By  on June 27, 2005

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Bra Straps, a fashion accessories company based here, is out to reinvent the push-up bra.

The company introduced its first bra, Evolution by Margarita, in May, and owners Margarita and Jeff Reis hail it as "the last bra you'll ever need" for its comfortable, convertible design, multiple bra straps, removable gel pad inserts and a silky storage pouch.

"Since regular push-up bras only raise and mash the chest together, which doesn't look natural or attractive and leaves empty space inside the cup, we created a cup that slowly graduates, lifts and separates," said Margarita Reis, who consulted a South Florida plastic surgeon in developing the bra.

Jeff Reis said, "Surgeons who perform breast augmentations also are using our bra for trial tests on prospective surgery candidates because it increases cup size by one full size if worn with the gel inserts."

The bra is available in black or white, with nude, pink and mocha to be added next year. It comes with three pairs of straps — colored, clear and extension — and can be worn traditionally or as a halter, low-back halter or racerback. It wholesales for $22 or retails for $44 on the company's Web site, brastraps.com.

The couple said the bra's microfiber and flexible-foam materials also contribute to its popularity.

After years of ruining bras in washing machines, Margarita Reis was determined to make one that could survive a good tumble with a load of jeans.

"Women don't have time to hand-wash their bras," she said. "I want an everyday bra that keeps its shape and doesn't have dents after washing."

Projecting bra sales of more than $500,000 in 2005, Jeff Reis said they're negotiating with major retailers this summer.

Meanwhile, they'll continue manufacturing embellished bra straps. The bra straps division, the company's primary venture that began in 2000, has grown from 30 to 90 styles, including rhinestone hearts, pearl strands and a patented daisy-chain pattern. Colors coordinate with each season's fashion shades, since straps are most likely to be seen and worn as part of an outfit. Aside from black, white or clear, bestsellers are turquoise, orange, pale and hot pink, wholesaling for $2.50 to $5."A lot of retailers dismiss decorated bra straps as a fad, but we're in it for the long haul," said Jeff Reis, who sells to hair salons as well as to clothing, accessories and lingerie stores and department stores like Fresno, Calif.-based Gottschalks. The Web site generates 30 percent of bra strap sales.

"We test new items on the Web site before offering them to retailers," he said of styles such as the Elite Collection of jewelry looks, with metal straps and Swarovski crystals.

The company launched a collection of Swarovski crystal clips for bra straps this spring intended to be fastened to lingerie and swimwear. But customers have been wearing them on shoes and belt loops, too. Current themes are hearts and bows; the clips retail for $19.

"We began with all these ways to dress up bras, and then women started asking for an actual bra, too," Margarita Reis added.

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