Lingerie startup uses big data to make better bras (Wired UK)

Lingerie startup uses big data to make better bras (Wired UK)

Michelle Lam

True and Co

When Victoria’s Secret wants to promote new products, it sends
the “angels” — that stunning band of supermodels — strutting down a
wearing glittery wings, stiletto heels, and not much
else. And Calvin Klein takes much the same tack, putting up giant
black and white billboards graced by oil-slick models lounging
moodily in all manner of suggestive poses, abs a-blazing. In the
lingerie industry, the old marketing trope is true: sex sells. But
Michelle Lam hopes that data can sell too.

Lam is the founder and CEO of True&Co, a San Francisco-based
e-commerce startup that helps women find the right bra for their
bodies using data science. Each True&Co customer takes a
two-minute quiz about her body before buying a bra. Then, much like
Netflix does with TV and movies, True&Co shows each shopper
bras from a variety of brands that are a good fit for her based on
the quiz. Since the company launched in 2012, True&Co has
collected some 7 million data points on their customers, from
details about different breast shapes to what percentage of women
experience strap slippage. Now, having successfully sold products
from other designers, the company is officially launching its own
line of lingerie that’s been specially infused with data. It’s a
move that could have implications far beyond the world of bras and

Data is the thing that allows many of the world’s biggest
companies to do what they do. It powers Google search, Facebook
ads, and Amazon recommendations. But while we’re accustomed to
online services collecting information on us and using it to tailor
their websites to our tastes, when it comes to physical goods, we
take what we can get. Sure, retailers can do market research to
predict trends, but at the end of a season, they’re invariably left
with a clearance rack full of once promising products that turned
out to be duds. True&Co is part of a growing group of startups
that’s using data to make physical products a better fit for their
customers. “With all this virtual stuff, it’s so easy to create a
uniquely personal experience for every person,” says Lam, “but
creating physical goods that also feel like they’re made for you is
what’s incredibly fascinating to me.”

Some of the new line

True and Co

The problem Lam is trying to solve is the fact that most women
are wearing the wrong bras. The straps slip, the bands pinch, and
the cups, well, runneth over. That’s not, Lam says, because all
bras are ill-fitting. It’s because all women are different.
True&Co’s software has found some 6,000 different body types
and counting in its customer pool. Finding the right bra could
involve hours in a dressing room, if not trips to different stores,
so most women settle not on a bra that fits well, but one that fits
well enough. Lam, who was an investor at Bain Capital Ventures
before launching True&Co, knew this process could be improved
with technology.

True&Co’s new line of lingerie, which includes bras,
panties, and loungewear, is based on an entirely new fitting system
for bras called TrueSpectrum. Unlike traditional bra sizes, which
only account for the size of a woman’s rib cage and the distance
between her breasts, TrueSpectrum sizes take into account whether
her breasts are full or shallow, high or low, wide-set, or a
combination of a few. The bras, themselves, have then been designed
to address the most common complaints reported in the quiz. For
instance, 62 percent of women complain about “busting out,”
particularly in their underarms. So, True&Co designed a bra
with a high-cut spandex band to prevent that from happening.

The company launched a pilot test of four different bras last
fall, which soon became one of the company’s best selling products.
Those bras now account for more than a quarter of True&Co’s
sales and have helped grow revenue 600 percent in just a few
months. Lam is hoping to replicate those results with this new
line. “We don’t create anything that’s not going to sell because
it’s not going to fit anyone,” says Lam. “We create less

Novel as True&Co’s approach may be, the company does have
competition. One startup, ThirdLove, allows women to take their
measurements at home with a body scanning technology app. And
recently, even Victoria’s Secret began offering customers a quiz on
its website. That other brands are catching on comes as no surprise
to Lam. “I look at the old retailers out there, and I see an
imperfect model,” she says. “I think this is the way women are
going to shop for intimate apparel in the future, and not only
that, but I really believe this is the way women will shop for all
apparel in the future.”

This article originally appeared on


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Lingerie startup uses big data to make better bras (Wired UK)

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