Not yet a year old, but already an under-the-radar hit in downtown Sarasota, LaBella Intimates is Santa LaBellman’s second Florida boutique specializing in European-made intimate apparel. “In Orlando, I’ve been nicknamed the Bra Whisperer,” she jokes. “And I’m the expert FOX 35 [News] calls for reports on bra fitting and lingerie fashion.” Indeed, LaBellman credits her expertise in bra fitting and the quality of her exclusive Eastern European brands for the success of both her stores.
A native of Latvia, LaBellman and husband Alex met in Europe. They have two young sons, Christian and Austin, and worked together for 10 years at his family’s 100-year-old business, LaBelle Furs in Orlando, before LaBellman launched LaBella in 2011. “I missed the beautiful lingerie you see everywhere in Europe. And there was definitely a void when it comes to personalized bra fittings,” she explains.
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What’s trendy now: “People want fashion—they want lacy, colorful, fun bras—even in hard-to-find sizes, DD and up. When I first started it was all light colors. Now it’s coral, aqua and pink in summer; this winter gray, deep purple and green will be big.”
Any hot gift items? “Baby dolls and corsets are always great holiday sellers. Sleepwear from Flirt is comfortable, sexy and elegant. For men, our Saxx 24-7 men’s boxer briefs are flying off the shelf ($25). They come in prints and colors and have mesh inside to keep everything in place.”
Why Eastern European brands? “Our best seller is the Kris Line out of Poland; the quality and fit are incredible, with sizes from A to KK. Another brand I like is Nikol Djumon from Latvia. I go to markets in Paris and New York. French bras like Chantelle are no longer handmade, and not even made in France because of the cost. And they’re still double the price of bras hand-crafted in Eastern Europe, which I retail from $50 to $90 on average.”
Can’t live without: “The right lingerie. It builds confidence. A properly fitting bra can change your frame and make you look like you’ve lost 10 pounds. That and the sun and blue skies of Florida make me feel good. In Latvia we have rain and clouds most of the year.”
This article appears in the November 2014 issue of Sarasota Magazine. Click here to subscribe. >>