Kate Taylor, founder of Dorset-based Evenly is behind a pioneering bra design that tackles breast asymmetry affecting 90% of women and is a winner of Innovate UK’s Women in Innovation Award. We interviewed her on International Women in Engineering Day.
What is your innovation in a nutshell?
We’re developing a game-changing bra design that will provide an effective and stylish non-surgical solution to the challenges of breast asymmetry, no matter what the cause.
Evenly’s vision is to educate, support and inspire those with breast asymmetry to embrace their uniqueness and gain comfort and confidence through our products and community.
What challenges are women facing with breast asymmetry?
Breast asymmetry, where there is a noticeable difference in the shape and size of the breasts, affects up to 90% of women, according to a 2018 report by Dr. Kirtly Parker-Jones of the University of Utah.
Despite this, there is currently no single brand or business effectively serving the breast asymmetry market.
Multiple studies have shown the damaging effects this can have on a woman's self-esteem, mental health, physical comfort and quality of life. Researchers repeatedly stress that this is more than just a cosmetic issue.
Evenly’s goal is to help millions of breast asymmetry sufferers worldwide, whether their asymmetry is as a result of cancer surgeries; congenital conditions such as Poland Syndrome, Breast Hypoplasia, Juvenile Hypertrophy or Amastia; or of completely benign and natural causes such as pregnancy, puberty, menopause, breastfeeding or bodyweight fluctuations.
What solutions have women traditionally relied upon?
Currently, the NHS does not routinely fund surgery for breast asymmetry, so the only real solution is either expensive privately-funded surgery or breast prostheses worn with poorly designed pocketed bras designed for breast cancer patients.
Breast prostheses are expensive (starting at £80 - £150 for basic styles) and they are often designed to replace a full breast where a woman has undergone a mastectomy. They’re typically one beige “skin tone” and for a lot of women carry negative connotations as a cancer product.
Evenly has already launched one innovation to provide a more suitable and affordable solution – Bra Balancers™ which are a type of silicone breast form, however they’re designed to suit a range of cup size differences and are not as thick and full as their more traditional counterparts. The colourless silicone means they’re suitable for a range of skin tones and they can be worn in a woman’s normal non-pocketed bra. Not only do they provide a smooth, symmetrical appearance but the weight of the silicone also helps to balance the missing weight of breast tissue on a woman’s smaller side allowing her bra to hold and distribute the weight of her breasts more evenly, alleviating discomfort.
One challenge that remains with all silicone breast prostheses however is their static size and inability to be adjusted to balance breast size fluctuations which occur frequently for women throughout their lives and menstrual cycles.
How does Evenly’s bra design solve these problems?
Our bra features self-adjustable cup volumes which can comfortably and effectively support the wearer's smaller breast, at up to 3 cup sizes' difference to the larger breast.
We’re therefore able to create a symmetrical appearance and alleviate the significant psychological distress and physical discomfort experienced by millions of women worldwide.
What inspired you to tackle problems relating to breast asymmetry?
It all started in 2017. Originally, I had been looking into selling mismatched size pairs of shoes for people with one foot bigger than the other, however during market research the majority of women responded with "shoes aren't a problem, bras are!".
As someone with breast asymmetry myself, I had naively assumed as many women do, that it was an issue unique to me. The more I researched the topic, the more I realised that was certainly not the case. I attended business feasibility workshops through the Dorset Growth Hub and realised this was a compelling potential business opportunity.
Another motivating factor was the general under-representation of women in innovation. This disparity is not only damaging to the economy (as evidenced by The Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship) but also means there are fewer products out there designed specifically by women, for women. This means solutions to female-centric issues are severely lacking.
What did it mean to win the Innovate UK Women in Innovation Award?
Winning this award is a huge privilege to me personally but also, I see it as a huge boost to the millions of women globally who are struggling with the impacts of severe breast asymmetry.
Breast asymmetry has finally been recognised as an important issue with very real impacts on women’s lives and this award win demonstrates that it is considered an area of innovation worthy of the government’s support and investment.
Having recently hit on a design breakthrough, we’re very excited to use the funding to begin expanding our product suite to include adjustable bras, alongside our current Bra Balancers™.
And on a personal level, I am delighted to have been selected as a role model to hopefully inspire more women into innovation, engineering and entrepreneurship.
Finally, a word on the support received from Innovate UK EDGE. How has your innovation and growth specialist helped you scale Evenly?
My innovation and growth specialist, Jayne Codling, has been an enormous support to me in scaling Evenly even in just these first few months of working together. She has listened to our current challenges and barriers to progression and has put me in touch with suitable professionals within her network to support us in overcoming these hurdles. Already, I have received a great deal of support with regards to the product design and with identifying and protecting Intellectual Property, which will really help Evenly to successfully grow.