Interview with Ruhee Rajan: Founder of Rubie’s Bras

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Ruhee Rajan, owner and founder of Rubies Bras. Rajan designs and produces custom bras and swimwear and took her very first sewing lessons at The Make Den. We chatted about balancing a day job while running a business, her early obsession with breasts, and her recent feature in Vogue. I also got to photograph a few of her gorgeous handcrafted samples.

I: Who are you, and what do you do?

 

R: My name is Ruhee Rajan, and I was born and raised in Edmonton. I went to the University of Alberta and got a degree in marketing about fifteen years ago. Since then I have moved to Toronto. Two years ago I started a custom bra making and swimwear company called Rubies. The name came from a friend when we were brainstorming over drinks. She tells me, “Ruhee, I’ve thought of the perfect name. Ruhee plus boobies is Rubies!” We laughed over it, I thought it was a really funny joke, but it just stuck.

 

I: Sewing bras is very intricate! I was recently taking the class with Olivia, and you did my fitting, and it’s way different than making any other kind of garment.

 

R: That’s right. You have to think about the physics. It defies laws of gravity, you have to have something that supports, but is still comfortable. You’re basically trying to fit two lumps of fat that are completely different. They sit differently in a bra, they sit differently on your body, and you have to find a way to make it fit, that is comfortable, and in a way that looks good, and it’s way more difficult than anyone knows.

I: What made you want to learn how to sew?

 

R: I wanted to try to make my own bras because I pretty much hated all of my own. I found that I was going to Victoria Secret, and that didn’t work, and then I went to some specialty shops, and I still wasn’t happy. I couldn’t get all three: comfortable, fit well, and that made me feel awesome. It made me frustrated because I was spending a lot of money. So I thought, why not try to learn how to make one.

 

I: This just came to my mind when you mentioned Victoria’s Secret. I always go to get bras from Secrets from Your Sister. Why do you think these well known companies have this ‘secret’ aspect attached to them?

 

R: That’s a really good question. I think it’s a societal thing. When you go to Europe, bras aren’t a big deal, they’re not padded, they’re very feminine. You see the bra underneath, nipples show, people talk about breasts, and it’s fine. I think it’s a thing where talk of bras and breasts is something that should be done behind closed doors in secret. I don’t believe in that. I take the more European or liberal approach. I’ve never been afraid to talk about breasts and bras. My friends will tell you that it’s almost like I give too much information, so I think it’s just in my personality to be totally open about the topic. I’ve been inspired by European trends, and European bras, where they’re not afraid to show their breasts and their nipples and it’s fine.

I: Tell us a little about the history of Rubie’s bras.

 

R: When I was young, I was completely flat. I had no breasts. I would wear training bras, stuff my bras, and I got teased a lot in school. My friends didn’t mean it but it still created an insecurity in me, and everyday I would pray for breasts. I would do everything in my power to try and get breasts. Finally, at the age of 20, I don’t know what it was, but my wishes came true. I went from an A to a B to a C to a Double D in two years. So my obsession with breasts and bras came at a very early age, and it was because I didn’t have them for so long. When I got them it was like “This is a gift, I need to cherish it and take care of it!” However, with that, and such a big growth spurt in such a short amount of time, I was finding that I was getting back issues. It felt like my body was saying, “What the heck, there’s all this weight all of a sudden, and I’ve never had this before.” I started getting neck issues, back issues, my posture starting getting really bad, and that’s when I started doing more research and going to specialty shops. I wasn’t satisfied with the products I was getting, which led me to take the bra making course. I was really nervous, because I had been dealing with this issue for so long. The first time I tried the custom bra I made, I was so relieved that I started becoming emotional because I had finally found something that felt good. I already talk about breasts to my friends, but I was so happy that I talked about it to everyone. My friends started becoming more open about it as we talked, and I realized that everyone else had the same issues that I did. They would tell me “You know what, my straps suck too, my straps fall off too, my bra feels uncomfortable too, can you make me one?” And I thought to myself, “You’re kidding! I never thought that my passion for breasts and bras would actually lead into something that I could do as a job”. So that’s where I got the idea, and here we are!

I: What advice would you have for someone starting their own crafty business?

 

R: I would say, get yourself a cheering team. If you don’t surround yourself with people that inspire and encourage you, I can’t see anyone being successful. I remember when I first started telling people that I was going to do this I got a lot of people telling me “It’s not going to work. Make sure you don’t quit your job. There’s not really a market,” and similar negative messages. I know that it was coming from a good place, because this was coming from my good friends and family, who were just trying to protect me. I’m glad that I pushed through, because those same people are on my side now. Don’t be discouraged by people who you trust who discourage you, because it is coming from a good place. If you see that it is effecting you in a negative way, I would say stay away from that negativity, and surround yourself with people who believe in you. I don’t think I would be where I am without those people. I really, truly believe that.

 

I: What has been the biggest accomplishment since starting Rubie’s bras?

 

R:  Honestly, I’d say my biggest accomplishment was learning how to sew a bra, and doing a second bra. I didn’t even know how to sew a button on when I started. When I showed my friends and family, my grandma who is a tailor, was dumbfounded. She asked me in disbelief, “You made this?” After I finished my course I was sure I would never make another bra. I thought “Nope, this isn’t for me, I don’t really like it, it’s too frustrating.” Even when my friends asked me to make them a bra, I instantly tried to outsource the sewing part, because I was confident in my fitting skills, but I wasn’t as confident in my sewing skills. Thankfully, I got pushed by teachers like Jade like Beverly, from Bra Makers, telling me to keep making bras. And it’s because of their persistence and gentle encouragement, and sometimes assertive encouragement, that I did. and I am so, so glad that I ended up meeting a network of teachers that pushed me.

 

I: What has been your greatest challenge?

 

R: I think my biggest challenge is keeping up with demand, which is a great problem to have. I’m so proud and I just can’t believe that I’m at this point. It’s still a problem, though. I never want to run into a situation where overnight it’s a success, and I’m not able to keep up. So I’m taking it really slow and in realistic steps. You don’t want to ever get so busy that you can’t deliver, so now I’m working with a local production company to outsource the sewing and start scaling. As I mentioned, a lot of my clients are friends, family, or part of their network, and that’s how it starts, from word of mouth. It’s really important to me to work hard and create a product that makes people super happy. They’ve given me money, they don’t really know what they’re going to get out of it, and they’re putting their trust in me. They wanna make sure their money was well spent.

I: So you have a day job on top of running Rubie’s. How do you balance between the demands of your job, and your business?

 

R: I don’t, really. I find that it’s a big challenge for me to balance it. I’ve read many books and articles that say “Quit,” and I’ve read many that say “Don’t Quit,” and many that suggest doing something in between. I would say my advice is to somehow make it work in a smart and realistic way. You have to be confident, and you have to see a profit before I think you should consider quitting or scaling back, and until then it’s going to be a hustle, because then you are working two jobs. But if you’re really serious about it then you gotta be serious about it. So I would say, if it is your real passion then find something else that pays the bills, and still allows you to do this. My passion for Rubie’s makes me a better at marketing, my day job. I never feel like Rubie’s is work. I love what I do and I would do it day and night, but you really have to balance the other things in your life: family, friends, health, which is what I try to do. Some weeks I am really successful, and some weeks I completely fail at it. You just have to take it one day at a time. Be realistic. Don’t bog yourself down with the pressure of building an empire over night, because it’s not going to happen. There’s nothing wrong with keeping your day job and keeping this as a hobby. Or keeping your day job and doing this on the side. I think that everyone’s definition of success is different, and do what you love to do, and find a way to fit your life around it.

I: You were recently featured in Vogue, and you spoke a bit about the ‘Cupperware’ parties. Can you tell us a bit about these parties?

 

R: Yes! I would actually attest a lot of my success to these parties. I found that there was a lack of knowledge around bras. I wish that these things were taught in school! I find that most people don’t know how to wear a bra, they don’t know that you really have to get the breasts in there, really pull them in. I’m obsessed with this stuff! So I thought that since I have so much knowledge, and all I want to do is talk about it, why not have a girls night over wine and cheese and just educate people on the subject. I want to be seen as an expert fitter, and as a professional bra maker, but also an expert on breasts and bras. I remember doing the first ‘Cupperware’ party, which was named by my husband actually, who is really proud of it. It was a complete hit. We would sit around and talk for about 15 – 20 minutes, and we would talk about the basics: shopping techniques, wear and tear, how to care for your bra, and then would go over some common questions such as “Why are my sizes so different between different retailers?” I find that when one person would start talking, other people would open up and start talking, and it would turn into a great discussion where everyone felt so supported and you realize that you are not the only one who has these questions or issues. That makes me really happy. I would also go into the advantages of wearing a custom bra or wearing something like a Victoria’s Secret bra, versus a specialty bra. Sometimes, a custom bra isn’t the solution for everyone, so I walk through the pros and cons, and at the end I do private individual fittings and consults on the spot. I realized a lot of my friends wanted to host themselves, because they bring their own network, so now I rarely host them myself, I find people that are interested in hosting who invite their friends, and I give them a special discount for hosting. They love it and have a good time. It’s just a girls night where you talk about boobs. How can you go wrong?

 

I: Are you having more anytime soon?

 

R: Interestingly enough, I’ve had more out of town than in town. I’ve had a lot in Edmonton and Calgary, which is where I’m from. There have been a lot of requests to have them here again, so I’m probably going to do a series of them starting very soon. I don’t consider them unsuccessful if I don’t make any sales. I’m just happy that I’m able to meet people, impart my knowledge, and have them walk away thinking “Wow, she really helped me.” People get really excited about that and that makes me really happy.

 

I:  Do you have a most memorable experience from these parties or from any other customer interactions?

 

R: I would say my most memorable experience is honestly the joy and relief that I see in my clients when they wear their new bra. I understand what they’re going through. I’m surprised I haven’t cried when someone tells me that it’s completely changed their life. I see them wearing a bra that fits, and their posture changes. Your shoulders are back, you’re ready to take on the world. They leave through the door a different person, and knowing that you were part of that is just priceless.

I: What do you hope for Rubie’s in the next five years?

 

R: Today I’m proud to say that I’ve almost hit one hundred clients, which feels amazing. I’m on track. I think when someone buys repeat, that’s a really good success indicator, because you’re not really making much of a profit on the first bra. You’re spending a lot of time fitting,  and you have to make adjustments. It takes a long time to make a bra, it takes a lot of hours, so labour is really expensive. Right now, it’s because of the support of these 100 clients, and it’s because of the cheering team that I’ve surrounded myself with. Jade, Beverly, and the staff here who are so welcoming. It’s because of this community that I’m here. In the next five years I hope to build a solution to make it even more scalable. I want to be able to scale online so that everyone in the world can order a custom bra. I don’t think it’s easy and I know that people have failed, so I’m just going to give it a shot and see how it goes. I hope to have Rubie’s available to anyone who wants one, anytime, anywhere, that’s really my dream.

 

I: Thank you so much! Was there anything else that you wanted to add?

 

R: I think I kind of touched on this, but the goal of Rubie’s isn’t just to make a bra, but it’s to change people’s quality of life. If a bra fits well and is comfortable, it can change a woman’s perspective. I want to be part of a bigger cause that does this, because I think it’s so important for women to feel comfortable and confident, and I think it starts with a good bra.

Posted in Student Success Stories | Leave a reply

Sewing From the Cottage: Quilt It Tutorial

I love the cottage, there’s never a shortage of outdoor fun. That being said, some of my favourite cottage days are the overcast, rainy, breezy days that keep you inside to work on projects that have long been put off. These days are the perfect opportunity to dig into any old pile of forgotten fabrics and create something new and beautiful!

 

During a recent rainy weekend on the river with my lifelong friend Alannah and my Mom, we decided to do just that. The project – quilting. The problem? Alannah and I had no experience quilting, and it had been a while since my mom had dabbled with the art. The solution? Woven Wolf’s “Quilt It” video tutorial, instructed by Make Den instructor Steff Rose.

 

Excited to get started, our first step was choosing fabric. Alannah chose a beautiful variety from The Make Den, and I picked out some of my mom’s vintage fabric which had been sitting in storage since I was born. My mom chose a combination of both!

 

With Steff’s guidance, our creations began to take shape as more blocks are added, each with their own unique personality and style. We’re so excited to see the final result! Quilting is inherently fun and creative, yet precise, so we were happy to have an expert guiding us every step of the way, without having to drive the 3 hours to be with us in person.

 

All of the tips and tricks Steff passed on from her years of quilting experience was essential to our success, but in the end we all finished with some very cute projects. My mom’s now hangs behind the wood stove.

 

Although I had brought a Free Motion Quilting foot up north, we all felt too intimidated to try it out and potentially make a mess of our lovely creations. After some further practice on scrap material, we are all looking forward to trying this last step out.

 

Our next crafty adventure awaits!

Materials:

– rotary cutter (Steff recommends a 45mm blade, which worked very well for us)
– Strong cotton thread such as Guttermann or Aurifil
– Long cutting ruler (I prefer the 24″ x 6″ Omnigrip)
– Cutting Mat
– Fabric scissors
– Straight pins OR Wonder Clips
– A Pencil
– Basting Saftey Pins (we used regular safety pins, which made things a bit more tricky)
– A Quarter inch piecing foot OR a stack of stickie notes OR a stack of painters tape.
-A walking foot
– Cotton batting (about a 14″ x 14″ square, to be safe)
– Three coordinating quilting cotton fabrics
– A free motion (darning) foot – if you’re feeling brave!

Find the “Quilt It” tutorial here.

Posted in Meet Your Teacher | Leave a reply

Me Made May 2017

If you were keeping an eye on our Instagram account over the month of May you would have seen some of the beautiful and one of a kind handmade projects made by our staff and students. If you didn’t get a chance to check it out – no sweat! We’ve compiled all the wearable beauties here.

We recently got some adorable fabric in from Hoffman California Fabrics at our Bloordale studio. Inspired by the fabric, Darcie (Woven Wolf and Make Den instructor) made this incredibly cute and summery button up. She also added some very sweet pearl snaps and pleats!

Those flamingos and pineapples make us want to kick back by a lake, with a cold beverage, and an empty schedule.

We are always in awe of Make Den instructor, Alysia’s ability to create flawless garments so quickly. Like this fashionable homage to Star Wars which she finished in the blink of an eye! You can check out more of her work here. The force is strong with this one…

“MAY THE FOURTH BE WITH YOU.”

Our former student, Sin, made this unbelievable paisley A-Line skirt, cleverly using upholstery fabric. The result was spectacular – doesn’t she look amazing? Sin has got a real eye for style, which you can check out on her blog SIN CITY! This skirt was featured in the festive post, “Holiday Glam.”

We are lucky enough at The Make Den to work with some incredibly talented young people, including designer Sara, who has been sewing with us for two years. With her university application portfolio in mind, Sara made this stunning ensemble by repurposing a pair of fishnet tights, and using custom carved stamps to adorn this handmade stretch twill jumpsuit. You can check out more of Sara’s work here.  She is definitely one to watch!

Danielle has become a familiar and friendly face around both of our studios and boy, does she make a lot of clothes! This particular outfit features the Rosa shirt by Tilly and the Buttons, and the Moss skirt by Grainline Studios. Great job Danielle, we can’t wait to see what you make next!

Affectionately referred to as “the wizard” around the studios, Woven Wolf and Make Den instructor, Sarita, can do just about anything. Lately she’s been really into making some sweet matching sets, like this black polka dotted cutie!

With a special event in mind, Milena (our former co-op student) made this pearly satin, nineties inspired set. She drafted and sewed her mid-length skirt in the Make Den’s Intro to Garments course. Milena designed and created the cute strappy crop top on her own! Wherever she wears this lovely outfit, it is sure to turn some heads.

Our favourite neighbourhood barista and former student Alice, made this charming green velvet pencil skirt. We can imagine that this versatile piece will become a staple in her wardrobe, perfect for every season!

We love when our staff learn from one another! Make Den instructor, Theresa sewed her one of a kind leather shoulder bag in our Leather Bags class and whipped up this wonderful floral spring dress.

Olivia, our co-op student with a head for business, and a passion for fashion, recently finished this adorable ruffled skirt for a project on sustainability! Her materials were found in Toronto and New York.

After completing our Commercial Patterns: Choose Your Own course, Rachel had a brand new handmade silky robe to take home. She used Spoonflower’s “Cherry Blossom” satin fabric as well as some intricate lace and piping detail. So luxurious!

After finishing our Tailored Shirts class, David went on to make this very cool sleeveless top for his girlfriend! You can grab the “Sorbetto” pattern from Collete Patterns.

Blind hems are not often the most exciting aspect of sewing, but they sure do create a wonderful result! Tricia’s skirt made in our Intro to Garments course is not only beautiful, but is a blast to frolic in.

This customized leather backpack looks straight out of a boutique! Christina, designed a created this beautiful piece, adding pink pops of colour for the pockets.

Make Den instructor and screen printing expert, Jamie, just finished this impeccable button up shirt after completing our Tailored Shirts class!

We can’t wait to ditch the rain boots and make the switch to some breezy open toed shoes. Check out Namita’s gorgeous new footwear, made in our Sandals class!

Make Den instructor and jack-of-all-trades, Olivia, recently crafted some badass leather accessories. A double belt for herself, and a spikey collar for her pup, Rua.

Collective Conversation on Ill-Adapted Coping Mechanisms’ explores methods of coping with mental illness and hopelessness online. Through the use of social media, the audience is invited to interact with this wearable, creating a conversation of their experiences. Created by Justice Stacey the process involved pattern drafting, sewing, electronics, and programming. To see more of Justice’s cross-disciplinary creative work check out here.

Lauren, Make Den instructor/bombshell has been working on this summer frock all winter and we gotta say – it was worth the wait! She used the Cambie dress pattern by @sewaholic, available on the Woven Wolf.

We’re wrapping up Me Made May with this stunning magenta wool coat made by Vivian. Check out that flannel penguin print lining and those custom penguin shaped buttons!

Posted in DIY, Me Made May, Meet Your Teacher, Student Success Stories | Leave a reply

Hello World!

Howdy Crafters!  We’re so happy to finally introduce ourselves.  Collectively, we are The Woven Wolf.  We are a crew of DIY-loving ladies and nothing makes us happier than helping our students realize their creative goals. Whether you’re working on your first project, or increasing your advanced skill set, we are here to help! Every student and every project is important to us. We provide serious sewing skills, allowing students to connect with their creativity, to learn and leave with a renewed sense of empowerment and inspiration.

b13361705ba24819bac7880a6171f9d9_original

The Woven Wolf takes years of experience from our team at Toronto’s Make Den Sewing School – and brings it to the larger creative community through amazing interactive online tutorials.

We are making it as easy and fun as possible for people to learn a new skill from anywhere at their own convenience and pace.

Some people feel like sewing is a skill which is out of reach and too complicated to learn on their own. Our goal is for The Woven Wolf to change that, as a fresh, clean and concise improvement on out-dated and confusing instructional videos or books.

Our classes will appeal to anyone from a complete beginner to a master craftsperson with the most comprehensive and relevant online sewing packages available. We provide easy to understand demonstrations and explanations, plus tons of downloadable resources to enhance the learning experience.

b6a20e05c83b1e00ad785dff01917337_original

The Woven Wolf brings together an incredibly fun team of skilled craftspeople and industry professionals who have spent years developing our class curriculum and honing their craft.   We have chosen our most popular projects and classes as a jumping off point. Our online platform will be divided into four main categories: MEND IT, MAKE IT, WEAR IT, and QUILT IT! Within that, the tutorials will range from Beginner to Intermediate to Advanced.    We are also offering our incredible selection of Cotton and Steel, April Rhodes, Alexander Henry, Lizzy House and Cloud 9 fabrics for sale online to help you make your video tutorial projects!   Please join us for a crafty date, at your convenience.

7b12b92ad4a02c7ae6d976af69642026_original

 

Posted in DIY, Fabric, Meet Your Teacher, Pattern of the month, Student Success Stories, Tips | Leave a reply