Heidi Zak
Heidi Zak
Apr 4, 2018 · 4 min read

It wasn’t until we started ThirdLove that I realized one company — Victoria’s Secret — owns half of the U.S. market for bra sales.

And the CEO of Victoria’s Secret? An 82-year-old man.

It’s not just Victoria’s Secret, either. The CEO and CMO of Calvin Klein are both men. Agent Provocateur recently brought on a male CEO. Even the founder and CEO of newly-established Adore Me is a man.

As you start to dig, you realize that the lingerie industry is dominated by men.

And that creates problems for women.

From the marketing of lingerie to the comfort and fit, the industry isn’t usually responsive to what women actually want or need. Most of the market is still operating with a mindset that’s rooted 50 years in the past, even if there are women on the team.

But the industry is starting to change. And we’re all going to be much better off once it happens.

Here’s why:

When men control a female-focused industry, it creates a fundamental misalignment.

Women’s underwear is marketed from a male perspective, which to be honest, is skewed.

The vast majority of marketing revolves around a man’s idea of what lingerie is — something that leads to sex. But if you ask women, 99% of the time they’ll say seduction is not what they’re thinking about when they put on their bra and underwear. They just want to feel good and look good.

Yet most advertising is entirely focused on that 1% of time, so to speak. This creates a huge disparity between the marketing of lingerie and how women use the product every day.

That’s what happens when people who never actually use a product are the ones marketing it.

And it isn’t just marketing — there’s also been a lack of innovation.

In the early days at ThirdLove, it was extremely difficult to find a manufacturer who would work with us.

Most of the large manufacturers were at capacity, and the supply chains were very tightly controlled by a few big players. The manufacturers were not too excited about working with a smaller company.

When we started going around to factories and telling manufacturers we wanted to make half sizes for our bras, they acted like we were crazy.

It was more complicated, more expensive, and they really had no interest in it.

That’s the legacy of an industry that hasn’t seen much innovation. People tend to default to the status quo because it’s the easiest way. Of course, now that we’ve grown and proven our sizing works, we have all the big manufacturers coming to us, asking to work together.

Women are slowly taking back the industry, and rightfully so.

Changing the status quo won’t happen overnight, but it’s exciting to see the progress that’s been made in a relatively short amount of time.

For example, ThirdLove is 80% women. It truly is a company by women, for women. We built a better product because we actually know what women want and what they need. We weren’t afraid to do things differently.

And we’re not the only ones noticing that men tend to do a poor job marketing lingerie products for women.

There has been a change in some established brands over the last two to three years. Take a lingerie company like Aerie, for example. They took a stance against photoshopping, and they’ve been very successful targeting teenagers who used to shop Victoria’s Secret’s Pink label.

We’re also beginning to see more more women founding businesses and creating female-focused companies.

It’s a younger and more diverse crowd, and they aren’t limiting themselves just to bras. Companies like LOLA for tampons or Sustain Natural for condoms and lubricants have decided to market their products to women by creating a personal connection, instead of using lofty aspirations.

More and more companies are taking note of this shift. It’s hard to ignore these startups when they’re finding success tackling real issues for women and marketing to them in a more approachable way.

That’s why women have to support female-focused brands that break out of outdated norms.

Money talks. And where we choose to spend it matters.

There are options in just about every industry, and your money is a vote. It’s how you answer the questions brands are implicitly asking with their marketing.

Is the point of being a woman to be a sex object? Or is it to do awesome things and add value to society? I like to think it’s the latter. And it’s important to give women the option to be more than just “angels” wearing rhinestone bras.

The idea of making women feel they need to look or act a certain way when wearing lingerie is outdated and ridiculous.

And if you feel the same way, it’s important to think about where you’re spending your money, and what vision those dollars are supporting.

Because there are plenty of amazing brands out there who are doing the right thing and helping move women forward. You aren’t as limited in your options as some companies would have you believe.

Athena Talks

A hub of conversation to help young women mature, budding professionals become leaders and leaders become advocates for equality.

Heidi Zak

Written by

Heidi Zak

Co-Founder and Co-CEO @ThirdLove: Helping women everywhere feel comfortable and confident | Mom to 2 munchkins, lover of athletic challenges | www.thirdlove.com

Athena Talks

A hub of conversation to help young women mature, budding professionals become leaders and leaders become advocates for equality.

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