Material Girl

Bambola Is Sarasota's Newest Lingerie Store, and Its Products Are Stunning

Owner Kristin Bear cut her teeth in the intimate apparel industry working for big names like Madonna and Cosabella.

By Lauren Jackson May 31, 2024

Bambola owner Kristin Bear

There’s a new lingerie store in town, and it’s kind of a big deal. Bambola, located on South Tamiami Trail near Trader Joe’s, opened a few weeks ago. Its owner, Kristin Bear, 39, designs most of the store’s inventory through a brand called Kilo Brava, and she has an impressive résumé in the intimate apparel industry.

Educated at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, Bear studied general fashion design before entering the world of lingerie.

“I thought I was going to be a doctor," she says. "I went to school for pre-med for a year and hated it. I ended up making a portfolio to apply for FIT and didn’t expect to get accepted. I was, however, very into art, sketching and painting. Then, during my studies, I lived in Italy for a year, which is where the name for the store comes from. 'Bambola' is an endearing term for women; it means 'doll.'”

Bambola sells merchandise designed by Bear through a brand called Kilo Brava.

After her studies, she continued to work in New York City for several years, including working as the head designer for Madonna (yes, that Madonna) and her daughter’s brand, Material Girl, which was then sold at Macy’s. From there, she headed to Miami to work for Cosabella, a major player in intimate apparel, with more than $25 million in sales last year.

“I worked my way up to head of design,” Bear says. “I love the brand. It’s made in Italy and is a beautiful heritage brand. The woman who founded the company, before it got big, was selling lingerie door to door, basically. It’s amazing how it’s grown, and I love their story. But when I wanted to start a family, it was time to leave.”

Eventually, Bear’s husband, a Sarasota native, encouraged her to launch her own label. The couple had recently relocated to Land o’ Lakes, Florida, north of Tampa.

“We started Kilo Brava out of our garage," says Bear. "As soon as I quit my job and the plan was rolling, I found out I was pregnant again. So I was pregnant and developing Kilo Brava at the same time. We actually launched the brand two days after I came home with the baby. I kind of birthed two things at the same time, so however old Ruby, my daughter, is, is how old Kilo Brava is.”

Bear's designs emphasize femininity with florals and lace.

Kilo Brava rapidly gained recognition and eventually was picked up by major brands like Nordstrom, Free People and Anthropologie. It’s no wonder why; her designs are beautiful, with feminine fabrics, floral appliqués and a wide variety of sizes to fit every body. Bambola also carries swimwear designed by Bear.

“When I set out to start Kilo Brava, I had two goals,” Bear says. “I wanted to launch the brand as a financially attainable company with beautiful prints and design, because I, like most people, can’t afford an $80 bra or $50 panties. I also insisted that it be size-inclusive and available to almost everyone. So, we offer our products in sizes small through 3X in every single style.”

Eventually, the time came for the Bear family to choose a new home. “My husband figured out how to run his business remotely and asked me where I wanted to move," she says. "I basically shouted, ‘Sarasota!’ My parents had moved to North Port, his family is here and I’m obsessed with it here. That was just in June of last year."

Kristin Bear at Bambola

Bambola’s storefront showcases Bear’s lingerie while she processes large-scale wholesale orders in a back room. She’s an impressive businesswoman, but also kind, warm and passionate about her industry, making you feel comfortable when you try on her designs.

“Sexiness is very personal and depends on who you are and what your sexuality is,” she says. “But it’s all about feeling good in your own skin. Some gals love a string bikini and some love a little more coverage. What’s sexy to one person might not be sexy-feeling for someone else, so I try to cover lots of different styles and different levels of coverage so everyone can feel comfortable. Within every collection, there’s a range: low bottoms, high bottoms, skimpy, fuller coverage, so you can mix and match based on your comfort.”

Bear leads every facet of the design process, alongside two employees. “I have drawers filled with fabric swatches, and going through them is my favorite part of the design process," she says. "From there, I’m inspired to sketch. I know whatever I choose and design, there will be nothing else like it in the world, because it’s mine. It’s so gratifying."

Before Bambola opened, Sarasota's lingerie options were mostly limited to corporate stores and a handful of independent and adults-only shops. Bear says Bambola is here to stay.

“I never want to leave," she says. "I’ve never felt this way about any place.”

Bambola is located at 4045 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, and is open 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. For more information, call (941) 260-8139 or click here.

Filed under
Show Comments