Former Google executive Heidi Zak noticed that she had two kinds of bras: The kind that fit well, but that didn’t look very attractive, and the kind that look beautiful, but feel scratchy and uncomfortable. She decided that women should not have to pick between comfort and beauty in their undergarments, so she launched ThirdLove, a brand that would combine the two.
From the start, data has been at the core of ThirdLove’s business. In 2013, the brand posted an ad on Craigslist inviting 100 women to take pictures of themselves in a tight tank top over their bras. They used these images to begin work on a mobile app that would help women calculate their bra sizes as well as a range of proprietary bra prototypes. In 2014, Thirdlove officially launched. One of its major innovations was developing half-cup sizes, since the brand’s data found that 37% of women did not fit neatly into the traditional range of cups. In 2018, ThirdLove announced it was offering 24 new larger sizes, and it gathered a waitlist of 1.3 million women.
ThirdLove has incorporated this emphasis on inclusivity into its marketing, notably engaging in a public feud with Victoria’s Secret, which still controls the largest share of the lingerie market. In 2018, Ed Razek, chief marketing officer at L Brands, Victoria’s Secret’s parent company, said in a Vogue interview that Victoria’s Secret was “nobody’s third love.” In response, Zak took out a full-page ad in the New York Times that was an open letter to Victoria’s Secret. In it, she took her largest competitor to task for its lack of inclusivity and its over-sexualized images of women. The ad went viral.