Rwandan-American Designer & CEO Disrupts Undergarment Industry with Inclusive Breast-Lifting Tape Designed for Multicultural Women

Meet Marylise Kana Uwabideli, the visionary founder behind Kana Company, rethinking women's undergarments with her innovative Breast Lifting Tape. Embracing body inclusivity and body positivity, her tape offers support, comfort, and style for women of all shapes and colors, filling a gap in the women’s undergarment industry. Her company Kana company empowers women to feel confident and beautiful in their own skin.

4 mins read
Rwandan-American CEO Marylise Kana Uwabideli
Rwandan-American CEO Marylise Kana Uwabideli

“Being a Rwandan-American, Uwabideli’s African roots play a big role in her entrepreneurial Journey. She struggled with when finding the right undergarment while styling her umushanana, a traditional attire often paired with a strapless corset worn for weddings and other formal occasions…”

Think about all the fashion shows, overrepresented are women models in a taller and flatter shape with fair complexion. To promote body inclusivity and body positivity, steps have been taken to create clothes and products for women of all shapes and backgrounds. Today we are looking into the story of a pioneer in the women’s undergarment industry, paving a space in fashion for women with curves and women of color.

Kana Company founder, Marylise Kana Uwabideli who often goes by her childhood nickname Kana identified this deficiency when she herself struggled to find bras that provided extra support and comfort.  

Photo by Hasion Malik

Uwabideli, a woman with a full figure herself, explained, “In commercials and advertisements, all the models, they never really looked like me. And so, I always kind of felt like, ‘well, certain clothes, they’re just not meant for girls like me, I have to leave it for other women that maybe are a different size or are a bit slimmer’.” 

Uwabideli decided to forgo traditional bras and create Kana’s Waterproof Breast Lifting Tape, an innovative bra alternative that beautifully marries style with support. Uwabideli is part of a new movement of women who are embracing breast tape as a bra alternative. Journalist Madeleine Aggeler has written extensively about this new push for breast tape.

In a New York Times article, Aggeler said, “Undergarments have always evolved to reflect the aesthetic ideals of their time. Take the shift at the beginning of the 20th century from heavy corsets that emphasized curves, to more minimal bras.” 

Uwabideli is clearly keeping up with the times with her modern product. 

The New York-based entrepreneur utilized local business development resources, like SCORE NYC and the New York Public Library, to transform the Kana Company and her tape product into a reality. 

Prior to the launch of the breast lifting tape, Uwabideli was nervous about the potential reception of the product. Despite the modern bra industry’s start in 1914, the breast tape market has only started to gain traction in the past few years.  

With the breast tape market still in its infancy, Uwabideli wondered if her own brand would be taken seriously. She ultimately kept going with her plan to create the affordable and accommodating breast lifting tape that she offers today.

Retailing at $35, the package includes a full roll of tape and one pair of flower-shaped nipple covers. The tape, designed for easy application, boasts strong adhesion that can withstand up to 10 hours of wear. It is sweat and water-resistant and does not leave behind any sticky residue. Furthermore, it guarantees a painless removal process after a long day. Removal and application instructions come with each package.

Photo by Hasion Malik

The breast lifting tape is also versatile in a whole spectrum of occasions. Garments it can go with include backless, strapless, low cut, shoestring, and halter outfits. The tape will keep you supported in either dance costumes, wedding dresses, or anything you can imagine. Not merely suitable for a night out, the tape also stands up to physical activities like dancing, swimming, and running.

One of the standout features of the breast lifting tape is its compatibility with sensitive skin. The hypoallergenic tape is safe even for individuals with eczema, and it helps women sidestep other discomforts often associated with traditional bras, such as the sharp wires or reduced support due to sweat.

Most importantly, the colored breast lift tapes are available for all skin types. There are four shades and three of the four are catered towards black and brown women. Darker skin colors had long been underrepresented. In the band-aid industry, for example, black and brown shade products were only introduced by Johnson & Johnson as late as 2021.

The breast lifting tape is not only inclusive of darker skin types, but larger bra sizes too. It can support up to size H. 

Being Rwandan-American, Uwabideli’s African roots play a big role in her entrepreneurial journey. She struggled with finding the right undergarment while styling her umushanana, a traditional attire often paired with a strapless corset worn for weddings and other formal occasions. 

“Then I was growing and maturing, my body was changing. I was like, okay, wait, this isn’t comfortable or supportive. I don’t know what I’m gonna do, especially when we’re at weddings, we’re dancing. I could just sit, not being involved in the festivities because I am scared that my strapless bra isn’t going to support me.”

Uwabideli was glad that a few years later, her breast lifting tape came into being. The product is a testament to the company’s mission “to empower women of all shapes and sizes to feel confident and beautiful in their own skin.”

Photo by Hasion Malik

Wearing her own product, Uwabideli was proud that she regained the confidence and the ability to participate in the culture without always having to adjust her top. 

“That’s been such an amazing process and I’m very excited to share it with other women and just show them that there are alternatives for their attire.”

To represent the different shades of Africa, each tape shade is named after an African woman.

“For example, Ella, I named it after two girls that I grew up with and they’ve become such beautiful, amazing young women. They’re from South Sudan, and I was like, ‘I want to create a tape that could be helpful towards them. Something that will be close to their skin tone, so they don’t have to be walking around and worrying about if something’s showing’.”

Uwabideli found TikTok to be a supportive platform for promoting her breast lifting tape. Initially sharing about her outfits and makeup on her personal TikTok page, she gradually discovered a community of women interested in her product. 

“I was just making a video one day about how I was going to a party and how I was using boob tape and a girl in my comments, she was like, ‘Hey, can you show us how you did it?’ And so I filmed a video.” 

A tutorial on how to use the tape garnered over two million views, sparking more requests for similar content. She believes this interest stems from the lack of bra or breast tape-related content available for women online.

“I think that it’s my duty to help share this information with other women,” Uwabideli said.

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