Online retailers are in a constant battle against skeptical consumers afraid to loosen their purse strings in fear that the items they are buying won’t look, feel, or fit quite as they expected. In no other merchandise category can this fit factor be more significant than lingerie. Ampere is attempting to wipe consumers worries away by offering consumers four sizes for every style of bra purchased. With free shipping and returns, an offering of matching panties, and a collaboration with Free the Girls, we couldn’t help but be intrigued.
We sat down and chatted with Co-founder Jiabei Chen. Here’s what we discovered:
How it got started
After attending Harvard Law School and practicing corporate law for several years, Jiabei realized that something about law was not igniting the passion she wanted to have from her work. With her friend and co-founder, Yun Ah Lee, a former investment banker, the two decided – having both always had a special relationship with lingerie – to reinvent the game.
Jiabei was quick to admit what drew her to the idea of building an online lingerie brand. “I am a size 65F (the equivalent of a US 28F),” she confessed in a cozy coffee shop in the lower region of Union Square. Now any lingerie connoisseur will know right off the bat that in the United States finding a band lower than 32 is nearly impossible, so forget trying to find such a niche size. Jiabei went on to explain that she hated the process of going to lingerie stores, relaying the uncomfortable feeling of being fitted and the constant upset with trying on bra after bra and finding no success. Eventually she turned to the Internet and realized that for her situation she would have to invest a bit more time and money to get what she needed. It was in this frustration that it became clear: why not offer the fitting experience to women in the comfort of their own homes and take away the fear of buying bras online?
Hardest obstacles and favorite parts
Having come from corporate backgrounds, Jiabei and Yun Ah Lee had to learn everything from the ground up. The two co-founders quickly played catch up on everything from understanding the complexities of the different textiles, to casting a model for their first photo shoot.
Jiabei smiled when asked what her favorite part of working on Ampere was. “The customer interactions” she said. Her team has found that when it comes to buying lingerie online it is extremely important to have fluid open channels of communication. Email has served Ampere well because it remains the most intimate form of exchange but Jiabei has also seen a rise in the usage of Twitter questions and requests.
Connection to Free the Girls
Ampere has partnered with the 501c3 tax exempt organization Free the Girls to help collect gently used bras. “We’ve already factored in free returns to our business model, so it made sense to simply enable customers to include their gently used bras when returning the Ampere sizes that did not work,” said Jiabei.
Free the girls offers economic empowerment to women rescued from human trafficking. The organization collects gently used bras and sends them overseas to act as a base inventory for survivors of human trafficking selling bras and second hand clothing at markets in their countries.
How to Donate:
1. Buy a new Ampere bra and receive multiple sizes to try on at home with free shipping. Keep the size that fits, return the ones that don’t.
2. Include a gently used bra to donate in a sealed plastic envelope when returning the unwanted sizes with free return shipping.
3. Ampere will forward the donated bras to Free the Girls.
What’s Next for Ampere
“We are launching a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for our next collection. Our second collection will feature a light color palette and be in keeping with our modern, edgy and feminine aesthetic.”
Third Wave Fashion has been your fashion tech think tank since 2011. We publish the first ever printed fashion tech magazine, Third Wave. Follow us on Twitter or subscribe to our newsletter to stay on top of the latest in fashion tech + wearables. Christi Reid is an Editorial Intern for TWF.
Image via Ampere