We went bra shopping at the first store for ThirdLove, the startup taking on Victoria's Secret — here's what it was like

Bethany Biron/Business InsiderThe ThirdLove pop-up store in New York City.
  • ThirdLove opened its first physical store on Wednesday in New York City, allowing shoppers to try on bras from the previously online-only retailer.
  • We visited the pop-up – which is open now through the end of the year – and talked to ThirdLove cofounder Heidi Zak about the company’s decision to wade into brick-and-mortar.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Six years after ThirdLove set out to woo bra shoppers on the hunt for the ever-elusive comfortable fit, the online-only lingerie startup is opening its first ever physical retail space.

ThirdLove officially set up shop in New York City on Wednesday, debuting a concept store that will run through the end of 2019. The pop-up offers personalised bra fittings from “fit stylists” who introduce consumers to styles and help them navigate ThirdLove’s Fit Finder, a short questionnaire that uses a proprietary algorithm to determine the best fit from among 78 total sizes.

Read more: ThirdLove, the buzzy online bra startup that publicly slammed Victoria’s Secret for its lack of inclusivity, is opening its first pop-up store in New York

Despite ThirdLove cofounder Heidi Zak previously stating she had no intention of moving into brick-and-mortar, she said she eventually came to recognise a physical store’s potential to reach new consumers, particularly women who prefer to test particularly fickle garments like bras in real life.

“We just got to a point where we had talked about it for a long time and customers had been telling us they really wanted to be able to try on in person,” Zak told Business Insider during a recent tour of the pop-up.

“We’ve had millions of online customers, but it just felt like we had too many questions and we should just bite the bullet and just do it, just test it.”

By opening the pop-up, ThirdLove follows in the footsteps of fellow buzzy direct-to-consumer brands like Glossier and Away that found success from moving into brick-and-mortar.

Here’s a look inside our visit to the ThirdLove pop-up store:

The ThirdLove store is located in Manhattan’s Soho neighbourhood, an area known for its trendy pop-up shops.

Bethany Biron/Business Insider

Dabbling in physical retail may prove helpful as ThirdLove continues to take on larger competitors like Victoria’s Secret, which is located down the street.

The store — which was designed by the same architecture team that designed the female co-working space, The Wing — is filled with soft lighting and warm colours.

Bethany Biron/Business Insider

The first bra display is intended to demonstrate the consistency of design regardless of size. When ThirdLove first launched extended sizes in June 2018, Zak said the company made a pact to only roll out a new style if it could be made in every size.

Bethany Biron/Business Insider

As the company continues to expand sizing, Zak said design consistency remains a key priority especially in light of recent outcry against Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty lingerie collection over differences in aesthetic by size.

“The straps and the hook and eye are going to be slightly bigger, but net-net, if it’s a C cup, an E cup or an I cup, we have a consistency of style,” Zak said.

The store includes a lounge area near the front where shoppers can wait to chat with a fit stylist from beneath a wall made entirely of bras.

Bethany Biron/Business Insider

Zak said the wall was constructed using 700 ThirdLove classic T-shirt bras.

Bethany Biron/Business Insider

Near the lounge, there are stations outfitted with iPads for shoppers to access the Fit Finder survey, a short questionnaire that uses a proprietary algorithm to determine sizing.

Bethany Biron/Business Insider

To date, more than 14 million women have used Fit Finder to find their size, Zak said.

“When we started, ‘DTC’ wasn’t a term” Zak said. “Even in six years, the world has radically changed from when platforms like Shopify and Instagram were in their infancy.”

For further education about breast shape and fit, the store re-appropriated and blew up images from the Fit Finder on the wall.

Bethany Biron/Business InsiderAdditional images from the Fit Finder wall.

Toward the back of the store, we found the “Bra Style Guide,” which explained each of the looks, including the Plunge, Classic, and Lace collections.

Bethany Biron/Business Insider

“There are a few things that are very different from a traditional bra shop: There are no hangers, there are no racks of product,” Zak said.

Bethany Biron/Business Insider

Instead, stylists work directly with the shoppers to bring them styles that they can select from the wall display.

Bethany Biron/Business Insider

The final stop is the fitting room.

Bethany Biron/Business Insider

Within each room, we found a dial that can adjust the lighting to either “daylight” or “twilight.” Pushing “support” will summon a stylist to answer questions or deliver new sizes.

Bethany Biron/Business Insider

Each room comes equipped with a neon breast sign, which turns on when the shopper hits the support button. This notifies the stylists that their assistance is needed.

Bethany Biron/Business Insider

For more modest consumers, select rooms have a secluded area for stylists where they can leave new fits and styles without intruding upon the shopper’s space.

Bethany Biron/Business Insider

On the way out, shoppers can grab a cheeky pin.

Bethany Biron/Business Insider

Zak said that the next few months will serve as an important observational period. Its performance will inform whether the store will ultimately stay open into 2020 and determine whether ThirdLove opens additional pop-ups in other cities.

Bethany Biron/Business Insider

“We’ve really done a good job of making it more into a ‘fit lab’ versus what I would call a traditional retail store,” Zak said.

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