It was after trying on countless bras in a lingerie fitting room in 2011 that Michelle Lam decided the traditional fitting process was too miserable and unsophisticated for the nuances of each woman's body shape. So she decided to solve the problem herself. First, she bought 500 different bras and hosted bra fittings in her living room. Amid sushi and Champagne, friends would zero in on their favorites, then fill out a questionnaire that would later form the database that has fueled Lam's intelligent bra matchmaking service — known as True&Co. Over 200,000 women have already contributed to this growing data set since its beta launch in January of 2012, and it's become dynamic: With every answer about your ideal bra, like a good friend, its algorithm tells you not only what looks best on your body type, but what you'll find most comfortable after a long day. Then it stores your answer to better aid the search for others.
Inventory runs the gamut of casual to high-end lingerie brands. And, today, True&Co. is releasing its first collection, designed exclusively from the sprawling, sexy data set. Designed by Nikki Dekker — one of the designers of lingerie cult favorite The Lake & Stars — the collection is inspired by intergalactic travel and powerful super heroines. The Cut sat down with Lam and Dekker, both bra whisperers of sorts, to discuss the creative process behind the collection.
Can you describe the moment where you realized that ill-fitting bras were a real problem that needed to be solved?
ML: I got my first bra fitting in years at a local department store — maybe it was my first real fitting ever. I was measured with the measuring tape, and then I was stuck in the fitting room for two and a half hours at the mercy of the saleswoman, trying on bra after bra that was "my size" but didn't work for my body. Frustrated and tired, I realized that many women had the same pain point, and that's what made bra shopping a chore versus an enjoyable fashion experience.
So how did you first go about fixing that problem?
ML: I had this idea that if we handed the power back to women, they could self-report their fit issues and diagnose their own sizing. For the first time ever, they could understand which bras really worked for their unique body shape, just like they do when shopping for any other piece of clothing. So I bought 500 bras on my credit card and put them in my living room, much to my husband's chagrin. I then bribed whomever I could find with sushi and Champagne to come over, try an early pen-and-paper version of the quiz and try on the bras. When my friends and their friends started finding three, four, or five bras that they liked in their box, I knew we had the beginnings of a new way to shop for lingerie.
So at this point, how many women are using/have contributed to True&Co.'s database?
ML: More than 200,000 women designed True&Co.'s first collection, and more women are taking the quiz everyday! And when women try our home try-on service and give us feedback on the pieces they liked or didn't like, we refine their shop selections for a truly personal shopping experience.
How long have you been collaborating on this project, Nikki?
ND: I started talking to Michelle last October about the project, so ideas have been ruminating for the past year, but we really started working closely on the collection in January.
Are there any interesting elements from the information collected that have informed your design decisions?
ND: I was initially very intrigued by True&Co.'s process of fit — this scientific algorithm they've formulated and applied to such an intimate and wildly varied process such as bra fit. Each style has been informed by these needs from different body shapes, so you should be able to find a style that works for you. We're also working on ways to improve the line based on the way women use their lingerie, whether it's easier ways to take care of it or making it more versatile, with which we'll continue updating the line.
What are some inspirations behind the collection?
ND: I'm a big sci-fi fan and have been reading a lot of it recently. I liked the idea of an adventurous woman who can travel through the space-time continuum like in The Sirens of Titan, marrying elements of style from art deco design to futurism. The curvaceous lines and graphic elements of these combine well to complement the female form and assist her in any adventure she might encounter! Or so my thought process went ...
So, what were some of the fun parts in your collaboration together?
ND: Honestly, geeking out together when we were talking about the inspirations behind the collection. I wasn't sure how she'd react when I showed her my initial mood board, but she got just as excited as I was, and the silly ideas we had when talking about the references made me feel not so dorky!
ML: When we were planning the [launch] event, we had another geek moment when we both thought of models playing space video games while wearing our lingerie. I think we both have a secret love of galaxies far away and a version of Star Trek where Star Fleet Command are all amazing, accomplished women.