Forget measuring tape and fitting rooms - two former Microsoft employees say they've cracked the code to finding the perfect bra, and it doesn't involve standing half-naked in front of a stranger.
San Francisco entrepreneurs Aarthi Ramamurthy and Michelle Lam announced the launch of their online bra shop True & Co. on Wednesday, claiming they’ve come up with an algorithm to help women find the best possible fit in the privacy of their own homes.
“The bra shopping experience is one of the most uncomfortable shopping experiences out there,” Lam told the Daily News, recalling the day she realized there had to be a better way.
“I was trying on 20 different bras looking for a strapless bra for an occasion, and literally only one worked. The question that came to my mind was, why did it take 20 bras and did that measuring tape thing they did for me even matter?”
The women, who met through the startup community in the Bay Area, decided to join Ramamurthy’s background as a developer with Lam’s experience in e-commerce to craft a more scientific — and enjoyable — approach to the problem.
“We went to bra fitting after bra fitting and spoke to experts, and the best ones didn’t use measuring tape,” Lam said. “They had these unwritten rules where they could look at a woman’s body and say, we think this would be best. We were able to take these rules and distill them into code.”
True & Co. customers are asked to fill out a two-minute online survey, answering questions on a range of factors including breast shape and problems with their current undergarments.
The algorithm then produces a page of custom recommendations and allows shoppers to choose three bras to test, while the True & Co. experts choose two “mystery” bras based on the customer’s answers to the quiz.
These five bras are shipped for free so women can try them on at home and decide what works. Everything on the site is priced at $45, including high-end brands like Calvin Klein and Natori.
“The whole idea is to wrap some really complicated technology into a very simple online quiz to make it fun for women,” Lam said, noting that 80% of women are not wearing the right size.
And the more you use it, the better it’s supposed to get - the algorithm learns from what you accept and reject and adapts to offer different, even more accurate selections.
Deepa Subramanian, 34, had jumped at the chance to beta test the service in March and skip “the misery of bra shopping.”
“It was a revelation,” she said of the bra True & Co. chose for her. “It fits like a second skin - like someone custom-tailored it for me. I’ve never had that happen in my life.”
But not everyone is a believer.
“I honestly think they’re going to have a very hard time,” said Linda the “Bra Lady” Becker, who has been fitting women at her Manhattan stores for 25 years.
“It’s very technical,” she said. “The difference between getting fitted in person and online is night and day because there’s someone there looking at your body and telling you what’s best for you and you’re feeling it on you. Online there’s a lot of guessing.”
True & Co. maintains its algorithm is driven by expertise, and offers a customer service hotline for women who need offline help.
The company debuted its service at a tech conference in California on Wednesday, announcing it has raised $2 million in a first round of funding.
As for Subramanian, she’s happy to leave it up to the True & Co. experts, and has signed up for the refreshment plan which will deliver another box of bras to her door in six months: “I’m never going to go bra shopping again!”