Image courtesy Michelle Lam
Interview

Michelle Lam

12.30.13

Michelle Lam is the CEO and founder of True&Co., an online-only lingerie company that uses a scientific algorithm to help women find the perfect fit sans the frustrating in-store experience. Lam’s foray into fashion comes with an impressive resume and years of business expertise – she has served as an accountant at PriceWaterhouseCoopers, a research associate at the Boston Consulting Group, an Associate at Parthenon Capital, and was the first-ever female principal at Bain Capital Ventures. In 2012, Lam launched True&Co. with co-founder and former Microsoft program manager Aarthi Ramamurthy.

Interview

What does the fit quiz consist of?

The quiz was built based on the belief that yes, a woman can self-report her issues and we could offer the range of potential sizes and styles just for her. She can finally understand what bras work best for her body shape, the same way she shops for any other kind of apparel. Our questions focus on technical fit – using her favorite bra as a starting point for sizing and then deducing what her correct size is based on her answers. Size is not the only thing we focus on – her breast and body shape are also important things to consider and of course, the issues she sees when she looks at herself in the mirror. Chances are, there is a perfect bra out there for her that can help!

You brought on Nikki Dekker from The Lake & Stars – how did this partnership come about? What is the division of labor?

We started True&Co. with the idea of changing the way women shop for and think about lingerie completely. From the very beginning, both Nikki and I saw the incredible possibility of designing our own collection – lingerie by women, for women, using the fit data from the quiz. 200,000 women contributed their data to the design of our first collection, launched in October 2013. Nikki was very intrigued about our process of a scientific algorithm applied to such an intimate and personal fitting process. She came to our next meeting with mood boards for our first collection that fit our vision of the True&Co. woman – an adventurous woman who travels through space and time. We loved it and she came on board to help us interpret our data into a collection that marry form and function, a modern lingerie line that fit the needs of different body shapes. Our inspiration for the name “She Walks in Beauty (+ Light)” came in part from the Lord Byron poem – it refers to the moment of transformation when a woman looks in the mirror and loves what she sees.

How did you get brands like Calvin Klein and Spanx to be a part of this equation?

As I was starting the business, a mentor told me to dream big and to dare for the best. So we reached out to Calvin Klein and they became one of the earliest brands offered at True&Co., thanks to a senior team there that understood our vision for changing the landscape. Natori was another great brand who was there from the beginning – Ken Natori, the founder’s son, took a special interest in what we were trying to build and really helped us! Again, it was all about daring to reach out and ask these brands to be a part of our story.

Is there a single brand that tends to fit most women?

Every woman is unique. We have identified over 6,000 different body types! So the simple answer is no. However, specific styles are best suited to specific body types. We used these concepts in the design of “She Walks In Beauty (+ Light).”

What is the most common bra mistake women are making?

Women often find one bra and wear just that one bra brand for the rest of their life. The trouble and pain of finding “the one” often discourages us from trying again. True&Co. helps decipher what other bra styles would also work for your body without any horrible fitting room experiences or measuring tape. We all have shoe wardrobes, why not lingerie wardrobes? Different bras accentuate the body depending on the outfit.

Was there any resistance at first? Did people have a hard time understanding the concept? Or wanting to apply such a technical formula to the intimate shopping experience?

Women immediately understood the concept and embraced it. Our questions were novel, but made sense. I think women understood that a technical formula allowed them to truly understand their own bodies and that they could have a wonderful, intimate shopping experience at home with our home try-on box vs. a cold store fitting room—probably the least intimate experience you can think of! We successfully fit 8 in 10 women through our quiz alone and our fit experts provide consultations for those who may need a little extra help.

Can this technology extend to swimsuit shopping?

Our quiz and algorithm allow us to really understand a woman’s unique body shape – the information she gives us is incredibly detailed. So yes, the same data and approach can be used for all kinds of other apparel. The entire team at True&Co. works so hard to provide the most beautiful, comfortable shopping experience for women because we want women to feel beautiful and comfortable in their own skin.

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