clothing

Bespoke or Broken?

Custom apparel has been waiting to happen for over a decade. Over eight years ago I served on the board of a technology company called Archetype Solutions. They were a technology platform enabling the mass customization of apparel using online questions and an advanced algorithm.

At the time, scanning technologies were being used to grab a person's size and produce a custom article of clothing. Remember when Levi's put scanners in their stores and we all rushed out to try it? Now Levi's customization is more about the type of jean wash or patches instead of sizing.

The Archetype technology was purchased by a small group of insiders and repackaged as IndiDenim. When IndiDenim went out of business, the Archetype technology was sold to another group of hopeful technologists.

This is a concept that continues to persevere. Surprisingly, both the question and algorithm approach to size customization and scanning continue to spawn new companies. Here are just a few of the companies in the size customization space:

Scanning

1. Styku

2. Me-ality

Questions and Algorithm

1. Knot Standard

2. Clotheshor.se

3. Bleuflamme

4. Zyrra

Offline/online combo approaches

1. ProperSuit

2. Indochino

Visualizations

1. FaceCake

Started out as custom clothing but turned to e-commerce

1. Bonobos

2. JHilburn

3. American-Giant

Question is where are they now? I think the questions and algorithm approach has the best chance at getting traction, but right now I don't see how these types of companies become very large in the next decade. The only companies to have significant revenue of those listed above are those that turned to e-commerce.

The e-Bra

Oh, yes. Sensor technologies are getting better and researchers recently tested them in clothing. Specifically, a bra that monitors cardiac health. According to research out of the University of Arkansas:

"The system monitors blood pressure, body temperature, respiratory rate, oxygen consumption, some neural activity and all the readings provided by a conventional electrocardiograph (ECG), including the ability to display inverted T waves, which indicate the onset of cardiac arrest. The system does not require a cuff or any extra accessories to measure blood pressure and could therefore replace conventional blood-pressure monitors. It could also replace the cumbersome combination of ECG sensors and wires attached to patients while they walk on treadmills."