Direct-to-consumer intimates startup are taking advantage of a shifting landscape that’s seen longtime leaders fall out of favor
Just days after reports surfaced that lingerie stalwart Victoria’s Secret could be up for sale soon, DTC women’s underwear newcomer Cuup announced Tuesday an $11 million Series A it will use to enhance the user experience, showing the continued strength among emerging brands offering a welcome new perspective on the tired “sexy sells” intimates mantra.
Cuup’s funding windfall is especially notable in the wake of a New York Times exposé Saturday describing a culture of misogyny at the lingerie giant’s parent company L Brands, where models were asked to pose nude, male superiors regularly demeaned female employees and former Victoria’s Secret public relations staffer Casey Crowe Taylor said the “abuse was just laughed off and accepted as normal.”
The Times’ peek behind Victoria’s Secret’s sullied curtain stands in stark contrast to what a new breed of digital natives is striving to create in the intimates sector, with products that empower rather than exclusively sexualize their wearers. And instead of pedastalizing hard-to-achieve physical ideals, this fledgling crop of changemakers chooses to embrace women as they are.
Kirsten Green, founder and managing partner of Forerunner Ventures, which participated in the Series A, praised Cuup for recognizing “the potential of bringing fit, quality and inclusion to an oftentimes standardized or polarizing industry.”
Though Cuup takes a pared-down approach to building a fresh underwear brand, that’s not to say it sacrifices style for substance.
Kearnon O’Molony, Abby Morgan, Lauren Caris Cohan and Chrisden Ferrari, Cuup pooled their executive experience at companies ranging from Free People and Victoria’s Secret to Blackstone and Serena & Lily to get Cuup off the ground in November of 2018.
Like many startup peers, Cuup offers a streamlined selection consisting of just five bra silhouettes and four underwear styles for straight sizes and curvier figures alike. Colorways include standards like black, white and flesh tones, with the occasional smattering of animal print.
Similar to digitally native competitors like ThirdLove and Harper Wilde, Cuup is aiming for a marriage of form and function—elevated essentials designed for the modern woman’s wardrobe and lifestyle.
O’Molony echoed that sentiment. With the new capital infusion, he said, Cuup is poised for the next stage of growth and well positioned to grow “our high-quality product assortment.”
New York City-based Cuup takes a fresh spin on the fit-dependent lingerie market by investing in individual fit resources rather than relying solely on data and technology to personalize the process of matching consumers with great-fitting garments. Consumers can choose from the fit appointment that works best for their needs, whether that’s booking a 20-minute online video chat with a “fit therapist” or opting for a 30-minute in-person visit at the SoHo showroom.
Cuup says the funding injection will go toward creating the next generation of digital and educational content around fit, in addition to expanding a body-positive range that already includes 40 sizes from 30A to 38H. The brand also plans to increase its headcount, adding regional fit teams and ramping up online video fittings with additional fit experts.
Global venture capital and private equity firm Insight Partners led the $11 million round, which drew continued participation from existing investors Global Founders Capital, Lerer Hippeau Ventures and Bullish, in addition to Forerunner.
“Finding the perfect fit is as much a sciences as an art. With its proprietary grading technology and digitally native approach, Cuup has created a product and buying experience that truly meet women where they are,” Insight Partners Rebecca Liu vice president said.
Green says the time has come for personal garments like lingerie to expertly match their weathers. “For too long, intimate brands have gotten away with offering products that are nowhere near as unique as the person purchasing it,” she added.
Over the 15 months since launch, Cuup claims it has doubled its business quarter over quarter. Each bra undergoes about 80-plus fittings per size on real, everyday women, eschewing the traditional algorithmic or numerically-driven grading approach.
Cuup’s aggregate funding to date totals $15 million.