Keira Kotler knows from whence she designs. The Marin-based founder of 10-month-old Everviolet—a unique brand of lingerie and loungewear created expressly for women in treatment for breast cancer—was inspired to start the business after her own journey with the disease.
Now, more than six years after her own successful treatment, Kotler is thriving—even though life as an e-comm entrepreneur is nothing she would have predicted.
For the bulk of her career, Kotler worked as a branding and marketing expert. While at Berkeley-based Addis Group, her accounts included Pottery Barn Kids and Sephora, among others. After leaving the firm, she consulted for early-stage startups and entrepreneurs in the yoga and wellness space. Did we mention Kotler's also a talented fine artist whose work focuses on photography and painting? (Check it out for yourself IRL at Brian Gross Fine Art in SF.)
"Being diagnosed with breast cancer at age 40 changed my perspective on everything, including my career. And as I emerged from the experience with much gratitude for the love, care and support I received, I knew that I wanted to be of service to others and pay my good prognosis forward," she explains.
We sat down for a chat with the oh-so-inspiring Kotler. (We dare you not to girl crush.)
Everviolet pieces are designed to fit women of all body shapes and sizes during various stages of breast cancer treatment and recovery.(Kreate Photography)
7x7: First, where did the name Everviolet come from?
Keira Kotler: "The name Everviolet is a play on the word 'evergreen'—something natural and strong that is unwavering, even in the face of a storm. As an artist, I focus on the psychological impact of color, and violet is the color of our inner worlds, our spiritual worlds. As a brand focused on inner beauty and the mission to help women renew or retain a sense of self following physical body changes, Everviolet stands for a strong, inner radiance that shines outward."
7x7: What were you looking for in bras and lingerie that you couldn't find as a cancer survivor?
KK: "Honestly, anything that was comfortable and attractive. I tell people that I tried on over 200 bras in a six-month period following my last surgery, to no avail, and it's true. Bras were either pretty but ill-fitting and painful. Or they were functional yet industrial and unattractive. Even bras designed for after surgery caused discomfort and irritation due to scratchy fabric, rough threads and poorly constructed seams. I had never really been much into lingerie before—but all of a sudden, after two surgeries and the loss of an important part of my femininity, having natural, healthy fabric against my skin, and adorning myself with something pretty, felt important. I couldn't find a single product that fit these criteria."
7x7: How did you tackle the task of starting your company?
KK: "The first couple of years were pure research. I hosted intimate home parties on both coasts with breast cancer patients and survivors in order to learn as much as possible about different women's experiences. I'd bring market samples, and together we would discuss what we liked, what we didn't, and what was or wasn't working with the existing product. We talked about surgeries, treatments and the ongoing issues stemming from them. We also discussed price points, purchasing behaviors, stages of recovery, and types of clothing we needed most."
7x7: Did you have a team helping you or was it a one-woman-show?
KK: "So many people have supported me along the way, for which I am immensely grateful. In fact, one of the greatest highlights in launching Everviolet has been the incredible people I've met—people who are now part of the Everviolet family, like our models, advisors, medical ambassadors, and team members, as well as customers and supporters who champion us from afar.
When I started, it was just me. But not coming from the apparel world, I knew I needed to surround myself with smart people with skill sets different from my own. So, that's what I did. Our current team is lean yet mighty. I have a partner with 25-plus years in apparel sourcing and manufacturing apparel, two amazing women who contribute greatly to our digital marketing/creative direction and production management, respectively, and amazing advisors from all aspects of business, finance, law, and retail. I take great pride in the fact that we're an all-women team, and every one of us plays a critical role in our success."
Everviolet founder Keira Kotler.(Tana Gandhi)
7x7: What are the key features that make Everviolet bras ideal for survivors?
KK: "We use a unique combination of fabrics to provide soft, luxe and supportive bras that are always wire-free. The designs are cut to avoid incisions and nerve damage sites, lymphedema, irritation around radiation areas, and chemotherapy ports. Every bra has internal pockets that can hold a thin shaper pad (to help with discretion or asymmetry) or prosthetic breast forms, and all of our seams are internal so that there are no scratchy stitches to cause irritation. Nearly all of our fabrics are sustainable, meaning they are naturally antimicrobial and breathable, making them good for the body and the planet. Everviolet products deliver on a trifecta of comfort, fit, and fashion."
7x7: What fabrics do you use?
KK: "Our jerseys are made with cotton and certified Tencel modal sourced from the U.S. and Canada. Our stretch lace is also sourced in the U.S. and, while it is not sustainable (due to inclusion of Spandex), it's softened naturally for extra care."
7x7: Do you have a signature or most popular product?
KK: "Interestingly, all of our products have been selling equally. What's great is that silhouettes that were originally created with later phases of healing in mind are being worn by newly diagnosed and immediately post-operative women. And, likewise, pieces I thought would be best for right after surgery are being worn long after recovery is complete. Plus, the bras are also being worn by women who have never had cancer or surgery.
I would say our signature product is the Vela Bra. It looks like an ultra-feminine lace bra you'd find at Nordstrom or a high-end boutique, and yet it has all of the added functionality and fit characteristics for someone with ongoing sensitivities. It also has a matching Vela Brazilian Panty, which, amazingly, looks great on everyone. As far as I know, there are no other brands in this space that are creating matching sets."
Everviolet's Astrid jersey bralette ($62).(Kreate Photography)
7x7: How has Everviolet been received?
KK: "The response has been incredible. Everyone marvels at the hand-feel of our fabrics, the uniqueness of our designs, and the minimal, elegant aesthetic. Our colors are neutral yet uplifting, and as our size-range increases, we'll be able to serve more body shapes and types. I often hear, 'There's nothing else like this' or "Finally! Bras that are comfortable and beautiful!' People also really appreciate our dedication to clean fabrics, ethical and eco-friendly production, as well as the fact that everything is made in the U.S."
7x7: Can you talk about Everviolet's charitable component?
KK: "The initial inspiration for Everviolet came from my extraordinary experience with breast surgeon, Dr. Laura Esserman (director of the Carol Frank Buck Breast Cancer Center and a professor of surgery and radiology at UCSF). She is pioneering several clinical trials to better understand how to assess individual breast cancer risk and treatment. Her level of presence, care, skill and compassion during and after my surgery blew me away, and I emerged from that experience wanting to support her and her research. I call Everviolet my pay-my-good-prognosis-forward mission to support other women, and a portion of our proceeds will go to support Dr. Esserman's research foundation."
7x7: Final thoughts?
KK: "Our mantra is #beautyofchange. Our goal is to encourage women to celebrate the strength and resilience that comes from changes (even unwanted ones) to our bodies and lives."
// Everviolet products ($30 to $120) are available at several hospital gift shops, including UCSF Mt. Zion in San Francisco, as well as online at everviolet.com; look for pop-up shopping events in the Bay Area and around the country.