Heidi Zak (left) and Ra'el Cohen, founders of ThirdLove.

ThirdLove Founder Heidi Zak and Head Of Design Ra’el Cohen Revolutionize the Uncomfortable Old Bra

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Introducing our fourth installment of 7x7's Style Council 2017, our annual look at the trendsetters and style mavens of the Bay Area worlds of fashion, beauty and design. Check back for more tastemaker profiles each day, between now and September 29th!

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Can't seem to figure out your bra size? Founder, Heidi Zak, and Head of Design, Ra'el Cohen, of ThirdLove, the lingerie brand known for its innovative sizing model, feel you.

ThirdLove's new collection

When Zak realized that many women had favorite brands for nearly every category in fashion—shoes, jeans, beauty products—except bras, she had an aha moment. "We had an opportunity to change an industry that was desperately in need of some reimagining," she says. In 2013, she left her marketing management at Google to start ThirdLove. Her background in traditional retail as a creative director at Aeropostale allowed her to identify opportunities to create product and a consumer experience different than a traditional brick and mortar retailer would.

Designer Cohen, meanwhile, had experience in underpinnings: She had developed and created designs for major retailers such as Target and Mervyns, and had even launched her own line of intimates, called Luv and Honey, back in 2009. But she grappled with the fact that traditional bra sizes didn't offer a solution for all women.

In fact, what many women don't know is that most lingerie brands design their bras using industry-wide size templates. This means that most bras are fitted on a fit model, who usually wears a 34B, before then being simply sized up and down according to some algorithm. But more than 30 percent of women are in between standard cup sizes—and they are all too keenly aware of it day in and day out as they uncomfortably tug at their bra straps. "Women aren't templates, they're people," says Cohen.

Zak and Cohen have developed an all new sizing concept that's based on, gasp, a woman's actual breast shape and real measurement data. And now, ThirdLove is the only bra brand in the world that offers half-cup sizing for a true fit.

Unsurprisingly, the concept has taken the lingerie market by storm, with women flocking to their mobile app to take advantage of a free 30-day trial of the 24/7 bra that's apparently so comfortable they say you'll forget you're wearing it. ThirdLove has so far raised $13.6 million to help women all over the world find their match; it has also donated more than $1.5 million worth of bras through their donation program.

"We love that women are so comfortable in our bras, some of them even fall asleep in them!" says Cohen.

With so many shapes, sizes, and needs, the process of creating a flawless bra bubbled up a number of challenges, one of which was moving beyond the brick and mortar experience and developing better bra sizing and fit without ever meeting the woman in person. Thus, ThirdLove's Fit Finder was born; using machine learning to recommend the best size and style. Just take a short quiz to find the best bra for you.

"In a bra, it's the little things that make a big difference. If one component is off, it can completely throw off the design or fit of the entire bra," explains Cohen.

ThirdLove invests in every little detail from thread to strap length to create bras with unmatched comfort and style. Thoughtful details such as a padded, tagless hook and eye, and gold alloy hardware cost more, but according to Cohen, "Women are worth it."

7x7: So, how many bras does a woman really need?

Cohen: "We suggest rotating between at least a few, to extend the lifetime of each. An ideal bra drawer should be made up of seven bras, so you have something for every occasion. A sample of these seven would include a nude T-shirt bra, black T-shirt bra, nude strapless bra, black strapless bra, a wireless bra, a colorful lace balconette bra, and one that provides lift, like a push-up bra or plunge style."


7x7: Who's your design hero?

Cohen: "I've always admired Marc Jacobs, more for his tenacity than anything else. I love that he got fired from his first job at Perry Ellis when he sent grunge looks down the runway in the '90s. I was in high school when this happened and I remember thinking, this designer really gets it. His collection was so of-the-moment and it resonated with everyone I knew, but since it wasn't an instant commercial success, the company fired him. That's always stuck with me and has driven me to find my own path in design. It's a balance of staying true to yourself but designing sellable things that most women would actually want to buy."


7x7: In SF, you like to eat and drink at...

Zak: "My favorite restaurant is Delfina. Every single time I have to get an order of their spaghetti—there is nothing better. For a special occasion, I love Quince. The restaurant is beautiful, the service is attentive, but not overwhelming, and the food is to die for. Also, El Techo in the Mission is a great place for happy hour, with an awesome rooftop that is open year-round."


7x7: Ideal shopping spree...

Zak: "I'm so busy between the company and having two young kids that I rarely have time to shop in-store. But some of my favorite SF-based brands are Tea Collection for kids clothes, Birdies for fashionable slippers, and Boon + Gable for personalized wardrobe styling."


7x7: Home essential?

Zak: "I couldn't live without my pink noise machine, the Sound & Sleep mini. There is one in every bedroom of our house—it's a must-have having living in the city to mask the noise of buses, people, and firetrucks."


7x7: Favorite getaways?

Zak: "Bolinas is a great, easy getaway. When you're there the small-town vibe makes you feel like you're light years away from the civilization. Another favorite is Punta Mita, Mexico. I love the laid-back culture and the sun, beach, and warmth."

// thirdlove.com

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