Innovation & Sustainability: Tensengral’s Braided Lace Bralettes
By ESTELLE PULESTON
Based in Anthol, New York, Tensengral is an intriguing bodywear brand that holds appeal whether your interests lie in sustainability, historical fabric-making, or much more modern clothing technologies. Their bralettes may at first look like they’ve been crocheted or knitted, but they’re actually lace. Specifically, a braided ‘performance’ lace that has been designed by brand owner Brad Jamison and produced on 20th-century lace braiding machines modified to take instructions digitally rather than via a punch card.
Jamison was an unlikely candidate to launch a lingerie line. First, he worked as an arborist, where he climbed trees and got comfortable with ropes and ‘balanced tensions’. Next, he launched a sports company; unable to find a suitably flexible, stable mesh fabric for its shuttlecocks, he acquired his antique lace braiding machine and developed the fabric himself. But he didn’t stop there.
Over two decades of extensive experimentation with braiding arrangements and their potential uses led to a catalogue of over 1,000 exclusive patterns – and the conclusion that bodywear was one particular industry that could be improved by them! Finally, the Tensengral brand was born.
The company describes its braided fabrics as “linked and interlaced filament networks” which deliver “balanced tension distribution.” Each thread of yarn runs in a straighter line compared to the small loops of a crochet or knit, making it more able to shift around in response to movement without affecting the overall shape of the garment. The idea is to create bras that provide adaptive support and which minimize rubbing and chafing by better distributing weight.
I find all of this incredibly fascinating, but there’s also plenty to love about this brand from a sustainability perspective. For one thing, Jamison isn’t braiding large sheets of this lace fabric and then cutting into them. Rather, each bralette is braided from start to finish in a single piece. There are no fabric scraps here! Even the elasticized threads that enhance the band and strap fit are braided right in alongside the rest of the yarns, so there’s next to no assembly required (just a single sewn seam to bring two edges together) and it’s overall a practically zero-waste process.
Then there’s the yarn itself which, depending on whether you opt for the ‘summer’ or ‘winter’ version of each bralette, is either US-grown Supima cotton or Tencel™. Both are left undyed, meaning no wastewater pollution. And each garment is designed to be reversible, a factor the brand states “encourages less consumer consumption by way of its versatile design, having at least two functional and distinct wearing options in one bra.”
Known as AMBI bras, from the Latin prefix meaning ‘on both sides’, the collection includes a Classic bra with an adjustable drawstring detail, an Active bra that can be worn as a racerback, and a HiLo bra that offers a choice between tall or plunge necklines. As well as the fabric difference, winter versions have longer bands and hence offer a bit of extra support for fuller busts.
All Tensengral bralettes are available in an inclusive size range spanning 28A to 46H, and other sizes can also be custom-made for you. All styles are priced at 59.95€, with a coordinating shorty brief also available for 48.95€. You can also check out the brand’s extensive archives of experimental designs if you’re curious to see more of what can be made with this braiding machinery – there’s everything from bodysuits to fringed lingerie dresses!