Eavesdrop in almost any store dressing room and you are sure
to hear these words as clothes are being tried on, "With
Spanx it will be perfect." The whittling wonder body
shaper line has become a staple in most lingerie drawers. And
despite the continued debate over whether prolonged use of
shapewear can be harmful to your body organs, the mainstream
makeover from bumpy to smooth has made Spanx one of the
business wonders of the world. On Thursday it was an elbow-to-elbow
room crowd at New England's first Spanx store that opened
at Westfarms Mall. Sara Blakely, the 43-year-old business mogul who invented the line, has
given underwear a mainstream shove since introducing her first
power panties 14 years ago. One of the world's most well
known billionaires and a Forbes list fav, the married mother
of one who lives in Connecticut has expanded the product line
to include men's shapewear and proved once again that
necessity is the mother of some of the best inventions.
Those attending Thursday's grand opening were treated with a
"freebie" from the Spanx "Tower of Power,"
and some one-on-one guidance from staff at Blakely's fifth
store. While the queen of "power" could not be there,
she did share her tale of turning a personal need for some
slimming underpinnings into the multi-billion dollar business it
has become as she Spilled the Beans with Java in a phone
interview prior to the opening.
Q: Did you ever imagine your invention would, pardon the
pun, take off like this?
A: I have had so many funny moments in dressing rooms where
I can hear women in the next cubicle trying on things and saying
'I just need Spanx' with this. I have to smile because
when I ripped up that first pair of panty hose to come up with
something to wear under my pants, I knew I was onto something.
The business has definitely exceeded my wildest dreams. The
funny thing is, in the first two years of me creating Spanx, all
I heard was "no" from everyone. But I knew what they
did for my own body and figured there had to be other women that
would like something that was lightweight, comfortable, and did
the job under clothes. I didn't have a bunch of ideas up my
sleeve. I started with one product idea and now, here we are 14
Q: I remember a time when "shape wear" had a less
than whimsical connotation. And certainly was anything but,
again no pun intended, when it came to sharing with anyone
that you were wearing a little help under your clothes. Why and
how do you think Spanx broke that not-so-supportive bad rep?
A: The name Spanx is fun. I wanted a sense of humor to it
and it has become a grounding connection for women and men who
wear Spanx. I think there is an authenticity to it and frankly,
I have promoted the line with my own rear end on the line to
advertise it. So I guess you could say I put my butt on the
line for it.
Q: So what is the secret when it comes to Spanx
"shaping the world, one woman'' (and man since
introducing that line) at a time?
A: The secret is the way the garment is made and to be very
vague, it is the way we fit Spanx and the way it is knitted.
It's a secret sauce and ever one tries to knock off our
product but they haven't. When I first invented Spanx, I had
never taken a business class or worked in retail. But I
watched the manufacturing process and wondered why waist bands
were all the same size to cut costs, no matter what, and how
could they know how it was working and feeling using a plastic
form? We have sizes to our waistbands and we did away with this
rubber cord most shape wear manufacturers were using because you
don't need it anymore because of the Lycra products
available now. There were a lot of things I learned quickly
including what felt good and what worked.
Q: What is your favorite Spanx product, the one you could
not go without?
A: The power panties, the footless ones that I wear under
all my capris and spring pants. And the Bra-llelujah.
Q: Some would argue women should just get in shape instead of
using underwear to make up for the deficit. What is your
A: That hasn't been the case with me or the
customer I know. Think of your undergarments as the canvas.
You need a smooth canvas before you can paint and it's not
about being in shape or out of shape. Everyone can have a panty
line or a bulge. Spanx has never been an alternative to being
healthy. For me, it's about a better cleaner solution to
wearing clothes well.
Q: What can people find in the store that they can't
find in your catalogue? And why did you choose Connecticut for
your first New England store?
A: I chose Connecticut and New England because people are
fabulous and we have a big following of devoted customers from
this area. Not just for shapewear but for our active wear. As
far as the store, you can get one-on-one care from us. The
feeling in the store is not judgmental. We don't care what
size she is, we just want her to go out as a confident woman,
girlfriend to girlfriend.
Q: You have become a business icon. What is your advice to
other women with an idea?
A: Trust your gut. What you don't know can be your
greatest asset. In our society a lot of people think what you
don't know is a negative. That can be a gift. I knew so
little about how what I wanted to do was supposed to be done and
that is why Spanx solved problems better than any other product.
In the beginning, I didn't tell anyone my idea and kept it a
secret because I didn't want anyone to dissuade me. Women
need to trust themselves and their gut. It is a great compass.