FOR MOST women, shopping for a bra can be an ordeal, to say the least, a horrific experience on par with shopping for bikinis and just as bad as shopping for jeans. Too much padding, not enough padding, uncomfortable under-wire — ripping off that ill-fitting bustiere for the umpteenth time can make you throw your hands up and shout “WHY ISN’T THERE AN APP FOR THIS?!” Well, thanks to ThirdLove, there now is, and consequently the experience can be a lot less harrowing. ThirdLove allows you to buy bras that fit well directly from your smart phone, and you don’t even have to cross your fingers and hope for the best, because ThirdLove also functions as a bra measuring app. Founder Heidi Zak has taken her experiences in fashion as the Director of Aeropostale and in the tech world as the Senior Marketing Manager at Google to create a digital haven for all those fed up with the bra-shopping experience. Zak spoke to Lady Clever about how ThirdLove has revolutionized the bra measuring and shopping experiences and the technology that makes it possible.
What inspired you to start ThirdLove?
The idea behind ThirdLove came to be about two years ago, when it was time to go bra shopping and, as usual, I was dreading it. I disliked the whole process – finding time to drive to a store, getting measured by a stranger, and trying on lots and lots of overpriced bras. If I was lucky enough to find a bra that fit, it would often fall apart after just a few washes. I thought, there must be a way to create better bras and a better shopping experience!
Can you tell us a little bit about the technology your app uses to measure the client’s bra size? How is it so accurate?
Our customers take two photos in a tight-fitting tank top and set a few markers. We then use computer vision and image recognition algorithms to calculate the size of her body in relation to her smartphone. In doing so, the ThirdLove app transforms her smartphone into a virtual measuring tape. She sees her actual measurements and best bra size.
Lots of women are surprised to find out down the line that they’ve worn the incorrect size of bra for most of their lives. Why do you think that is?
We’ve all heard the statistic that 80% of women wear the wrong bra size. I believe many women fall between traditional cup sizes, which is why we developed our signature half-cup sizes. Many women also don’t feel comfortable with current options for getting fit for a bra, which is why our sizing app has become so popular.
Why was it important for your brand to have half-sizes?
While it was more costly for us to develop these extra sizes (which is why other companies don’t do it!), we think it’s well worth it to give our customers a better-fitting bra.
What is your inspiration for the lingerie design?
We take inspiration from classically-tailored lingerie and incorporate the latest technologies to increase the comfort and durability of every item we create. Our fall collection’s palette includes delicate orchid and bold plum tones, mint chip and classic neutrals. The fabrics range from ultra-sleek microfiber to open sheer meshes to an absolutely decadent lace.
So what do you consider the biggest challenge you’ve faces starting and running ThirdLove?
The technology was a major challenge. We didn’t know if it would work. No one had ever used computer vision in the way we wanted to from a mobile device. It’s the first of its kind, which is why we have seven patents and four more pending.
Can you tell us a little bit about your experience marrying the fashion and tech worlds? Do you find yourself in one more than the other?
I have experience in both fashion (Aeropostale) and tech (Google) so the convergence of fashion and technology at ThirdLove is the perfect match given my background, and I split my time pretty evenly between the two.
And what about your creative duties with the business side of your company? Does one side tend to overtake the other?
I believe creativity and business are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they must meld together to succeed in building a product and a brand. For example, we’re very visual in our office at ThirdLove. If we’re discussing new products that means looking at design inspiration and lots of samples. When we’re doing UX [user experience design] or marketing, we print out potential user flows and visuals and put those on a white board to fuel our brainstorm sessions.
Is ThirdLove your first entrepreneurial endeavor?
At Aeropostale I incubated and ran new businesses, including a tween brand and international stores, both of which were brought to market successfully. I learned how to build excitement around a new idea, leverage minimal resources, and execute a launch plan.
What is the best piece of advice you received as a woman starting her own business?
It takes twice as long and costs twice as much money as you think it will to launch a new business.
What is one piece of advice you wish you had been given as a woman starting a business?
Start building a strong network early, well before you want to launch a business.
What is one piece of advice you would give to women starting their own business?
Hire people who are smarter than you – it’s about building a strong, passionate and engaged team around you.
Have there been any gender-specific challenges you’ve faced being women in business?
Not really, in fact, I believe being a female founder provides an opportunity to bring a unique view and set of skills to the table. In my experience, investors are looking for leaders who are passionate about building something that can impact a large amount of people.
Have you found it difficult to balance your personal and professional lives?
Yes. I’d say the toughest thing is there’s just not enough time in the day, between running a start-up and having a one-year-old at home. That’s why I live by the saying — there is nothing more efficient than a working mom.
What has been ThirdLove’s biggest success to date?
We’ve been showcased as a “Best New App” by Apple and have been featured on Good Morning America, InStyle, Vogue, Lucky and many other fashion magazines.
What are your current goals for ThirdLove?
We’ve had tremendous customer demand for an Android app, which we’re hoping to launch towards the end of the year.
So what’s next for ThirdLove? What can your customers expect?
More beautiful, great-fitting bras. We’re launching a gorgeous full-coverage lace bra in the next week, which will go through a G-cup. And we’ll have more new styles for this holiday season – stay tuned!
Sorry Victoria. No one cares about your secret anymore.
If you’re interested in changing the way you shop for bras for the better, check out ThirdLove’s website and app at www.thirdlove.com. To keep up to late with their latest offerings, and to find out when the Android app is available for download, follow ThirdLove on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.