This editorial article is a part of Technical.ly's Women in Tech month.
In 2011, Linda Farquhar started her fashion business, entreDonovan, on a laptop at her kitchen table. She chose a niche that’s surprisingly uncommon: custom-tailored women’s wear.
“Men have custom clothing, but for women, it’s really hard to find,” she said.
The rarity of custom clothing for women seems like gap in the market, especially considering that “clothing every body type” is currently very on trend. We see clothing startups getting all kinds of positive attention on social media by using models of different sizes and body types to display their products.
Still, the trend we see on social media applies mostly to stretch items like leggings, bras and casual wear. When it comes to high-end clothing, having it actually made to your size specifications is all but unheard of outside of commissioning a seamstress — which isn’t exactly easy-breezy shopping.
A woman can’t walk into a boutique and get measured for a custom garment the way a man can when he wants a perfectly-fitting suit. Farquhar decided to change that.
The entreDonovan brick-and-mortar at 222 Delaware Ave. in downtown Wilmington opened in 2014, offering a mix of custom and ready-to-wear.
The turning point in entreDonovan’s journey to perfect custom fitting came when Farquar met a (then) recent Ph.D. graduate from North Carolina State named Fangfang Zhang, who was familiar with the developing technology of body scanners. (“Most people use them just as digital measuring tape,” Farquhar said.) Zhang joined the company as a partner in 2016.
“That’s when we really started figuring out how to custom fit for women,” Farquhar said.
Together, they developed a high-tech system for creating custom patterns using existing body scanner software, Xbox Kinect technology and some of Farquhar and Zhang’s own proprietary processes.
“It’s infrared — really fast and not invasive,” said Farquar.
The IRL experience
At entreDovovan, which is now open by appointment only, customers have a unique brick-and-mortar experience that can’t be duplicated by online retailers: They enter the body scanner in a dressing room, choose the garments they want, then pick out fabrics from books of swatches. About four weeks later, they have high-end, perfectly fitted custom pieces that average around $700 (comparable to high end pieces sold at Nordstrom).
The brick-and-mortar aspect is one of entreDonovan’s big selling points as the company looks to expand into wholesale.
“Women’s apparel stores have been losing market share over the last 5 years,” said Farquhar. “The industry is growing, but boutiques are losing. So we have a presentation to go to retailers and say, ‘This is a huge experiential kind of thing that can’t be replicated online.'”
Add to that the ongoing research that suggests that millennials like shopping brick and mortar, and entreDonovan could be ahead of the curve in more ways than one.
With the wholesale model, retailers would have a body scanner on site, as well as fabric books and samples of the garments. Orders would be placed online to entreDonovan and and would be delivered to their location, essentially allowing consumers to have the experience of their custom boutique in a number of locations across the country — these could be big department stores or tiny shops.
Next step: Online Public Offering
This month, entreDonovan launched its first Online Public Offering (OPO) with the California-based StartEngine Capital. The equity crowdfunding platform allows people to invest in the company for as little as $200.
“There’s the crowdfunding that everyone knows about, where you contribute money and get some kind of perk but don’t own part of the company,” said Farquhar. “What we’re doing is real investing, where basically anyone can invest in the company for small amounts and own equity, without having to be an accredited investor.” Check out entreDonovan’s OPO page here.-30-
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