Living with breast cancer and needing a mastectomy is more common than you might think, and it can be a challenging journey. It can be lonely and painful, and some can feel as if their body is not their own after treatment. Entrepreneur Allison Schickel set out to change that.
The Brobe is an adaptive bra-robe that features a supportive built-in bra plus strategic inner pockets to hold post-op items like ice packs and drainage bags. Velcro and snap fasteners increase accessibility, while the robe’s fashionable colors make women feel a bit more like themselves.
“The Brobe focuses
on the user and their wellness,
not the sickness.”
Despite its nine patents in the U.S. and abroad, The Brobe wasn’t initially conceptualized for breast cancer survivors, but rather for women with larger breasts. “I wanted to be able to wear a robe, have some support, and fight boob sweat while I was running around the house getting ready!” laughs Schickel, who hails from the often-sweltering state of Texas.
It wasn’t until she sewed her first prototype that Schickel struck upon The Brobe’s true mission. A friend living with Stage III breast cancer detailed her difficult post-mastectomy experience of taping JP drains to her body because she didn’t have pockets in her hospital robe, and felt humiliated greeting hospital visitors that way. “But she didn’t have any options,” says Schickel. That’s when the light bulb went off.
Schickel brought The Brobe to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, connected with breast cancer patients, and honed her vision based on focus group feedback. This “therapy in a robe” quickly caught the attention of investors, reinforcing its purpose and mission.
After its official launch in 2012, the awards started pouring in. In addition to receiving a coveted Tory Burch Fellowship Program, Schickel also received a Women in Tech Award; Dallas Market Center Next Big Thing Award; InnovateHER Challenge Award, Best of Austin Recovery Award from the Austin Chronicle, among many others.
The unforgettable “Brobe” name might get a chuckle, but it’s clearly serious business.
The Brobe has branched out since the beginning, offering relief and confidence for those who’ve had breast reconstructive surgery, open-heart surgery, lumpectomies, organ transplants, or nursing mothers who need additional support. Products include the Recovery Brobe (with three-quarter sleeve for easy IV access), Drain Belt (with wicking material for shower), Recovery Bra (with inner pockets), Comfort Pillow (with a pocket for an ice packet), and the 50 x 70-inch Comfort Blanket.
The newest item is the Superhero Robe for kids, complete with detachable movable pockets for tubes and drains, and an interchangeable superhero cape with a matching mask.
Schickel is thrilled that she’s contributing to people’s well-being, citing a survey that 87 percent of women continue to wear their Brobe long after they’ve recovered. “I hear from women every day who are so grateful for this product,” she beams. "It gives them their power back."