ThirdLove has been getting active over the last year and a half. There’s been social issues like the TL Effect program; expansions in underwear, followed by loungewear and select shapewear pieces, and then their rebranding. Next on the list: ThirdLove is moving into activewear.
“Active is something we’ve actually been working on for two years,” Heidi Zak, cofounder and chief executive officer of ThirdLove, told WWD. “Our number-one searched terms on Thirdlove.com are ‘sports’, ‘sports bras’ and ‘active.’ So it was something we definitely heard from our customers that they really wanted to see. And it’s something that I was also personally passionate about as someone who’s active.”
In fact, Zak’s Instagram page is flooded with images and videos of her rock climbing, biking and white water rafting, among other sports. But she didn’t want to leave anyone out. So she enlisted the help of ThirdLove’s Chief Creative Officer Ra’el Cohen to create an activewear collection for multiple body types and fitness levels.
The result is a 43-piece assortment, which launches today at Thirdlove.com, consisting of sports bras, leggings, tank tops, T-shirts and sweatshirts, divided into three collections — the Kinetic, Flex and Muse collections — for high, medium and low-impact workouts, respectively.
“The campaign has athletes doing things from roller skating, all the way through runners and other kinds of athletes doing higher-impact [workouts] in the Kinetic collection,” Zak said. “Part of the reason that we actually called it active, instead of sport, is sport can sometimes have this connotation of [the user thinking] like, ‘Oh, I’m not like an athlete,’ per say. Or what I’m doing isn’t a sport. So we felt like it was really important to call it active. Because that’s really what it’s all about. That we all find ways to connect to an exercise or an activity that allows us to remain active and healthy.”
Zak acknowledged that the San Francisco-based brand might be a bit late to the game. After all, nearly every major retailer and brand — from Target to American Eagle Outfitters to Madewell — have launched some form of activewear or athleisure in the last year and a half. Not to mention all of the sportswear giants. But she also said there’s “a ton of opportunity still in the category.”
“A lot of women in the population are wearing what we would call activewear out of the house,” Zak said.
The proof is in the numbers. Year-to-date, the total U.S. activewear market, including men’s, women’s and children’s active apparel, was worth $47 billion, according to market research firm NPD Group. That’s a 37 percent increase compared to the same time period pre-pandemic in 2019. Globally, the numbers are even higher: $292 billion in 2020, with the total sportswear market expected to grow to more than $391 billion by 2025, according to Euromonitor International.
The distinction with ThirdLove, Zak said, is the Kinetic collection, one of the few sports bras that offers both band and cup sizes, even in activewear, complete with foam cups, adjustable straps and a clasp-closure in the back.
“Small, medium and large [sizes] work for a lower-impact bra where you’re not necessarily expecting that same amount of support,” she explained. “But when you’re running and have a higher-impact workout, cup and band sizes are what gives women the most support.”
Prices range from $40 to $75 for each piece and come in band sizes 32 to 38 and B through G cups for the Kinetics collection, XS to 3XL for the Flex collection, XS to 1XL for the Muse collection and XS to XL for leggings and other pieces. Zak said the inaugural assortment will be used as a test run so the brand has time to refine the line while it continues to expand into other categories, maps out its return to retail — and even considers a possible move to the public market.
“I think for us, it’s really about focusing on all of these shorter-term initiatives,” said Zak, who added that the brand will soon select its third TL Effect winner.
“Certainly [an IPO] is an opportunity for us in the future. But it’s not like a near-term, a very near-term part of our plan,” she said. “But certainly [it’s] an option for us as we continue to grow and scale.”
ThirdLove has been growing rapidly since it was created online in 2013, selling bras and lingerie. In six short years, it quickly became a fan favorite among consumers and investors alike, securing $55 million in funding in early 2019. That same year, the direct-to-consumer brand said it had multiple million-dollar revenue days and opened two brick-and-mortar pop-up shops, one in New York and one in Minneapolis’ Mall of America.
“We had some pretty good learning [at the Mall of America] and good learnings in our pop-up from New York, which I am super happy that we did. Because it will make reentering retail a lot easier the second time around,” Zak said. “We gathered a lot of learnings over that time period. So more to come. We’re definitely listening to our customers, thinking about further expansion. But really thoughtfully expanding as we see opportunities and can deliver a differentiated product.
“The brand’s evolution was big [over the last 18 months],” she continued. “Obviously, that takes a lot of time. So I feel really good about differentiating ourselves in a market where a lot of brands have started to look like each other. So, it’s really nice to have a really vibrant color palette and a snappier tone. And fit is always at the core of what we do. But also, we’re really focusing on how women feel.”