There are plenty of cheap bras available in New Zealand, but they're in such a tiny size range that I've never been able to fit into them even when I wore an incorrect 12C. They're bras that still live in the era when a C cup of any kind meant you were well endowed. I've never paid much attention to those bras, though I suppose I'll have to have a look at them more closely since they must fit some people.
On the topic of cheap bras, however, The Warehouse has recently started stocking bras by Rose & Thorne Design, a New Zealand owned brand (presumably, as I couldn't find confirmation) that launched in October 2011. The bras are designed in New Zealand (again, presumably) and manufactured in China. They are still a baby brand, but their Facebook page shows that a lot of women are very keen on the pretty bras and accessible prices.
Currently the sizes range from 10A to 20E, with some styles having a bigger size range than others. The prices range from $20 to $25, which is nice and cheap. They are launching three new styles (called shapes) for cup sizes DD-G at the end of this year, but I'm not sure what the band range or prices will be.
I noticed Rose & Thorne when in The Warehouse because their bras do look great compared to the mostly drab offerings by other brands sold there. They also tend to have big posters explaining how to find your correct size. The advice given by the posters is outdated and incorrect, using the +4 method, but compared to the vacuum of size advice given by other brands, it's a start. Soon I'll have convinced them to use the +0 starting point method and then we'll be on a roll ;)
Because there's no such thing as a bra fitting at The Warehouse, Rose & Thorne are trying to sell bras that fit to women who aren't going to receive any advice instore about it - and often won't even try the bras on. That's a difficult position for Rose & Thorne to be in, and one they've tried to rectify by introducing a "Forgiving Fit" to their bras which they say will allow for more leeway in band and cup size and help to fix symptoms of poor fit such as breast spillage, band riding up and straps digging in. They have a rudimentary fitting guide on their website that looks at some of those poor fit problems.
I'm very skeptical of this "Forgiving Fit", because the problems they describe are all easily fixed by simply wearing a bra that's the right size. For example, for the problem of quadraboob (breasts not being contained by the cups) they explain they have a "cocoon cup" which will allow breasts to sit nicely in the cups even when the cup is too small a size. The real answer to this problem is just to wear a bigger cup size, which they do not mention in the fitting advice on their website.
One of the most worrying aspects of their Forgiving Fit is that they have increased the band flexibility of their bras, allowing their bras to fit up to two centimetres smaller or bigger than your average band. I really don't think that increasing the ribcage range of a size 10 band to fit from 66cm to 75cm is going to be good for the ladies at the smaller end of that scale (nevermind that anyone with a 75cm underbust should be starting with a size 8 anyway).
Another of their touted innovations is the idea of 7 shapes, one of which will match you perfectly and then you'll never have to try another of those shapes again but can keep buying them and they will fit. Many bra bloggers know from experience that you can buy two bras of the exact same size and style in two different colours and they will fit differently. Trying on a bra is always necessary. That aside, I'm finding it difficult to work out how their 7 different shapes make them any different to other bra manufacturers. Bra brands such as Freya, Panache etc make bras to different shapes, although admittedly they don't label their shapes so it can be trial and error to find ones that fit similarly. Perhaps the fact that Rose & Thorne's different shapes are clearly labeled is what makes them different.
According to the bra calculator on their website, I should be wearing a 12D (bearing in mind that I usually wear a 8FF/10F). I do not believe that I will fit that bra, but I intend to go to The Warehouse soon and at least try one on in all the shapes I can find and see if I can tell from the changing room if it might work. If I find one in a 12D that doesn't shift around as soon as I put it on, I will buy one and roadtest it properly. In the likely event that I can't find one, I'll try for a 10DD. I'm not expecting to be able to find a bra that actually fits me (despite the fact that according to their size guide I should do easily), but if I buy one and it fails, it can just go on my giveaway pile.
I think so far this review has been a bit negative, so I'll try to remedy that. Although Rose & Thorne has fallen prey to the usual +4 starting point garbage that is supposedly still the industry standard and chosen a very strange way to get around it, they do make very attractive and affordable bras that will fit quite a big range of larger-backed and smaller-breasted women. Expanding to a G cup will help that even more, and I think they'll end up being accessible for a fair number of women, though very few who wear a dress size 10 or smaller.
They've also mentioned starting a fitting studio in Auckland, which is a step in the right direction. I'd love to have the chance to be fitted by one of their bra gurus so I could fairly say whether I believe their fitting will be helpful or not, but maybe after they've opened the studio I can take a trip up north to see.
The absolute best thing about Rose & Thorne is their willingness to engage with their customers. They have an active Facebook page and they respond to almost all comments, suggestions and questions left for them. I've posted a few criticisms and suggestions on their page, including a link to a bra fitting site, and they've always gotten back to me with specific, individual replies rather than standard "thanks for your input" replies. Provided they continue with this engagement of their customers, I can see them doing very well in a country where talking to your bra company is unheard of.
Stay tuned for a review of their bras!