Former actress Amanda Horan Andereck invented seamless bra that eliminates back bulges
Andereck created a prototype from a pair of control-top pantyhose and cups she snipped from an old bra, found a manufacturer, and created the product.
“You can have the best product on the planet, and if no one knows about it, you will not succeed.”
—Amanda Horan Andereck
BY ALYSON DUTCH
“I’ve always had a bit of a shopping habit,” says Amanda Horan Andereck, the former co-star of TV’s “B.J. and the Bear,” one of Calvin Klein’s first models at 16, and current CEO of Sassybax.®
One day in a dressing room, she tried on a tight sweater and noticed the unsightliness caused by her bra straps. So she invented an undergarment to eliminate visible bra lines and became a fashion solution maven, the first to eradicate the look of what many women call “back fat.”
Andereck strived to create a seamless bra, which 44 manufacturers told her could not be done. Her inspiration came from control-top pantyhose: She cut off the legs, flipped them upside down, and slipped them over her head. She put her arms through the leg holes, cut apart her bra and slipped the cups inside, anchoring them with a few hand stitches.
After trying on that tight sweater again, she had completely eliminated the bra strap indentations.
This was the beginning of a wild success story, eventually starring a 360-degree knitting machine that could knit in contours and bra-cup type support. This piece of technology became a seamless garment-making icon now used by popular brands Lululemon, Nike, Athletica and many others.
Her Sassybax brand, founded in 2004, was quickly adopted by women nationally; Neiman Marcus was its first customer. She sold $1 million of product within the first year from her garage in Marina Del Rey, California. The brand soon became an intimates staple at other iconic retailers.
When internet sales began to burgeon, many in the fashion industry never believed that people would buy clothing online because they were used to trying it on.
Andereck says that assumption is particularly false for the intimates sector, especially because women abhor trying on bras.
“If it doesn’t fit, you have to put all your clothes back on, after which the dressing room locks behind you,” says Andereck, who knows how people think after seven years as a clinical psychologist. “You’ve gotta go out to the floor to see if you can find another size and then, if you’re lucky, you’ll find one of the three sales associates staffing an entire department store floor to let you back into the locked dressing room.
“Women hate the experience. It’s worse than trying on jeans and bathing suits.”
When the retail business began to wane more seriously in 2012, Andereck noticed that her online sales were growing and boasted a smashingly low return rate. Most e-tailers plan for up to a 50 percent return rate, but Sassybax bras hit such a nerve for women that the return rate was a stunning 2 percent.
No one-hit wonder
With dozens of appearances on major TV shows and movies during the 1980s and early ’90s, Andereck always avoided the “one-hit wonder” syndrome. This is also a potential pitfall for entrepreneurs; retailers often turn away brands that don’t have a larger catalogue from which to choose.
Andereck started with the “no back fat bra” she called the Bralette that came in four sizes and four colors, then added length on the body of the design for a mid- and complete-torso option. From there, she used the same seamless knitting technique to craft booty-lifting leggings, and racerback and strapless bras. In 2007, she received a U.S. patent for the unique knit structure she developed to incorporate into her company’s leggings and bottom shapers.
Sassybax eventually expanded its catalogue—developing a line of pretty lingerie-looking shapewear, arm- and thigh-shaping undergarments, slips, briefs, camisoles and tummy-taming thongs.
But as time marched on, she listened more carefully to her customers and decided to get back to basics and hyper-focus on Sassybax’s core products that women voraciously continued to order: the bras.
A patent? Not always
Andereck is a no-frills, tell-it-like-it-is business owner. Having grown up in Kansas and Minnesota, she says she’s “a Midwesterner by ethic.”
Though today she focuses on running the business, she has performed every function from designing to delivery, legal to accounts payable and inventory to marketing.
She generally does not believe in patents in the garment industry. “Sale is proof of utility, and that’s what matters,” she says.
There are important reasons for her not to pursue a patent on her main product: “Patenting in the garment industry is a false sense of security, because someone can change something ever so slightly on that garment and then sell it to compete with your product—and that’s legal. Shocking, but those are the facts.
“In addition, patent law is wildly expensive, with the possibility of long, drawn-out legal battle that’s nearly impossible to prove.”
Marketing is queen
Andereck’s experience as an actress helped her understand the crucial importance of marketing. She says Hollywood agents agreed that “no one went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.
“A lot of companies have been built on genius marketing and less-than-genius products. You can have the best product on the planet, and if no one knows about it, you will not succeed. Though no one plans to have a mediocre product, it is true that a less-than-amazing product with brilliant marketing wins every time.”
She has always made her products in America, having personally witnessed what she says is an unhealthy emphasis on work in Chinese factories.
“I was saddened that the factory employees were treated as if all that mattered was work. The factories are owned by their government, and they are expendable workers. … That’s what kept me from manufacturing there.”
She refused to use toxic fabric dyes, such as the ones used in Chinese factories. For a product such as Sassybax, an undergarment that sits directly on the skin, she felt it imperative that the dyes were non-toxic. Consumers are looking for products that match this health value, so her marketing is changing to bring this to light.
As the coronavirus pandemic dawned, consumers’ points of view have changed dramatically, Being tone-deaf to this could alienate a consumer base; it’s crucial to communicate with customers in a way that makes them feel they are heard and seen.
Often, people schooled in adversity grow into those who are the most resilient and adaptable—the two foremost qualities inherent in the most successful entrepreneurs. Andereck was a Miss Texas USA and a TV star whose personal life was followed in the tabloids, but she is no stranger to adversity.
She built Sassybax through the fallout of being diagnosed with two cerebral aneurysms “that I chose to have surgically corrected via two separate brain surgeries at UCLA, to avoid them rupturing and possibly killing me. Due to brilliant surgeons and Screen Actors Guild insurance which paid $300,000, I am 100 percent corrected and kicking!”
She earned her degree in psychology and built a practice in Los Angeles before getting into the bra business.
She is a woman who never takes no for an answer and is filled with more moxie than most. Perhaps it is a Midwest upbringing that develops a personality like this—but regardless, it is a blueprint for success that most would be fortunate to follow.
Born: New York City
Title: Founder and CEO, Sassybax
Education: Bachelor’s degree in psychology, Master’s in clinical psychology
Awards: Miss Texas USA, 2nd runner-up Miss USA
Acting experience: 33 TV and movie credits, including “B.J. and the Bear,” “Cheers,” “The A Team,” “Hart to Hart,” “CHiPS,” “Matt Houston,” “The Fall Guy,” “Fantasy Island,” “Remington Steele,” “Quantum Leap”
Other work experience: Ran a consultant practice for women’s issues
Interests: Charitable causes involving breast cancer, human rights, the Humane Society