ThirdLove founder reveals why the company spoke out against Victoria's Secret after one of its parent company's execs made controversial comments about transgender and plus-size models



ThirdLove's full-page ad in The New York Times.

  • ThirdLove ran a full-page ad in The New York Times in November, slamming Victoria's Secret after an executive at the lingerie brand's parent company made controversial comments about transgender and plus-size models in an interview with Vogue.
  • The ad, which was structured as an open letter from ThirdLove cofounder and co-CEO Heidi Zak, described the comments from L Brands CMO Ed Razek as "demeaning."
  • In a recent interview with Business Insider, Zak said the company strongly debated whether to write the letter. 

Last November, Victoria's Secret came under fire after one of its parent company's executives made controversial comments during an interview with Vogue. 

Ed Razek, chief marketing officer of L Brands, said in the interview that he didn't think the company's annual fashion show should feature "transsexuals" because "the show is a fantasy." He also said that the brand would not be adding larger sizes to its assortment and has no plans to feature plus-size models in its runway show. Advertisement

Debate kicked off quickly online, and three days later, up-and-coming competitor ThirdLove joined the discussion.

Read more: People slammed Victoria's Secret after its marketing chief made controversial comments about transgender models, but he didn't resign. This could be why, according to former executives. 

"I was appalled when I saw the demeaning comments about women your Chief Marketing Officer, Ed Razek, made to Vogue last week," co-founder and co-CEO Heidi Zak said in the ad.

She continued: "I've read and re-read the interview at least 20 times, and each time I read it I'm even angrier. How in 2018 can the CMO of any public company - let alone one that claims to be for women - make such shocking, derogatory statements?"

Razek made a direct reference to ThirdLove in the interview when asked whether the company had noticed that its customers might now be looking for something new."We're nobody's ThirdLove," Razek said. "We're their first love. And Victoria's Secret has been women's first love from the beginning." Advertisement

Zak told Business Insider in a recent interview that she read the Vogue article dozens of times.

"It made us so angry," she said, adding that it was her husband David Spector, who is cofounder and co-CEO of the brand, who decided that the company needed to respond. 

"We debated it and we spent a lot of time writing it but it was absolutely the right move," she said. "We felt that we needed to make sure that not just the ThirdLove voice was heard, but that it was a rallying call to all women."Advertisement

In the run-up to Victoria's Secret's annual fashion show, ThirdLove set up an online petition with model Robyn Lawley asking shoppers to boycott the event. Any person who posted the petition on social media was given a free bra. 

"When you buy something from a brand, I believe you should get back more than the product," Zak said. "You should have a connection to the brand, be able to relate to the brand, and you should trust the brand."

The couple said that they strongly considered staying silent.Advertisement

"[We thought] he has dug his own grave, let the press handle it," Zak said.

She added that the brand was in the right position financially and had the scale to buy the ad at that point. ThirdLove launched in 2013 but has gained a large following on social media more recently. 

"We couldn't have done this three years ago," she said.Advertisement

She added: "I got some hate mail, but 99% of the feedback was positive and just really thankful."

In February, ThirdLove announced that it had raised $55 million in a round of funding led by consumer-focused private-equity firm L Catterton. This investment was a large step up from the $13.6 million in funding it had received since launching. Exclusive FREE Slide Deck: Future of Retail:AI by Business Insider IntelligenceAdvertisement