HOUSTON — Rachel Clements took a few lessons with her when she left her job as manager of a Houston lingerie boutique in 2002 to open her own, called La Mode.
Clements’ former employers were known for custom-fitting their clients and she had met several women looking for garments for pre- and postoperative procedures, such as breast augmentation and reduction, liposuction, abdominoplasty and reconstructive surgery.
Opening her store in the tony River Oaks area, miles from the birthplace of the breast implant in 1962, as well as the courthouse that launched two of the most famous breast implant court cases in 1977 and 1992, Clements consulted physicians about what women need from support garments after these types of procedures.
“For breast augmentation, it is important that the breasts are lifted, separated and supported during the healing time after surgery,” Clements said. “We fit these patients in nonwire bras that give them the support they need and provide a necessary level of comfort.”
Clements said bras from Rosa Faia and Chantelle are the best pieces for post-augmentation. While she doesn’t carry mastectomy bras, she suggests lightweight Hanro camisoles for women who are undergoing chemotherapy and radiation, explaining that their skin is far too sensitive for anything heavier or abrasive.
“Our customers usually buy two of each item because the doctors want them to wear these garments 24 hours a day,” Clements said. “This means that they have one item to wear while one is in the wash. Also, the majority of these patients undergo several procedures at one time, so they usually purchase two bras, two compression garments and even pajamas for their recovery period.”
While 10 percent of the boutique’s $500,000 annual sales is generated from items that include post-op bras and seamless body shapers that act as compression garments after liposuction and abdominoplasty, Clements has been careful to create a luxurious space that looks like it could belong on Paris’ Left Bank. She sells luxe pieces such as Samantha Chang’s pajamas and cashmere robes by Underwriters in a light and bright atmosphere that attracts well-heeled, nonsurgical customers, as well.
Clements said one customer, who was getting fitted before a tummy tuck, spent $3,000 on pajamas to lounge in during her recuperation.
“They get in the store and see all of the beautiful things,” she said. “Once the plastic surgery improves their self-esteem, they come in after they are healed and become long-term clients.”
Top-selling pajama brands include Wendy Glez and Love Tanjane. For shoppers looking for luxe rather than support, La Mode features best-selling La Perla bras in both seamless and lacy styles, low-rise thongs by Hanky Panky, camisoles by Leigh Bantivoglio and Samantha Chang, and robes by Skin.
Though Clements used to call doctors for advice, the Houston medical community now often calls her.
“It’s important that we work directly with local plastic surgeons,” she said. “We make sure that their patients are healing properly by putting them in the proper garments.”