Zappos for bras: True & Co. to take on Victoria's Secret

New online retailer says it can offer women a perfect fit without needing measurements.

PALOS VERDES, Calif.--There's a lingerie company launching at the D conference today. And it's no ordinary bra marketer, no ma'am.

Apparently, trying on bras is even more depressing and unrewarding for women than trying on pants is for men. This new company, True & Co., is using algorithms to guarantee its customers a good fit for bras ordered online. And it doesn't even require people to take measurements.

True's questionnaire works like an expert human specialist, the founders say. True & Co.

Given the user's dress size and answers to a several-page visual questionnaire, the True fitting system identifies bras that will fit based on what True knows about how they're made and sized. One woman's order for a five-bra shipment (the standard order, more on this in a moment) may contain bras by different manufacturers marked in different sizes. But True knows their actual fit.

The site will also spare customers the inconvenience of even seeing products that won't fit them; once it knows your size, all you see on the site is what suits you. This is the reverse of how traditional online-apparel retailers work, says co-founder Michelle Lam: even Zappos, exemplar of customer satisfaction, shows you products first, and then lets you hunt for your size. Lam thinks that's not necessary. (On the the other hand, Zappos doesn't make you enter an e-mail address to see its products, as True does.)

True has an unusual retail model as well: Every bra is $45. You buy five bras at a time. You pick three, and the company picks two. If any don't fit or don't look good, you fill out a little questionnaire on what's wrong and send them back. You only pay for what you keep.

The model is neither traditional retail (products at various price points), nor the newly popular subscription model (see Manpacks and Dollar Shave Club). There is a we'll-take-care-of-you vibe, with the five-bra standard order and the we-pick-two thing. But Lam and co-founder Aarthi Ramamurthy think that it's the right mix and that Victoria's Secret, which controls half of the $12 billion intimate-apparel market, could stand some modern competition. They even say they'll help grow the market, since True will encourage women to buy bras more frequently, instead of "until they fall off their bodies," as Lam says.

 

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