Institchu’s new tech makes custom tailoring a good fit for any retailer

Custom apparel retailer Institchu has just unveiled an innovative new technology that will offer other brands the same made-to-measure capabilities it has in its business.

The newly launched software-as-a-service product, called Taper, will make it easy for traditional retailers to begin custom tailoring apparel for their shoppers.

“Made-to-measure businesses are complex, costly and prone to mistakes,” Institchu co-founder Robin McGowan said. “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.”

At the moment, Taper is in beta mode and has just launched in 17 stores with a major North American apparel business.

Wakefield said brands have been approaching Institchu about using its technology since it first launched 10 years ago, which eventually inspired the business to create Taper. At the moment, the team is targeting potential clients in the US and Europe.

“We’ve got the Ferrari team of developers helping us build this, a company called Dovetail. They built Afterpay. Essentially, they’re re-engineering the systems that we built for Institchu to become a software-as-a-service product [that powers] other retailers to become made-to-measure [businesses] and make it work online,” he explained.

“Ultimately, there is nothing in the world that is as sophisticated as the technology that we’ve built.”

Other made-to-measure retailers have tried but failed to scale their businesses over the years, but McGowan said the secret to success in customisation lies in the strength of the technology and supply chain. 

“We knew that the key was technology to support the supply chain, so from day one, we’ve invested heavily in building proprietary technology that’s simple, fast and reliable,” he told Inside Retail

“That technology follows customers from the showroom experience to the website, powering the supply chain, staff management, customer service, and finance. Most importantly, it means that within minutes of an order getting finalised, our partners overseas are cutting fabrics and getting to work on a truly custom, tailored garment.”

The launch of Taper will also strengthen Institchu’s strategy as it proceeds towards its IPO listing. 

“We won’t be going towards an IPO as just a retail business. We’ll be an innovative technology-led, direct-to-consumer business that also has a software-as-a-service product,” Wakefield said. “Institchu has become an R&D house to develop this software. There is just nothing else like it.”

Institchu has also just closed its pre-IPO investment round, raising $7 million with investors including Dovetail, Washington H. Soul Pattinson, Seven West Media, Smarter Capital, and retail heavyweight Paul Greenberg. 

The rise of made-to-measure

It seems that more retailers are finally starting to see the business benefits of offering made-to-measure products, Wakefield said.

“Custom designs mean you can easily cater to your clients needs, while custom sizing means customers can have a specific sizing profile applied to any garments they order,” Wakefield said, adding that a made-to-measure product line could be a potential new revenue stream for many retailers without needing to invest in any stock up front.

For retailers offering custom options, returns are also less than 2 per cent, compared with over 30 per cent at traditional brands.  

Made-to-measure is also an ideal anti-fast fashion option for customers, many of whom are now interested in leading a more sustainable lifestyle since Covid-19 has hit. It’s estimated that the fashion industry produces at least 92 million tonnes of textile waste and emits over a million tonnes of CO2 each year. By 2030, the sector will be discarding more than 134 million tonnes of textile a year. Made-to-measure can mitigate some of that.

“No stock is held by retailers, as garments are created when orders are placed. There’s also far less fabric wastage and no excess stock, as garments are cut specifically for the customer,” Wakefield said.

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