When Heidi Zak launched ThirdLove in 2013, she did so with a mission: to have a bra for every woman. Considering how bra sizes and breast shapes can vary between women, it was certainly an ambitious goal, and by launching half sizes, the company was able to get a good head start. But the brand's latest size expansion — encompassing bands up to a size 48 and cups from AA to H — is helping Zak get closer to serving every woman than ever.
"It's definitely a lofty goal, and I certainly won't say we have a bra for every woman yet," Zak says. "But that really is our goal, and it's always been about adding sizes where there's the most need."
With Wednesday's launch, ThirdLove will add 24 new sizes to its lineup, bringing the total number of sizes serviced to 70; that range covers approximately 87 percent of women, according to the brand. (As a point of comparison, lingerie megabrand Victoria's Secret carries around 36 sizes.) ThirdLove was able to figure out which sizes were being underserved from the data gathered via its "Fit Finder" survey, a tool made available for customers to figure out which bra size and styles would suit them best. They made a select number of these sizes available through a beta test, which ultimately spawned a waiting list of some 1.3 million women for the 24 new sizes — thereby proving there was a demand for them.
ThirdLove worked closely with women who shopped from the beta test and women who had joined the waitlists to form focus groups to perfect the fit and function of the new sizes. Zak also ensured that the extended sizes would not differ greatly from their smaller counterparts — aesthetically or in terms of price.
"If you look at it from a financial side, since the bra does cost, on average, 45 percent more, it would make sense to charge more for the bra to have the margin be consistent. It just didn't feel inherently like the right decision," Zak explains. "For me, a size is a size is a size, and the price should be the same. It felt like the right thing to do, and more representative of having a bra for every woman."
Zak is adamant that these new sizes not be referred to as "plus size," since there is no true analog to plus sizes in the lingerie field. Structurally, bras in extended sizes are engineered to be more supportive by adding an inner lining to the wings or a wider hook-and-eye closure at the back. The real challenge, according to Zak, was finding a partner who would make bras the way they wanted them to be made.
"It is interesting, because the same barriers that existed for other things that we have done exist with extended sizes; an example of this is the half sizes. When we were trying to find a manufacturer who would make half-cup sizes for us five years ago, they literally laughed at us," she says. "It's like, 'That's the way it's always been done.' The amount of times somebody told us, 'No, you need to make the strap a lot thicker,' — no, actually we don't, because we have such a supportive fabric, wing, wire, and everything else going on that the strap doesn't have to be three inches wide."
It was equally important for Zak that the launch and marketing of the new sizes be as inclusive as possible. ThirdLove is partnering with body-positive advocate Justina Blakeney for the campaign, and is launching the new size range in five "Naked" shades in the 24/7 Perfect Coverage bra to cover as many skin tones as possible.
"We had launched our range of Nakeds in February 2017, and it's been wildly successful," Zak says. "We wanted to make sure we brought that to this customer first. Instead of doing too many styles, but not being able to support the colors, we felt like it was more important to focus on one style to start in a multitude of colors, and then to add on styles."
There are six other styles in the works which will come in the new size range over the course of the next year, with the goal of eventually offering the same range and variety of styles in all sizes. But even as she works towards covering 100 percent of women, Zak is already delighted with the feedback on the new range.
"One woman was talking about getting up and presenting in board meetings, and how she just felt much more powerful in her bra; that's why we do this," she explains. "I just think it's amazing to see the support and gratitude from our customers, and how excited they are to be advocates for us. That's what makes this all worth it."