Affordable made-to-measure clothes? With the help of crowdfunding and 3D printing, these companies are giving it a go.
It used to be that a custom-tailored wardrobe was out of reach for all most the most well-heeled shoppers. But not anymore.
Sites like Indochino and Black Lapel in recent years began to solve this problem at least for men's suits, making it simple to input your measurements, choose things like what kind of collar or cuff you want, and spend as little as $450 for a custom suit or less than $100 for a premium shirt that arrives at your doorstep in less than a month.
But lately the notion of ordering custom-tailored clothing online is gaining momentum with a wider demographic. Here are a handful of sites enticing consumers to open their wallets--and get out the tape measure:
Hand-crafted jeans don't come cheap--in a swanky boutique or upscale department store you'll pay hundreds of dollars for them. OriJeans is a Baltimore-based startup that raised nearly $50,000 on Kickstarter to ramp production of its $99 jeans made with selvedge denim sourced from U.S. and Japanese mills. Once the company starts taking orders sometime in February you'll be able to use the OriJeans website to take your own measurements and designate the kind of cut, color, fabric, buttons, stitching, and distress elements you want in your jeans.
"If you like to wear cuffs, you'll see these cool little color stripes where the denim ends. That's the distinctive mark of selvedge denim," says co-founder Mike Avdeev.
Clothing that lasts for years is a rare thing in the apparel industry where manufacturers often source cheap and low-quality clothing from supplier factories in developing countries where labor and environmental practices can be sketchy, at best. Diametrically opposed to the notion of throw-away clothing, Appalatch touts itself as "an ethically driven outdoor apparel company with a rebellious spirit to upend the clothing industry for the good." The Asheville, North Carolina, startup recently exceeded its $50,000 funding goal on Kickstarter by promising heirloom-quality, American-made, made-to-order sweaters that start at $109.
Co-founders Mariano DeGuzman and Grace Gouin say their sweaters are 3D-printed on a special machine that uses a computer program to knit a custom sweater in less than an hour with no waste. Customers only need to give Appalatch measurements such as waist and chest circumference and arm and torso lengths. "We are going to be the first company in the world to make custom-fit sweaters on a mass scale," DeGuzman says.
Kickstarter supporters will start receiving their sweaters in September while everybody else can begin ordering them in October, if not before, the duo predicts.
This high-fashion startup used funds from its successful Kickstarter campaign to secure space and machinery at the historic McRoskey Mattress Company in San Francisco. Artful Gentleman specializes in high-end suits that start at $1,800 and are measured, cut and sewn by hand. It also offers a cadre of "in demand ready-to-wear" items online that can be purchased in a Kickstarter sort of way, meaning if enough people commit to buy a particular article of clothing Artful Gentlemen will produce it.
Chief creative and head designer Jake Wall gripes about some online and supposedly custom clothiers that simply tailor precut and mass-made standard sizes. Not only does Artful Gentleman pattern and cut every piece of its clothing individually for each client, Wall says the company offers customers more than 300 luxury fabric samples to choose from for suiting, separates and shirting.
MyOwnShirts co-founder Matt Berwick came up with the idea behind this Oxford, U.K.-based website while working on contract in Shanghai and discovering the luxury of bringing a personal tailor into his living room.
MyOwnShirts lets users virtually design their own collared shirts, choosing features such as fabric, type of collar and cuff, pockets, and how the length is cut. All you do is click your preferences, enter your measurements, and MyOwnShirts cuts and sews each shirt individually.
It's a great idea but seems to have a publicity problem. So far MyOwnShirts' Indiegogo campaign has only raised about a third of its $30,000 goal which it set to purchase a first collection of fabrics. Even so, the campaign will receive funds even if it doesn't reach its goal so the company may still be able to start production albeit with a smaller inventory.
Have you tried any of these? If so, how was the experience?
CHRISTINA DESMARAIS is an Inc.com contributor who writes about the tech startup community, covering innovative ideas, news, and trends. Have a tip? Email her at christinadesmarais (at) live (dot) com. @salubriousdish