Breast Implants Left This Founder With Debilitating Symptoms, So She Launched an Intimate-Apparel Line That Goes Beyond Buzzwords
Love, Lexxi founder Meg Smith wanted to create what was missing: an undergarment brand that valued style, comfort and body confidence.
"I love a good challenge," Love, Lexxi founder Meg Smith tells Entrepreneur. "I've always been that way. So if there's something that feels so out of reach, it makes me even more determined to find a way to get it done."
Smith's Zoom background offers a glimpse into one the biggest challenges she's tackled to date. Behind her, a trio of lacy bras hangs beneath a floral bouquet; on her left, a large sewing machine sits on a shelf. It's a triumphant tableau that captures the spirit of her founder's journey — one that inadvertently began back in 2016.
That was the year Smith decided to get breast implants.
Growing up, like many girls and young women of her generation, Smith was bombarded with images of the "perfect" woman: on television, in magazines. As they had since the dawn of advertising, brands were shamelessly zeroing in on women's insecurities in the name of profit. Of course, they still do, though often with subtler tactics for the sake of PR.
Smith came of age in an era when large breasts were considered the epitome of femininity.
"I was a small-breasted athlete, so I never felt super feminine in my skin," Smith says. "Society put a lot of pressure on the prerequisites to be beautiful, sexy, feminine. So that took a toll. It was an internal struggle. Fast forward to having two babies; my body transformed even more — [my breasts] basically deflated to nothing."
Smith believed breast implants were the way to solve her body-image struggles, and the many doctors she consulted with prior to the procedure agreed. But things took an unexpected and terrifying turn after the surgery. About three months post-op, Smith began to experience a host of debilitating symptoms: vision issues, slurred speech, brain fog, and, over the course of four years, Graves Disease, thyroid issues and locked joints. Doctors couldn't figure out what was wrong.
Eventually, Smith would learn about breast implant illness, an issue that was little-known or understood back then, and it clicked — her new body was the cause of her suffering. "I literally felt like I was dying," Smith says. "That's when I realized what was most important in my life — I was looking at my two daughters — living and loving."
So, in the fall of 2020, Smith had the implants removed, and she began her search for a bra that would make her feel comfortable and beautiful. But the process wasn't as straightforward as she'd hoped. She encountered the same issue across countless brands: If a bra was comfortable, it wasn't pretty or inspiring much body confidence.
Then, in the middle of the night, Smith woke up with an epiphany: She was going to create what was missing — a gorgeous bra for sizes AA-C that felt as amazing as it looked.
"Every little bit of new knowledge kept fueling me"
Smith was starting from square one. Although she'd owned a marketing and branding agency for six years, she had zero experience building a fashion brand from the ground up. Luckily, that marketing expertise and love for a good challenge were all she needed to get started.
"My marketing background obviously played a role because I was able to dive into intensive market research," Smith says. "I conducted focus groups. I'm a part of a lot of private communities of over 500,000 women, who are essentially the target demographic for what I've created. And it was just validation after validation."
Smith was also on a mission to learn as much as she could about the business. "I just spent endless hours learning," she says, "self-teaching — whether it was through podcasts, books, webinars. I just could not possibly consume enough, and even still today, I think that's an important element. It gave me the confidence to continue to keep going, because every day, every little bit of new knowledge kept fueling me. Knowledge is power."
But Smith was breaking into a notoriously tough industry. Not only did she have to find a factory willing to work with her and world-class technical designers, but she also had to learn how to pitch herself. Fortunately, she began to make those critical connections, and her business continued to gain momentum. "Once you get into that bubble, [the network] just kind of passes the torch along," Smith says. "The path was kind of paved; everyone's been believing in what we're building."
The overwhelming support has helped Love, Lexxi find success, but the product-development journey still threw Smith a few curveballs along the way. "Working through prototypes and getting these on fit models to really, truly engineer something that's solving a problem was incredibly challenging," Smith says. Smith figured it would take two or three prototypes to get the product right, but it actually took five or six.
But, two years later, the design is exactly where Smith had envisioned it would be on that night in 2020.
"A lot of businesses thrive off of us having insecurities"
When Smith underwent breast-implant surgery in 2016, social media was going as strong as it ever had, with Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and more on the scene. Not only did the platforms sustain the natural human inclination to compare oneself to another, but they also increasingly began to serve as major arenas for some brands to tap into those insecurities and pump up sales.
"If we were all confident with ourselves and we all felt good in our skin, a lot of businesses wouldn't exist today," Smith says. "They thrive off of us having these insecurities — that's how they make money. They're honing in on those insecurities and intensifying them to make you feel like they can solve them or make you feel better."
A couple of years later, video-centric platform TikTok would also become available worldwide, ultimately skyrocketing in popularity during pandemic-induced lockdowns — and bringing with it a host of new advertising opportunities, especially in the form of influencers. Naturally, some of that same comparative toxicity remains, and has continued to evolve.
"There are still so many issues with social media," Smith says, citing filters that allow users to alter their image in photos and videos. But the key is finding the social media accounts that serve you, Smith says. Essentially, follow those that help you feel good about yourself and unfollow those that don't. "It sounds very simple," she admits, "but it's, quite frankly, about being very mindful of what you're exposing yourself to on social."
Smith has also noticed some positive changes taking root across the landscape of social media marketing. "I think we've come a long way," she says. "So social media is great in the sense that there are a lot of incredible positive influencers out there that are speaking to body confidence, all sizes are beautiful. And I think there's such an opportunity there. And without these platforms to amplify that, it would be harder to have access to those kinds of positive messages."
But Smith is hyper-aware of the reality that, for some companies, touting body positivity is just another hollow marketing ploy. "Especially today, there's just a lot of marketing and a lot of advertising that's taking a lot of those buzzwords — whether it's 'empowerment' or 'body confidence' — and trying to stick them into their messaging, just to be relevant," she says.
For Smith, creating a brand that really embodies those values is paramount. "With Love, Lexxi, it is so truly ingrained in the core of everything that we do," Smith says. "Yes, we were able to engineer and design and construct bras that are actually solving a problem and are beautiful and comfortable, so that's one thing — but the root of what we're doing is inspiring body confidence. I want to impact the lives of women beyond our collection."
To that end, Love, Lexxi is making its community a priority — the company considers it an arm of the team and believes that should come with voting rights that help the brand make decisions as it expands its collection. Additionally, Love, Lexxi has partnered with body-positive public speakers and influencers who continue to promote body confidence via virtual events. Smith knows from experience just how important consistent body-positive messaging is — and wants to shut down some of the false assumptions about what it means to be confident in one's skin.
"[Body confidence] is one of those things that's very aspirational — people think that you can just get it and keep it and have it," Smith explains. "But it's something that's ongoing work. It's something I compare to a relationship: You don't necessarily feel the butterflies every day."
Love, Lexxi's brand name and symbol, a series of intertwined hearts, serve as additional reminders of the company's values. "Butterflies symbolize confidence, beauty and love," Smith says. "And the largest, arguably most beautiful, butterfly in the world is the Queen Alexandra." Taking the nickname "Lexxi" from that royal title, the company signs off with "Love" because its undergarments are meant to be just that — love letters to women's bodies.
"I'm left with nothing but scars, but I love my body"
As Smith looks to Love, Lexxi's future, she hopes the brand continues to be one that customers can trust and rely on to provide comfort and confidence to the AA-C community. "I really want there to be brand awareness," she says. "And I really want women to say Love, Lexxi has changed my life. Love, Lexxi makes me feel good, not just when I'm wearing it, but on an everyday basis. To have that kind of feedback for me is success — to know that I'm impacting the lives of women. That, to me, is all that really matters."
Right now, the Love, Lexxi community extends beyond the U.S. into Australia, New Zealand and the UK, and Smith hopes to continue expanding the brand's international presence to help women all over the world access the kind of intimate apparel that makes them feel comfortable and confident.
It can be difficult for a startup to pull off global expansion, Smith readily admits, but she's filled with optimism — and credits Spanx founder Sara Blakely, in part, for showing women entrepreneurs what's possible when they're not afraid to take a risk. "She's given us hope," Smith says. "I remember stories of her with her red backpack — she'd go into Nordstrom's or one of those big department stores and put marketing material on the register shelves. Seeing how she's been able to build her business has been inspiring to me and made me feel like if she can do it, I can do it."
Smith also cites her close-knit family as a source of inspiration. "They are such a big part of this," she says. "Reminding me to believe in myself — it's something that I would pursue regardless, but to know I have that incredible support, that's just priceless."
Smith stresses how important it is for all aspiring women founders to believe in themselves — whether they have that support right off the bat or not. "Don't let anyone tell you that you can't achieve your wildest dreams, first and foremost," she says. "And be comfortable with getting no for an answer, but keep going."
It's a mindset that's already gotten the founder farther than she might have imagined just a few years ago, as she's grown a new appreciation for her body alongside a brand that helps other women do the same — elevating confidence over insecurity.
"I'm left with nothing but scars, really," Smith says. "But I love my body."
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