After giving birth to her second child, Meghan Litchfield was faced with a conundrum: Nothing in her closet fit.
But shopping for new items didn’t solve the problem, either. No matter what she tried on, the fit was always off. “I just could not find clothes that fit me,” she recalled. “They were always too baggy, or too loose, or too long.”
Litchfield consulted her friends about where they shopped, assuming that somewhere out there was a retailer that solved these fit issues. But her friends had the same problem. And rather than discovering new places to shop from those discussions, she really “started learning about this fit problem,” she said. The problem seemed to be so widespread that she realized it couldn’t just be them.
She thought, “There has to be something wrong with the system.”
Those early conversations were the beginning of RedThread, the first-ever custom-fit, direct-to-consumer apparel company. Launched at the end of October last year, RedThread sells four items: an ankle pant, a wide-leg pant, a T-shirt and a snap jacket, all of which are are made-to-order and custom fit to the recipient’s body.
The decision to go custom was born out of interviews Litchfield conducted with over 100 women, as well as clothing designers and manufacturers about their own fit issues, in the year before launch. She found that not only was this problem widespread, but it also affected different women in different ways. One might be seeking a higher crop on their pants, while another needs longer sleeves on their jacket. The only thing that was consistent? That every woman’s problem was specific to them and their body.
“We found that we were all really compromising on fit,” said Litchfield. “We’d buy things that would sort of fit, but there was always something that wasn’t quite right. And every woman has a unique issue.”
RedThread seeks to provide women with better-fitting clothes through its three-step purchasing process. It goes as follows: First, on RedThread’s website, customers choose the most basic of fit elements, like the crop of a pair of ankle pants (ranging from low ankle to just below the knee), torso and sleeve length for a T-shirt, or a preference of whether they like their garments more fitted or a bit looser. Next, they’ll go through what Litchfield calls a “fit quiz.” There, customers will fill in their name, their typical clothing and bra size, as well as the issues they usually have with whichever garment they’re ordering. There’s even a slot at the end where customers can write in a more detailed description of their typical fit issues, and what they’re looking for the garment to solve.
The final step comes after customers check out, when RedThread sends them a secure link that’ll take them to a page that prompts them to snap three photos of themselves wearing tighter-fitting athletic clothing. Those photos are then fed into an algorithm (that’s currently patent-pending) that will build a 3-D body model of the person in question, which will pull their body shape and measurements. In less than a week, RedThread will tailor a garment to a woman’s specifications and ship it to her door.
Litchfield calls the process a “democratization” of tailoring. “We’ve integrated tailoring into every step of the manufacturing process,” she said. And even better, by building an item from scratch in the first place, RedThread can correct the issues that a tailor perhaps wouldn’t be able to address otherwise.
“It’s a new shopping experience,” said Litchfield. “Women sort of can’t believe we can do all this with just a few photos and questions.”
Having such a quick turnaround on a custom item is just one of the challenges RedThread is taking on with its business model. But bigger sights are ahead: Litchfield said the ultimate goal is a world without sizes, where women don’t feel defined by a number or a letter on the tag of their garments. Arriving at that point, though, will mean undoing decades of precedent and disrupting a deeply entrenched system. “Getting rid of sizes is a dream for the industry and for women,” she said. “But it’s very hard to do, because everything is set up that way. Not only the way clothing is designed, but the way factories are set up, how pricing is set up. Even down to simple things, like an inventory system.”
However, Litchfield feels that the work is worth the result.
“The old system is broken, so it’s time for a new one,” she said. “And we’re happy to be the ones to pioneer that.”