Eleanor Howie, Founder of Valiant Lingerie
A luxury lingerie brand designed for women who have had mastectomies
My mum and aunt (mum’s younger sister) both had breast cancer by the time they were 31. In mum’s case, she had it a second time when pregnant with my sister – making her ‘Superwoman’ in my book.
When I was 19, I underwent tests to determine the likelihood of having breast cancer, as it was clearly prevalent within the family. My sister, who is three years younger than me, followed suit. We both discovered that our BRCA1 gene was defective, which meant the risk was incredibly high.
In 2011, aged just 24, I underwent a double mastectomy as a precautionary measure and then had reconstructive surgery. When my sister reached 24, she made the exact same decision.
Overnight, my body had changed shape and I had scars. Following the initial period of physical recovery, I became increasingly distressed by the lack of feminine post-mastectomy lingerie that was available. I would cry in changing rooms – looking at myself in the mirror wearing underwear which made me feel uncomfortable and unattractive. I was a young woman and worried I would never feel at home in my skin ever again.
Last November, I took action – launching a Crowdfunder campaign to raise funds with the aim of creating beautiful, comfortable and alluring lingerie for women who have undergone surgery. My professional background is in the legal sector and I currently work full time in academia, so I had no industry knowledge in relation to fashion (only a healthy interest). I was, however, determined to succeed…
After hitting my target and securing financial backing for the venture thanks to the amazing support I received, Valiant Lingerie is now a reality. I’m currently working with a tech consultant who is an industry expert and is taking care of product manufacture, whilst I focus on coming up with designs that are in-keeping with the brand’s ethos. Later this year, I will be collaborating with a factory on my first production run, which is super-exciting!
My mission with Valiant is to create a collection of lingerie that resonates with all the women out there who have survived breast cancer. Their bodies are amazing and they deserve to feel cherished, confident and feminine again.
Photo credit: Georgia Rachael Photography