Custom-fit womenswear can resolve many problems - why don’t more brands take part?
Robyn Turk| Tuesday, December 24 2019
Most members of the womenswear industry will agree that the two biggest areas in need of evolution are sustainability and size inclusivity. Tech-based brand RedThread is looking to kill both birds with one stone.
RedThread offers made-to-measure womenswear at a relatively affordable price point between 78 dollars for a custom T-shirt and 158 dollars for a black dress. It uses 3D imaging technology and an in-depth questionnaire to determine each customer’s perfect fit, and allows specific customization items on each piece before sending each order into production with a turnaround time of one week.
“The fundamental problem with women’s clothing is that the industry assumes women’s bodies are standard, and our bodies are far from it,” explained Meghan Litchfield, the brand’s CEO and founder to FashionUnited.
“Most brands design clothing based on one fit model, and scale the designs up and down proportionately to create a range of sizes,” she continued. “In reality, women are beautifully out of proportion, with ins and outs all over our bodies, and rarely fit into these limited size blocks. In addition, despite assuming we are standard, there are no standard sizes across the industry, and measurements vary wildly across brands, making sizes arbitrary.”
Litchfield explains that these issues with sizing lead to excess waste within the fashion industry due to overproduction of size runs, as well as high return rates that can be costly to the brand.
RedThread uses a patent-pending technological process that employs a tailoring algorithm and use of 3-D body scan technology to deliver the right fit to its users. This, teamed with the facts that the consumer experience is completely digital and the brand doesn’t need to foot the costs of keeping inventory, allows it to offer clothing at the prices it currently lists.
“There are so many challenges when it comes to creating custom-fit clothing,” Litchfield commented. “Before we launched, we spent 18 months testing our patent-pending process on hundreds of women all over the country to make sure we had it right, and we are still constantly questioning and improving.
“Custom clothing has traditionally been labeled as expensive, hard to get, or time consuming. We are using technology to democratize customized clothing with an easy and fast shopping experience. With the trend towards body inclusiveness and individuality, consumers are rallying behind our mission to get rid of ‘standard’ sizes and being real about body shapes.”
The fashion industry is not yet ready to adopt made-to-measure system
Though RedThread has developed a system to deliver custom-fit clothing to consumers at an affordable scale, the fashion industry as a whole is not close to bringing this type of fit-model to a wider scale.
“Real change and innovation are hard, and big brands are not nimble enough,” Litchfield said. “Driving change in an archaic industry requires time, money, and sweat. We have spent years developing designs, technology, patented processes, and systems to create a magical experience where custom-fit clothing is delivered in one week, from just a few photos. Very few brands and companies are willing to make a real investment in innovation like this.”
Litchfield admits that producing womenswear fit to the traditional view of standard sizing is much more efficient and cost effective to the brand, though this system has its own downsides. Because of this, a brand’s desire to deliver custom-made clothing must come from demand from the consumer.
“We are seeing big trends away from mass production and towards customized, artisanal craft, in industries from furniture to shampoo. Consumers are investing in pieces that last and reduce waste, and as a result, fast-fashion is quickly dying,” she said.
The RedThread CEO said she envisions a world where every piece of apparel can be produced on-demand to reduce waste, without mass-produced sizes that don’t work for the real human body.
“In addition to consumer demand, the industry needs to evolve from how clothes are designed, to the way clothes are made, and all the way down to how women shop,” Litchfield added. “This transformation will take time, and we are happy to be one of the first brands to pioneer it.”