After Meghan Litchfield had her second child, she started to notice that her clothes fit differently than they previously had. When she started talking to her friends, she realized that she wasn’t the only one having these issues. Friends of all shapes and sizes (with children and without) were having difficulty finding clothes that fit correctly.
Having repeatedly had the same conversation with various friends about their difficulties in finding well-fitting clothes, Meghan started to think back on the time she spent at Gap and how the clothing they created was designed from a singular fit model. Meghan didn’t understand how mathematically, the sizing concept could even work. Manufacturing standards grew out of a post-war desire to create mass amounts of clothing at a large scale in the most efficient way as possible. Meghan didn’t think today’s clothing problems would be solved by yesterday’s thinking and processes.
If everyone’s measurements were different, how could any company create a garment that can truly fit a large segment of the population? Meghan’s thinking was supported by not only personal experience, but statistics.
In a 2017 survey conducted by Trunk Club, “46 percent of women struggle with some size or fit issues that impact what they wear.” The fit problem not only frustrates consumer, it causes pain to retailers. According to Coresight Research, roughly 30 to 40% of clothing ordered online is returned. When it comes to dresses, that number is 50%.
With a clear customer and industry problem and a passion for problem solving, Meghan sought out to solve the “fit issue” by launching RedThread. RedThread is a convenient and fast way for all women to create customized clothing. RedThread’s focus on customization informs its brand strategy which is focused on emphasizing the unique, varied and powerful stories of its customers, all of whom are charting their own-individual life-courses.
RedThread’s patent-pending manufacturing process and algorithm allow the customer to create and receive custom-fit apparel in 3 easy steps without leaving home. First, users can customize their style, such as sleeve length (do they prefer short, medium, long?) or inseam length (some people prefer a high ankle/others prefer a low ankle). Second, women take a fit quiz to share what they love (and hate) about how clothes fit them. Finally, women scan their measurements with a few simple selfie photos on their phone.
In order to establish the initial process, Meghan and her team started out by identifying 100 women of all shapes and sizes, asking them what they were looking for in their wardrobe, and most importantly, listening! The team then understood what wardrobe essentials and styles were most important to customers and measured these 100 women to create RedThread’s initial customization algorithm. As the algorithm continues to learn with each garment, the fit and process will only continue to get better.
Currently, RedThread has customers with varying measurements using its site. Every garment that they have sent out has been totally-unique, including the first 150 pieces sent to its beta-testers. Thus far, the brand is resonating primarily with women over 30 from all across the United States, as well as some from Canada and the UK. These customers are primarily driven by style and comfort.
RedThread also offers free U.S. shipping and returns, as well as alterations. To date, RedThread has not had any returns and only a small set of alterations (mostly on the clothes that were shipped out in the first week). RedThread is committed to creating a brand that people will love and it is policies like these that illustrate this dedication. Furthermore, It is safe to say that, with demand for women’s clothing to total $171.4 billion, and men’s clothing to reach $84.6 billion in 2021, that companies that continue to listen to and delight the customer will have significant financial success.
With regards to customization as a driving-force in apparel and beyond, Meghan believes that, as customers become more discerning and technology continues to quickly and dramatically improve, customization across a variety of categories will be the norm. Meghan envisions a size-free world driven by on-demand manufacturing where everyone has their clothing measurements in their pocket and has access to a world of personalized fashion.
As a third of the world is obese or overweight (that number is almost 72% in the US) and as people’s bodies continue to change throughout their lifespan, I think Meghan is making a bet that will pay-off. I believe that as the size demographics of the country and the world change, customization across a variety of verticals will be key to financial success.
I am excited to see what the future of RedThread looks like, and how its impact will be seen on individual customers. A few days ago, a customer called Meghan to reorder a whole other set of RedThread clothing, soon after she ordered the first. She told Meghan that she had to have her clothes custom-made her whole life, due to her size unique shape. This process was expensive and demoralizing. RedThread has been as game-changer for her. It is moments like this that continue to bring meaning to Meghan and her team, and further encourage them to pursue their mission to create a size-free world.
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Apparel Staff, “Women’s Apparel Market to Be Worth This Much in 2021,” Apparel Mag, 13 September 2017, https://apparelmag.com/womens-apparel-market-be-worth-much-2021
Center for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/obesity-overweight.htm
Hanbury, Mary,”Startups are on the brink of solving one of the biggest problems with shopping online,” Business Insider, 29 September 2018, https://www.businessinsider.com/startups-fix-clothing-fit-with-tech-2018-8
Murray, Christopher J.L., Ng, Marie.”Nearly one-third of the world’s population is obese or overweight, new data show.” Healthdata.org, http://www.healthdata.org/news-release/nearly-one-third-world%E2%80%99s-population-obese-or-overweight-new-data-show
“Nearly Half Of All Women Struggle With Some Type Of Wardrobe Fit Issues — Survey,” SWNS Digital, 5 October 2017, https://www.swnsdigital.com/2017/10/nearly-half-of-all-women-struggle-with-some-type-of-wardrobe-fit-issues-study/