When only the best will do
Why Amoena’s breast forms lead the way in quality and innovation
We talk to Brigitte Seehaus, Product Manager Breast Forms 2011-2013 at Amoena’s head office in Germany about how the baton of excellence in breast form quality and design has been passed down to successive generations of experts over the past 40 years.
It’s hard to imagine now, but before the invention of the silicone breast form by Amoena’s founder, Cornelius Rechenberg, in 1975, women who wanted to restore their figure after mastectomy were faced with very few choices – none of them particularly appealing. From cotton bags filled with tiny glass balls, to inflatable prostheses that were likely to deflate (noisily) at any moment, to stuffing their bras with cotton wool, there was no real sense of aftercare following breast cancer surgery and frequently women were left to their own devices when it came to recreating a balanced outline that didn’t tell the whole world that they’d had a breast removed. Rubber prostheses, invented in the 1950s, were hard and often uncomfortable, and while the liquid-filled breast form, introduced in the '60s, was an improvement, it still left a lot to be desired in terms of comfort and lifelike appearance.
All that changed when a Bavarian bio-engineering student took a summer holiday job in a prosthesis factory. Convinced that he could improve on the technology of the day, he started experimenting with silicone formulations in a pressure cooker in his mother’s kitchen, and came up with the forerunner of today’s ubiquitous silicone prosthesis. Although he did not know at the time that his invention was to become the benchmark for all silicone breast forms subsequently produced, Cornelius did believe he was onto a winner. He started his own company to market the breast forms and so Amoena was born. Since then, Amoena has dedicated itself to developing lifelike, comfortable breast forms that restore women’s self-confidence and quality of life after breast surgery.
Today the company leads the world in breast form products, with a reputation for research, development and cutting-edge technology that continues to push the boundaries of scientific endeavor for the comfort and well-being of women who have had breast surgery. We asked Amoena’s Product Manager Breast Forms, Brigitte Seehaus (2011-13) about how Amoena continues to innovate and excel:
AL: What makes Amoena different in terms of its research and development activities?
[Brigitte]: I think one of our advantages is the fact that we have been established for such a long time. Founded by an engineer, from the start we dedicated ourselves to research and development and we have always worked closely with retailers and customers to ensure that we incorporate the latest technology into our pioneering designs. The result is innovative breast forms of the highest quality. We have never been about making products and then trying to convince our customers that they need them. We create products that answer the real-life needs of women who have had breast surgery. And we recognize that these needs are ever-changing, as surgery techniques evolve and as women demand more in terms of performance and choice.
AL: So does this level of quality make Amoena’s breast forms unique?
[Brigitte]: Over the decades we have established manufacturing processes that produce the most durable, skin-friendly, lifelike breast forms in the industry. We use our own exclusive silicone formulations and we test all the raw materials to make sure that they meet our strict quality standards. The breast forms themselves are tested for endurance to ensure that they will withstand years of daily wear. We want to ensure that they will maintain their shape, color, consistency and softness – and not just in everyday situations, but also in extreme situations such as temperature change and impact. I think such rigorous testing and dedication to quality in every aspect of design and construction is what makes our breast forms unique.
AL: How do you stay ahead of developments in technology and ensure that you continue to offer products that meet women’s needs?
[Brigitte]: Our world-leading innovation has resulted in a long history of patented materials, products and manufacturing methods. As a multinational company we have a global innovation network that draws input from over 60 countries worldwide, and our research and development team collaborates with universities and scientists across many disciplines. Our in-house experts incorporate this knowledge into their constant search for new ways to transfer the latest scientific developments into breast form technology. Surgery techniques are constantly evolving and it’s also vital for us to collaborate with doctors, surgeons and nurses to ensure that our products accommodate the latest methods. Another key aspect in our product development is working closely with end-users themselves. We conduct extensive wear tests with customers for comfort, ease of use and suitability to individual surgery types and lifestyles. Women these days expect more from the consumer products they use, and breast forms are no exception.
AL: Are there any recognized industry standards for quality?
[Brigitte]: Yes, there are, and Amoena was proud to be the first to receive industry certification, back in 1992. The internationally-recognized ISO9000 standards bear witness to our industry-leading quality and environmental management credentials. I think people want to know that they are buying from ethically sound companies with solid credentials, and I’m pleased to say that our commitment to excellence includes a proactive approach to quality benchmarking within the breast form industry.
AL: How do you ensure that Amoena customers receive the same standard of service worldwide?
[Brigitte]: Highly trained fitting specialists support the broadest product range in the industry, and their job is to offer faultless back-up to more than half a million customers across the globe. Supporting them are our expert trainers, with decades of experience in working with women who have had breast surgery and educating nurses and fitting specialists. This system ensures a consistent standard of care for all Amoena customers and, of course, helps complete the circle of feedback that ensures that our products always reflect our customers’ needs.