True&Co., an e-commerce company founded with the mission of disrupting the lingerie industry by creating a new business model for selling bras and other undergarments, has been sold. Phillips Van Heusen (PVH), owner of Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and Izod, among other iconic brands, has acquired the startup and plans to use it to move deeper into online sales and big data analytics connected to that.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but sources with direct knowledge of the deal said investors mostly got their money back, but nothing more. The deal value was in the “tens of millions.” True&Co had raised a reported $13 million from a strong list of investors that included Crosslink Capital, Cowboy Ventures, First Round, SoftBank, SoftTech VC and the VTF (fomerly the Vegas Tech Fund).
We’ve reached out to PVH — which has operations in 40 countries and last year made $8 billion in annual revenues — to see if we can get any details or confirmation on the price. We have yet to hear back from PVH. Michelle Lam, the co-founder and CEO of the company, replied to our questions with a short description of today as “an amazing day for the company.” A True&Co spokesperson declined to give any details on the price but did confirm that the brand would remain.
In the meantime, PVH’s CEO and chairman, Emanuel Chirico, noted in a statement that the deal underscores the company’s interest in doing more on digital platforms.
“Today’s announcement illustrates our commitment to driving innovation across our business and demonstrates our commitment to making strategic investments in our digital platforms to support our long-term growth initiatives,” he said. “We believe that we can leverage the analytics tools of this data-driven company, while leveraging PVH’s intimates category expertise, including global brand management, product know-how and supply chain.”
True&Co., founded in 2012, was one of the earlier movers in the wave of vertically integrated e-commerce startups that use technology to move into and disrupt traditionally non-tech areas of business. Others in the world of fashion have included Warby Parker, but you could also count the multitude of on-demand startups like Uber and the Dollar Shave Club among those following the same concept. (Some of course do better than others.)
Bras are a particularly challenging area because even in a physical retail environment, it can be tricky to get the right fit.
While some other bra startups, such as ThirdLove, use your cameraphone plus questions to measure and figure out your contours and sizes, True&Co’s model was based on a “bra quiz” that asks you some questions based on a bra that you already own and some basics about how you look.
Using data that it holds about well-known bra brands, and your own feedback on the size that you own, it figures out what would be a good bra for you. It then sends you five bras that fit the bill and you pay for what you want, and send back what you do not.
It seems that while the company definitely attracted attention — some 5 million women tried out its bra quiz — it’s not clear how many of those actually converted into paying customers.
Whatever the state of True&Co’s business was by the time of its exit, one interesting opportunity going forward will be in how PVH leverages the startup’s platform to help sell its other brands.
Calvin Klein has an extensive line of underwear, and among PVH’s other holdings are Warner and Olga, two other top names in the world of lingerie, and Speedo, a swimwear and active wear brand. It seems likely that these will either augment or replace True&Co’s existing line of products with these for better economies of scale, or have the True team create True-like experiences for these brands individually.
In either case, some clear opportunities should arise from the consolidation.