Custom suit maker InStitchu today announced it has raised $7 million in pre-IPO investment funding and weaved together a new business enterprise with one of its principal backers, venture studio firm Dovetail.
InStitchu, founded in 2012 by high-school friends James Wakefield and Robin McGowan to bridge the gap between traditional tailored garments and modern technology, also welcomed other investors including Washington H. Soul Pattinson (ASX: SOL), Seven West Media (ASX: SWM), Smarter Capital and retail heavyweight Paul Greenberg.
The freshly launched joint venture called Taper will commercialise the software supporting InStitchu's custom garment manufacturing process, with Sydney-based Dovetail, which has previously helped build out the technology behind Afterpay, Bakkt and Cashrewards, as the design and development partner.
InStitchu says the new software as a service (SaaS) platform has been in production for almost six months and is already being utilised by one large retailer in North America.
“We always had this vision of taking the proprietary tech stack behind InStitchu and creating a SaaS product that we could make available to other retailers and major businesses and large format retailers and department stores. However, we understood we required a specialist team of developers to re-engineer it into a multi-tenant, scalable SaaS product,” InStitchu co-founder James Wakefield told Business News Australia.
“We took a step back after undertaking some research and thought about the platforms that we enjoy using as users, and the one that stood out was Afterpay. It's such a simple, plain user experience on the front end, and as we use it with InStitchu, we know what a user-friendly back-end platform it is.
“We thought, we want to build the world's best platform so let’s go and get the Ferrari of SaaS developers. We talked them through Taper and the potentially huge total addressable market in this space, and their eyes lit up.”
Wakefield believes COVID has changed the retail landscape and envisages large retailers will look to move away from the “backward” operating business model of investing in up-front inventory that inevitably has to be discounted or put in landfills if it can’t be sold.
He believes the made-to-measure technology behind Taper has the potential to transform the industry by finally achieving profitability at scale – something Wakefield suspects has held back most companies in the sector to date.
"Made-to-measure businesses are complex, costly and prone to mistakes. It’s a business model that is impossible to scale without the right technology to track and provide insights into every aspect of the business and supply chain,” InStitchu co-founder Robin McGowan added.
McGowan doesn’t foresee a post-COVID culture of working-from-home impacting InStitchu sales, confirming the business booked some of its biggest days on record as people prepared to go back into the office and suited up for postponed weddings.
Taper extends beyond InStitchu's bread and butter being made-to-measure suits and shirts, facilitating the production of casual wear, denim, shoes and other outerwear. McGowan says research confirms that people cherish and hold on to personalised products for longer.
The co-founders believe the software behind the business can benefit the supply chain by reducing errors and costs by minimising the amount of stock that needs to be stored.
“Retailers are looking for ways to continue to be competitive in their product offering and range whilst reducing their inventory requirements and operational costs,” Wakefield said.
“Our technology delivers that – Taper makes the customisation process simple, reliable, and cost-efficient, changing the economics of personalisation and democratising custom, tailored clothing.
“Most importantly, Taper makes it easy for staff to start selling made-to-measure garments.”
Dovetail brings plenty of experience to the newly created wholly-owned InStitchu subsidiary, having been involved in co-creating eight new start-ups since it was founded in 2017.
"We have extensive experience identifying great ideas and helping founders materialise and scale them with the right technology and business design support,” Dovetail co-founder Nick Frandsen said.
“Robin and James have a deep understanding of their market and how technology can reshape the made-to-measure industry. Together we will scale their vision globally and transform the segment.”
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