

Along with teaching her classes, Johnson will be heading to Alaska next month with 80 students to teach a course, as well as Sweden in August for two weeks.

Originally posted in Your Hamilton Biz.

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