- ThirdLove is an online bra startup that launched in 2013.
- In the past year, it has been more public about its quest to shake up the lingerie industry and disrupt longtime leader Victoria’s Secret.
- The company recently announced that it had raised $US55 million in a round of funding led by consumer-focused private-equity firm L Catterton. The C EOs of 23andMe and YouTube were among the other investors.
- I decided to put it to the test.
I could probably count the number of times that I have ordered an item of clothing online and actually kept it on one hand. So, when I first heard about a startup that promises to find your perfect size and shape bra (a product that is famously hard to shop for) off the back of a 60-second online quiz, I was highly sceptical.
Clearly, others don’t share my scepticism. Buzzy online bra startup ThirdLove has quickly become one of the most talked-about brands in the industry. In November, ThirdLove publicly slammed Victoria’s Secret after an executive from the lingerie giant called the startup out in an interview in Vogue. Last month, the company announced that it had raised $US55 million in a round of funding led by consumer-focused private-equity firm L Catterton.
ThirdLove invites customers to take a quiz on its website to determine which size and style bra they should buy. According to the company, over 12 million women have taken this quiz, and each time they take it and submit feedback, the algorithm becomes even smarter.
In a recent interview with Business Insider, Heidi Zak, co-founder and co-CEO of this husband-and-wife-run company, said that that the brand isn’t considering opening stores (at least at the moment) because its whole premise is built around making bra shopping possible online.
“I started the company so a woman wouldn’t have to go to the store,” she told Business Insider. “No one wants to go bra shopping. Technology is improving, everything is evolving. My focus is on digital and continuing to build on it for this category.”
With this in mind, we decided to put ThirdLove to the test:
The first stage of the process is to determine the correct size and shape of the bra you should get. In place of a physical fitting, ThirdLove offers its fit-finder quiz.
Zak said that over 12 million women have taken the quiz.
“The algorithm gets smarter and smarter,” she said. “The more women that do it, the more patterns we see.”
In the first question, you are asked to provide your usual cup and band size as well as your favoured brand.
We put in a 32D size for the purpose of this test.
Zak told Business Insider in September that the company recently added a question about the age of a customer’s current bra to the quiz. This is because bras can stretch over time, so it helps ThirdLove to account for this when considering sizes.
An explainer video clarifies exactly what fit you should be aiming for.
While other bra manufacturers might use one fit model to determine the size of the bands, Zak said that ThirdLove bras are fitted on “real women with many body types.”
Depending on what you select for your band size, it could either advise you to go up or down a size.
In the next question, ThirdLove asks you to specify exactly which band hook you usually wear your bra on.
If you choose the tightest hook, an alert message pops up that says: “Your band might be worn and losing elasticity. A new bra should be worn on the loosest hook – you’ll be able to tighten the hooks as the bra stretches with wear.”
It then asks how your straps fit.
It will ask you if you always wear this size, and if not, to specify any other sizes you might wear.
ThirdLove asks more about your shape to help determine what style of bra would work best.
Lastly, you are asked for your height …
… and underwear size. After this, ThirdLove will send your results to your email.
Each time I took the quiz, testing out different sizes and shapes, the style of bra stayed the same: the 24/7 t-shirt bra, which costs $US68.
After receiving an email with the details of my fit finder quiz and the cost of the bra, I went ahead and ordered the t-shirt bra based on its recommendation.
A couple of days after the order arrived, I received a follow-up message to see how I was getting on.
Up to this point, the service had been pretty seamless. But now to the real test: does it fit?
The bra didn’t fit perfectly – there was slight gaping – but it was more comfortable than I expected, and I was able to wear it for a full day. It felt supportive, sat flat on my ribs, and the straps didn’t dig in.
ThirdLove does offer you the option to add another size to your order for free so you have something to compare it to, but you have to return it within 14 days. I instantly regretted not doing so.
So, I sent it back.
The refund and exchange process is pretty painless. You can have 30 days to wear the bra and return it if it doesn’t work, or you can request an exchange online or text your customer service advisor.
Zak said that the customers that return products provide one of the most important data points.
“Who are all those people who paid me money but we didn’t deliver. What are we doing to fix that?” she said.
You need to send back the old bra before the new bra can be shipped out. I hadn’t realised this and ended up having a big delay.
Our verdict: The process couldn’t have been easier – besides the slightly slow shipping times, but you can pay extra for speedier shipping – and if you find a style that you like, it’s a stress-free process.
However, if you prefer to try lots of styles at once and in the same place, then you, like me, are probably more attached to in-store bra shopping than you think.
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