f:Entrepreneur Stories: Eleanor Howie, Valiant Lingerie

We recently had #ialso100 Eleanor Howie as our guest on our f:Entrepreneur Facebook Live series every Tuesday at 9am. Sadly, technology was not on our side that day and the connection cut leaving us unable to finish our chat.

However, Eleanor has shared all the fantastic details her wonderful brand, Valiant Lingerie here! Thanks Eleanor!

Valiant Lingerie creates beautiful, functional lingerie that boosts confidence for people who have had treatment for breast cancer (or preventative surgeries).

I am passionate about saying goodbye to boring, uncomfortable post-surgery underwear and creating the lingerie women deserve.

I had a mastectomy when I was 24 and I realised that mastectomy underwear is boring and clinical. I had to throw away my lingerie collection because it was no longer comfortable for my post-surgery body.

I realised I wasn’t alone in wanting lingerie that helped me to feel good about my body again. So I created Valiant!

All of our bras feature:

  • No underwires
  • Supportive, comfortable underbands
  • Super soft fabric, lace and fastenings that are gentle on sensitive skin and scars
  • Thoughtful seam placement
  • Adjustable multiway straps
  • Pocketed cups”

And here’s a little bit about the story behind the business:

My story actually started over 30 years ago, when I was a little girl. My mum had breast cancer twice when she was 30/31… the second time she was pregnant with my little sister. My mum had a single mastectomy without reconstruction while she was still pregnant, and then had treatment with chemotherapy and radiotherapy after my sister was born.

As my mum didn’t have reconstruction until over a decade later, she had to use a breast prosthesis and I remember how much she hated it and the frumpy underwear she had to wear.

Several years later, my mum’s sister also had breast cancer. Also at the age of 31. Sadly, she passed away as a result of secondary breast cancer a few years later.

We suspected there was likely to be some kind of genetic link, given the young age of diagnosis for both my mum and my aunt. It wasn’t until I was in my teens that genetic testing became available. My mum was tested first and we discovered that she has a mutation of the BRCA1 gene. this dramatically increases the risk of both breast and ovarian cancer. I pushed for testing and when I was 19 I found out that I have the same mutation.

Given the early diagnosis in my family, I was advised to consider preventative measures before I turned 25 so, after much soul searching, I had a preventative double mastectomy when I was 24.

It was the best decision. I know it saved my life. But it still took its emotional toll. And I really struggled with my body image and my self esteem for many years. This year is the 10th anniversary of my mastectomy and I am only now starting to feel like me again!

I had so many frustrating experiences trying to find bras that fit my new breasts, felt comfortable and didn’t look hideous. Fittings were distressing and the total lack of choice was awful. I’ve cried many tears in changing rooms! I felt like I’d been abandoned by the lingerie industry. As if they had written off women like me as no longer sexy.

And that’s what lead to my “lightbulb” moment. I increasingly realised that I wasn’t alone in my frustration at the lack of attractive, fashionable, contemporary post-surgery lingerie. I spoke to so many women who were experiencing the same distress as me. So finally, I decided to do something about it. And I’m delighted I did!