Potrero Hill entrepreneur, Meghan Litchfield, launched RedThread, a women’s apparel company, last October. Seven months into the startup’s debut, the business, which offers four different personally-sized garments, is steadily growing, based entirely on word of mouth and free media. Many initial customers who tried RedThread’s individualized clothes prior to its rollout are Litchfield’s neighbors.
RedThread’s business model combines Ecommerce, outsourcing, and a dash of cottage industry. The garage Litchfield converted into an office in the backyard of her De Haro Street home is headquarters, where she and her team are sometimes up until 2 a.m. packing boxes to ship to customers. A warehouse at 17th and Mississippi streets is used to store fabrics. There’s no physical store; customers order through the company’s website.
“We depend on outside factories and mills to create our designs and apparel, so we can run a small team,” Litchfield said.
Individualized, proper, fit is determined through RedThread’s patent-pending technology. The company sends specifications for each item based on a 3D fitting system and customer preferences, and pays SFO Apparel factory in Brisbane per piece to produce the garments.
The four basic models offered by RedThread are intended to be versatile and pair well with other wardrobe essentials. Part of the brand’s allure is convenience. There’s no need for tape measures or going to a tailor.
“We created a product for all women,” Litchfield said. “As we evolve the brand, we find it’s resonating with women over 30 who are very busy. She’s always on the move. She could live in an urban area; she could live in a suburban area.” Like Litchfield herself, many RedThread customers are mothers of young children.
Mass production of ready-made, inexpensive, apparel dominated the 20th Century, but the tradeoff has been standard sizes that vary from one manufacturer to the next, and for many women, fruitless sessions in fitting rooms because one part or another of a garment doesn’t fit right. “Fit is the number one reason women don’t buy clothes in the first place, and the reason they return clothes,” Litchfield said.
3-D technology is starting to change that. “Put your smartphone on the floor in your house, take a few steps back, and take selfies. Any camera on a phone or a tablet works. We use the angle of the camera to get your measurements,” Litchfield said.
Customers know the phone’s viewpoint is correct when they see a green screen. “We use the angle of the phone and the customer’s height as inputs to create the 3D body model.”
After obtaining key camera angles, customers complete a Fit Quiz on the company’s website. Preferences for physical features the client likes to show off or hide, waistline tailoring, and pant leg, sleeve, and torso length are incorporated into the personalized fit, along with a pocket or no pocket preference. The company delivers to the customer’s door within a week of ordering. This fitting and delivery method enables clients to purchase clothing at home when they have time. RedThread garments are made from easy care fabrics; machine washable, wrinkle free.
RedThread’s four-piece line consists of two choices in black pants; wide-leg and ankle. Both sell for $148. The T-shirt, at $78, is available in ivory, black and teal. The snap jacket – which can be worn multiple ways depending on the occasion, from relaxed blazer to drapey cardigan or a sweatshirt alternative – at $168, is obtainable in off-white and black. The collection is intended to be suitable for business meetings, running errands, lunch with friends, or lounging on the couch.
“Our T-shirt is bamboo, which is a sustainable source. Pants are a cotton-polyester blend with tensile in them. All of our fabrics are exclusive to us,” Litchfield said. “All of our fabric mills are bluesign certified, a standard pioneered by Patagonia for sustainable textile production. The system eliminates harmful substances right from the beginning of the manufacturing process and sets and controls standards for an environmentally friendly and safe production.” The clothes come with a lifetime fit guarantee.
Originally from Buffalo, New York, Litchfield studied International Business at the Universidad de Sevilla, Spain for a year as an exchange student from Washington University in St. Louis. She lived for five years in London, England, before moving to San Francisco in 2005 with her husband, Matt. They bought their Potrero Hill home in 2011, and today can frequently be seen perambulating the neighborhood Litchfield adores, enjoying parks and restaurants with their children Mara, seven, and Dudley, four, as well as their rescue dog, Sully.
Single-item production of homemade clothes once was common. “My mom was a seamstress as a hobby, and every week we would go to the fabric store, pick out a pattern, and she would create these beautiful custom dresses for me,” Litchfield said. “I sewed a lot with my mom as a kid, but I don’t make clothes for my kids.” She is, however, teaching her daughter to stitch, making dresses together for Mara’s dolls.
Litchfield, who brings experience in digital user experience design, branding, fashion, and business analysis to her startup, obtained financing from angel investors she’d toiled with in the corporate world. Prior to founding RedThread, Litchfield worked for GoPro, Chrome, Art.com, Gap Inc., ACNielsen and Deloitte Consulting.
RedThread is one of several businesses to enter the market in recent months that specialize in made-to-order garments.
“We envision an industry where traditional sizes are eliminated, and it is easy for all women, of every shape, to get custom fit apparel shipped directly to her door,” Litchfield said. “The old system of large inventories and size runs is broken, and it’s time for a new one.”