If you're the kind of person that looks forward to getting back to your apartment and immediately changing into comfy clothes after a long day, you're definitely not alone. But if uncomfortable, restricting bras have got you down, cozier options are popping up all the time. One of them is Lively, which launched in April by Michelle Cordeiro Grant after years spent working for lingerie giant Victoria's Secret, to which she felt she no longer related.
Lively has Cool Girl™ lingerie down to a science. Think sexy (and comfy) cutout bralettes and underwear that have a stylish, sporty sensibility about them. Ahead of a summer capsule collection set to launch later this month, we sat down with Grant to chat about creating a brand ethos, empowering women and why simplicity reigns supreme.
What's your background and how did it inspire you to create Lively?
I've always been a merchant at heart. That's kind of how I've spent the tenure of my career: I started doing brands for Federated, with Macy's, then I moved to VF corporation, where I worked on brands like Nautica. But I spent the [majority] of my time with Victoria's Secret actually overseeing merchandising and strategy for bras and lingerie for their digital side, and just fell in love with digital storytelling and how you can really express the true personality of a brand, like making a movie: from copy, to the setting, to how you show it. I always admired VS as a brand from a business standpoint, but I found that as a consumer, I no longer related. So after several years there, I decided I wanted to start my own brand within this $13 billion business in the United States. Because they [VS] have an amazing, strong point of view, but clearly there’s room for others.
What I found to be an issue is that you wear your bra for 14 hours a day, and I was choosing between style or comfort, so my drawer was always two rows! I was like, 'How can I bring these two elements together?' That’s when I decided I wanted to create Lively. But more importantly, when I left, I decided that after several years, I didn’t want to just create a product brand; I wanted to create an ethos, something that really empowered women to just live life doing what you love because I've always been fortunate that my career is my passion. I get to walk around doing what I love all day, every day, and so how do you encourage more women to do that?
How did you get started?
We started with a [mood] board...me and our creative director, Sarah, just went around New York City and pulled together all of our favorite things. We started buying yoga pants and cutting the waistbands off and stapling them to feminine bralettes: This is what we want to wear all day! I used to live in my bikinis all summer long because there wasn't a bra that gave me that same sensibility that I could show under my tank.
Obviously, the end product took months and months of honing and playing because bras are complicated. They have 25-40 components, so when you’re trying to get all of those pieces to one factory, it takes a lot of time.
Instead of being a brand that offers hundreds of SKUs and styles, we wanted to say to women around the world that we understand this category. We know what you need, and we didn’t want to over-assort. Here is the best T-shirt bra. Here is the best wire-free. Here is the best bralette and pushup.
What does 'leisurée' mean exactly?
The word 'lingerie' immediately gives you the connotation of 'corset,' 'pushup.' 'lace,' 'armor,' 'for men.' So I said, 'We need to come up with something [else] to define what we’re selling.' It dawned on me one day that it's athleisure. If you think about athleisure and what that’s done for the fashion and apparel space, that’s what we're doing with lingerie.
You launched in April 2016, but are already getting a lot of attention and buzz. How does that feel and how did it build?
We’ve had people suffering from anorexia reach out to us and say, 'Finally, I feel confident in my own skin,' or people going through the transgender experience saying, 'This is the brand I want to wear first.' It's just impacting women in so many ways. We've also had women reach out and say 'You inspired me to start my own company, my own brand.'
It actually started before we launched, in March, when we launched our Instagram and we saw so many people DM’ing us saying, 'How can we help? How can we be a part of this mission?' So we took all that and said, 'Let’s really spread the word through social,' and reached out to 250 of our closest friends and family and said, 'Hey, can you share Lively?' For every email you send, you get a point towards your purchase. At the time, we thought, we're going to get 5,000 emails, and it's going to be so amazing. When we launched, in two days we got 133,000 emails. Our servers crashed. It literally went global. We had 280,000 uniques on our website in 48 hours. From Australia, Russia, Africa, everywhere.
What’s next for Lively?
A couple of things: One thing is that print is so important to our brand ethos. Our prints are a little less traditional for the lingerie space. They’re quite bold and evoke the energy we want to portray and what we’re doing is that we’re actually working with artists now to get their original prints and bring them in because it demonstrates exactly what we’re saying, to take the talent and creativity of amazing women and get it out in the world. We’re also exploring other adjacent categories because Lively started with leisurée, but we know that it has room to grow to much more of a lifestyle brand. One thing our customers and ambassadors have been asking for is swimwear, so we’ll probably explore that.
Right now, you're carried exclusively through your own website, but have any retailers reached out to you?
We've been so fortunate that retailers have reached out to us, but at this point we’re holding off only because our brand is a 360° experience. It's not just the product; it’s how you receive the product. We want an experience where women get something at their door that feels special, and we want to be able to maintain that experience as we grow. So until we’re a little further along that path, we’re purposefully holding off.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Homepage photo: Instagram/@wearlively