Finding Just The Right Fit
For years, when Amy Berthiaume would visit home from Vancouver, British Columbia, where she attended college and worked in a lingerie boutique, she and her mother Audrey would joke about opening a lingerie shop locally. When Audrey was diagnosed with breast cancer last year and underwent a double mastectomy, the two stopped joking and started planning.
In November, they launched Coco’s Lingerie Boutique in Kailua, offering lingerie, sleepwear and post-surgical garments and products.
Coco’s Lingerie Boutique carries brands that include Prima Donna, Cosabella and Marie Jo. In addition to an array of styles, shoppers also can find a wide range of sizes from 30 AA to 40 I. Providing hard-to-find sizes was one of the main reasons Amy and Audrey wanted to open the shop.
But the real catalyst was Audrey’s experience. Following her double mastectomy, Audrey wasn’t sure where to get post-surgical garments that fit her needs.
“There just weren’t many options,” she recalls.
In order to help other women living with breast cancer, Coco’s carries bras designed specifically for them – they open in the front to make them easier to put on, and they’re made of cotton so they don’t irritate stitches. It also carries breast prostheses and garments with designated interior pockets to keep drainage tubes out of sight and out of the way.
“(Coco’s) provides a more intimate setting where they can come and feel more comfortable and not have it be another form of treatment,” Amy explains. “Instead, it could be a little fun and they could maintain their personal style and their femininity and still get the products they need.”
Coco’s Lingerie Boutique recently attained its Durable Medical Equipment (DME) license, meaning that it will soon be able to accept health insurance payments from patients with a prescription.
Coco’s Lingerie Boutique also provides bra fittings. Amy worked for years as a professional, certified fitter – and is so good that she can determine a woman’s size with just a light touch and a quick glance.
“It is nice to be able to fit women who have never had a bra that fits well,” Amy says. “That feels good to be able to find women something that makes them feel good about the way they look.”
In addition to what’s available in store, they also can special order any size, style or color.
As a mother-daughter duo, the two have had to navigate the nuances of their new relationship as business partners. Compromise has been key. This is the first business venture for both Amy and Audrey, and it was a big life decision for both. For Amy, it meant moving back home after having been away since graduating from high school. For Audrey, it meant going back to work for the first time since stepping away from her job as a radiology technician to raise Amy and her older sister.
“It has been kind of a whirlwind,” Amy says. “It all came together really nicely.”
It also helped their family deal with Audrey’s fight against cancer. “We were able to sort of use the frustration and negativity of her breast cancer and turn it into something positive and something that hopefully will be able to help other women,” Amy says.
Amy and Audrey already have their sights set on the future and hope to widen their range of styles, increase the sleepwear line, introduce maternity and nursing bras and expand the post-mastectomy collection.
They are persistent when it comes to helping customers find the right fit. Amy’s take on the process sums up their larger business philosophy: “Sometimes it will fit perfectly the first time; sometimes it will take a few tries. But I won’t stop until it is right. We can keep trying until we get there.”
Coco’s Lingerie Boutique is located at 35 Kainehe St., Ste. 102. Hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Call 262-6752 or visit cocoslingeriehawaii.com.