Morgan Hermand-Waiche wanted to get his girlfriend fine lingerie but couldn¡¯t afford it. And that got him thinking.

Like so many grad students, Morgan Hermand-Waiche had champagne taste and a beer budget. Or rather, La Perla taste and a Fruit of the Loom budget.

In 2009, Mr. Hermand-Waiche was attending Harvard Business School and dating a fellow student. For their anniversary, he wanted to impress her with a gift of fine lingerie.

“I found there weren’t many brands that were as nice as what I wanted for her but in the price range of my broke student budget,” Mr. Hermand-Waiche says. “And then I thought, God, if I see that problem and I don’t buy lingerie every day, what must it be like for women who need to purchase these things more often but can’t find anything that looks nice, fits well and is a reasonable price?”

He knew it wouldn’t be an easy field to break into—a lesson he had learned from his experience at his family’s fashion business in France, and his own research into the industry.

“There is no one garment more complex to manufacture: A bra is made of 60 different components, while a traditional garment is usually made of five or up to 10 components, max,” Mr. Hermand-Waiche says. “So then you have to order way in advance and you have to order in large volumes because otherwise your manufacturer will say, sorry, that’s too complex for me to just make a thousand.”

That means, he says, to start a new lingerie company, you need to design at least 100 different bras in order to offer enough options, and you have to order about 10,000 of each, a year in advance. “So you’re buying a million bras, a year before you can sell one,” he says.

Managing those logistics would take a lot of capital, so Mr. Hermand-Waiche spent his first two years in business raising $11.5 million. The effort paid off. Since he officially opened shop in 2012, AdoreMe has sold over a million products, and will open branded stores in the U.S. in 2016.

The girlfriend who inspired the business, though, is no longer part of the picture. “We’re not together anymore,” Mr. Hermand-Waiche says. “I guess it’s just life.”

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