How ThirdLove revolutionized the bra market

Retail Gets Real episode 310: Co-founder and CEO Heidi Zak on creating an inclusive brand
Sheryll Poe
NRF Contributor
May 31, 2023

Entrepreneur Heidi Zak started her intimate apparel company ThirdLove in 2013 after a frustrating trip to the mall to shop for a bra.

“Prior to starting ThirdLove was this idea that you could either have a comfortable bra that wasn’t really beautiful, or you had a beautiful bra but it would be scratchy and you would never wear it,” Zak says on this episode of Retail Gets Real. “We were committed from the very beginning to say, ‘We’re going to create beautiful and comfortable bras,’ and creating this third option.”

Inclusion and diversity have been at the core of ThirdLove’s brand philosophy from its earliest days. “I remember our first photo shoot. We were trying to find models that were outside of like, a 34B,” Zak says. “It was a struggle to even cast because all the agencies had what brands and companies wanted, which were very standardized ideas of body shape and breast size.”

ThirdLove seeks to not only reflect diverse body shapes and breast sizes in its product and marketing, but also a variety of ethnicities and ages. “It wasn’t just about size,” she says. “For ThirdLove we have a lot of elements of what inclusivity looks like, you have all these kinds of elements, and you start bringing those in, it really changes sort of what the brand looks like.”

In June 2020, ThirdLove launched the TL Effect, an initiative to support entrepreneurial women of color with grants, mentoring and brand exposure. “We promote their brand on our Instagram, we’ll feature them in blogs and help them be even more out there in the ThirdLove ecosystem and [our] millions of customers,” Zak says. “We’ve had four winners to date, and it’s been amazing. They’ve been really successful in growing their businesses.”

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One reason the program has been a success is because Zak still has a startup mentality when it comes to ThirdLove and the company’s culture. “We’re much more of a startup than we are a big company. That’s how I run it,” she says. “That’s how I want everyone to feel. Because we’re just getting started. We’re in the second inning here, not in the ninth, and so we need to continue to innovate and move with a sense of urgency and be on the forefront of the things that really matter to us.”

Listen to the full podcast to hear more about Zak’s inspiration to start ThirdLove, why she has moved from direct-to-consumer to a more omnichannel business model with 10 physical locations, and the three pillars that Zak says differentiate the brand in a crowded market.

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