A sizeable problem... all sewn up?
Tailr has a solution to clothing brands' sizing woes
One thing I love about writing PreSeed Now (and I know some of you love about reading it too) is it’s a chance to dive into topics that would otherwise pass you by.
They’re usually more interesting than you might otherwise assume.
For example, today we explore the world of garment sizing and meet a founder who is obsessed with it. Scroll down to read all about Tailr.
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Tailr thinks its got a sizeable problem all sewn up
If you’re like me, it’s never occurred to you that clothes production is incredibly complex with significant business implication.
Getting all of a brand’s, say, size 14 dresses to be the same actual size can be surprisingly difficult. And if the sizes aren’t right, you’re going to get returns from customers, and potentially a lot of waste both in terms of money and resources.
So if the fashion industry was looking for a solution to this issue, the arrival of a startup with a founder whose self-confessed favourite topic in the world is inconsistent sizing might just be a good sign.
Sizing up the problem
“A brand recently told me that they had 20,000 dresses come in that were incorrect. That doesn't get reported anywhere; it's hidden in the P&L. So when looking at the cost of sizing, I always look at the ecommerce side.”
Chu says that based on industry-wide figures, she can estimate that online fashion retailer Asos has a return rate of around 25%. With worldwide annual revenues of £3.9 billion, that means £975 million of its annual revenue comes from items that are returned.
And when online fashion brand Revolve announced its IPO in 2019, its S-1 document reported a 2018 returns reserve fund almost equal to its net income for that year.
While incorrect sizing is only one reason clothing might be returned to its seller, Chu is clearly working on a sizeable (pardon the pun) problem here.
Tailr’s solution is designed so that every brand has a consistent set of garment sizes.
“The brand has to determine what their sizing profile is, to determine what a size 12 is to them. And then we ensure that every single garment that comes out of production marked a size 12 is going to fit that size 12 profile,” says Chu.
“Our end goal is consistent sizing, looking at the different elements that affect that and also reducing waste, so brands will get into production faster, and be less wasteful and more sustainable.”
How it works
So what is Tailr doing to achieve this?
Tailr’s process begins by providing resources for a brand to create ‘tech packs’–essentially the blueprints–for their garments. Then the tech gets to work to optimise these blueprints, ensuring that the measurements are correct for the specific fabric being used.
Brands often use the same measurements regardless of the fabric, which Chu says is a major cause of sizing issues. Other factors Tailr considers include trims. A heavy zip, for example, would affect the fit by dragging the garment down.
Chu says Tailr is currently working with fabric mills across the UK to collect ever richer data about different types of fabrics. The startup is using both the mills’ own data and data from its own fabric testing under different conditions.
Tailr is also working with brands to bring in early revenue. To make life easier for brands, the startup plans to integrate its software with clothing design packages like Browzwear and CLO in the coming months.
“3D design software is the future for the industry,” says Chu. “But there's a missing piece between them and the factory, and we are that missing piece that's going to translate those 3D designs into factory ready assets.”
The story so far
Chu knows her market so well because she was a garment technologist in Ireland for eight years, designing and developing PPE like fire suits, and overalls for use in power stations.
PPE production is highly regulated to ensure it meets the right quality and safety standards, so Chu needed to be exacting. She says that during production she’d have to oversee quality control at factories in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.
“We had a tender come in for a different high-vis colour. Trying to source that colour and have it meet the same safety standards was when I first really started figuring out that fabric was a huge issue on sizing.”
Chu learned that garment production for fashion doesn’t have the same quality controls as PPE, and the impact a particular fabric will have on a new garment’s sizing is often an unknown quantity.
This led her to found Tailr in Ireland, initially with a development partner company that built an MVP of the product.
“We were able to test it with multiple brands, we got some amazing test results, and interest from people wanting to start paying to use the platform,” says Chu.
Since then, Chu has brought in CTO Magnus Kanholt, who has strong experience in fashion and textiles. She says the Tailr team has grown to include four developers and one designer.
And Tailr is now a UK-based startup after Chu was accepted onto the Government’s Global Entrepreneur Programme, which helps high-potential companies relocate to the country. She joined the programme in February this year.
“It has been amazing. The support that they give is so good, with different events, networking, introductions, and also partnerships with grant funding bodies as well.”
But Tailr still has ties to the country of its birth. Chu says Enterprise Ireland is a shareholder.
“I'm really lucky that I'm getting the help and support from two governmental agencies,” she says.
Go deeper on Tailr
More on their funding, vision, competition, and challenges:
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