Meet the startup founder challenging the way women shop for bras

Facebook/ThirdLoveThirdLove is known for its body-positive marketing.


Heidi Zak was in her early 30s when she cofounded online bra startup ThirdLove with her husband, David Spector. The couple was driven by what they saw as a lack of innovation in the underwear market – specifically, that bras were hard to shop for online. They were determined to find a way around this.

“No one wants to go bra shopping,” Zak told Business Insider in a recent interview. “I started the company so a woman wouldn’t have to go to the store.”

To do so, the company launched an online quiz, known as a “fit finder,” where customers are asked to complete a series of questions to determine their ideal bra shape. To date, more than 12 million women have taken the quiz; each time a customer does, the algorithm becomes that much smarter.

“The more women that do it, the more patterns we see,” Zak said.

“Technology is improving, everything is evolving. My focus is on digital and continuing to build on it for this category.”

Heidi Zak thirdloveHollis JohnsonThirdLove cofounder and co-CEO Heidi Zak was named to Business Insider’s list of the 100 people transforming business.

ThirdLove is built around being body-inclusive

ThirdLove has lit up the internet in recent months as it challenges longtime market leaders such as Victoria’s Secret with more inclusive marketing.

In its most recent campaign, ThirdLove used 78 different “real” women to demonstrate the breadth of its sizing. Each of these women was wearing a different size in the same style.

ThirdLoveCourtesy of ThirdLoveThirdLove photographed 78 women in the same bra to demonstrate the breadth of size.

ThirdLove’s crusade against longtime industry norms came to a head in November, when Zak and Spector decided to take out a full-page ad in The New York Times slamming Victoria’s Secret.

The chief marketing officer of Victoria’s Secret’s parent company had recently made controversial comments about transgender models during an interview with Vogue. CMO Ed Razek said in the interview that he didn’t think the company’s annual fashion show should feature “transsexuals” because “the show is a fantasy.” He also said that the brand would not be adding larger sizes to its assortment and that it had no plans to feature plus-size models in its runway show.


Read more:
ThirdLove founder reveals why the company took out a full-age ad slamming rival Victoria’s Secret

Zak told Business Insider that she read the Vogue article dozens of times.

“It made us so angry,” she said, adding that it was Spector – also cofounder and co-CEO of the brand – who decided that the company needed to respond.

“We debated it, and we spent a lot of time writing it, but it was absolutely the right move,” she said. “We felt that we needed to make sure that not just the ThirdLove voice was heard, but that it was a rallying call to all women.”

Zak said that inclusivity can’t only go as far as brand marketing, however, and that it has to be reflected in the sizes on offer. This has lately been one of the biggest battles in the lingerie market as many of the leading players have not offered plus sizes.

Earlier this year, the company launched eight new sizes, which brought its assortment to 78 bra sizes in total, with bands ranging from 30″ to 48″ and cups going from AA to I. For comparison, Victoria’s Secret offers 30AA to 40DDD. American Eagle’s Aerie offers from 30A to 40DD.

“That level of size range allows us to reach so many more women than a traditional brand that maybe has between 30 and 35 sizes,” Zak said. “You can talk about inclusivity all you want, but if you don’t have those sizes, then you are not really delivering on that.”

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