This conversation originally aired on Nadia+ on IGTV. It has been edited for clarity.
Nadia Boujarwah: Tell us more about ThirdLove and about you.
Heidi Zak: Yea…bra shopping is a not fun experience and I always felt like the product was either very functional but not pretty, or pretty but unwearable. And so, no woman wants to go to a store to buy a bra, obviously with everything going on. Also, at the time we started ThirdLove the idea of inclusivity didn’t really exist—it wasn’t a topic of conversation, so from the very beginning it was really about having bras in different sizes for different ages, for different kinds of women from all backgrounds and really creating a more inclusive brand that women could see themselves being a part of instead of something that seemed very unattainable, which I think most lingerie companies have sold: this idea of unattainable. So (that was) the founding story of the company.
NB: That makes a ton of sense and is an experience that I think resonates with every woman in the world[…]. How have you been able to so successfully take an experience that’s fairly difficult in person to a successful one online. As a happy customer I can attest to the fact that it works. So how did you guys do that?
HZ: First we developed the Fit Finder, which in essence, if you’ve gotten fit for a bra in a store, you know how the woman if she knows what she’s doing, she doesn’t use a measuring tape, she sort of, I call it “sizing you up.” She looks at you and gives you a new size and its magic. So with our fit finder, we’ve tried to recreate that. So if you have issues with your bras, what’s working, what’s not, we use that. And 17 million women have found their bras through the Fit Finder.
NB: So, one of the things I think is so powerful about ThirdLove, and I’ve got to say scrolling through my Instagram feed everyday, the ThirdLove posts always catch my eyes because they’re always these very inclusive images in so many dimensions and as a CEO of really one of the first companies that went truly size inclusive, what does being able to serve all women mean to you.
HZ: Yeah, I think today, being inclusive isn’t just saying you’re inclusive. It’s also what you offer in her size range. And with bras, in particular, more than any other article of clothing, there are 84 bra sizes or band and cup, so being inclusive means having as many sizes as possible to give the best fit possible.
NB: Tell us a little bit more about the fit technology, because something that’s always been so fascinating to me— at Thirdlove, like at Dia, truly extraordinary fit is a total non-negotiable part of the experience. And one of the things that was so interesting about the bras at ThirdLove when I first started wearing them were the ideas of half cups. Which is something I’ve never seen before.
HZ: In the early days at ThirdLove, when we were Beta testing, we saw a lot of women who were in between cup sizes. Think about it, the difference in cup, (most people don’t know this), as in volume is an inch. The difference between an A, and a B, and a C is an inch. And so what that means is what if you are under or over that you will get a substantial amount of cup gaping or cup overflow. It costs more to develop more sizes, and it takes up space which we don’t have to worry about because we’re online, too, but it was listening to customers and noticing that and creating it. Our manufacturing company was like “you guys are crazy, we have to make all these molds, it’s too complicated,” [but] we just did it.
NB: I feel like it always ends up being so simple. Some of the best product ideas just come from spending time with the women whom you serve and really listening really diligently to what’s not quite right in the experience today and it just ends up making a world of difference.
NB: Certainly, you guys in the lingerie and bra business have really been at the forefront of the conversation of changing the narrative around the images we have been so used to seeing for so long on the part of traditional bra players. I’m really curious to hear your perspective in the 7 years since you founded the business. How hard has it been to change that narrative..and how women are marketed to in that category?
HZ: That’s a good question! I’m interested in how you think about it. In the early days, at our first photo shoot, our photographer asked us, “What bra brand to do aspire to be like?” and we looked at each other and said “None of them.”
So, it was a very unique time for us because we felt like we were conveying something that hadn’t been done before. And so, we learned along the way about diversifying the model pool. Finding agencies with models in larger cup sizes—there are standards and models tend to be certain sizes and if you weren’t that size, they didn’t want you.Thats changed in the last few years, but it was really about just doing something different, but trying to push the boundaries and listening.
For the full interview, watch on Instagram at @diaanco