Growing up, Meghan Litchfield’s mother would take Meghan to the fabric store to pick out patterns. “She would make these beautiful clothes for me that would fit me great and were absolutely stunning. They were really unique pieces that I loved,” Litchfield recalls of her first introduction into the world of fashion—one that would unknowingly lead to RedThread.
But Litchfield’s career initially took her into the corporate world, working as a strategy consultant for Deloitte, and most recently, running digital and e-commerce for GoPro.
Four years ago, after having her second child and watching her body change, Litchfield realized that she couldn’t find clothes that really fit her body—and many of her friends were having the same problem.
“I started asking, ‘What is wrong with clothes if they don’t fit women?’” Litchfield says.
Sizing up the real issue
Litchfield started asking her friends and other women she met about where they bought their clothes and what their frustrations were.
“I just kept hearing this overwhelming feedback that women really struggled to find clothes that fit them, and the worse part about it, we all blame our bodies. ‘My hips are too wide,’ or ‘my butt is too big,’ or ‘my thighs are too small,’” she says.
This, coupled with posts on social media about how to “get flatter abs” and other workouts aimed at “fixing” body issues, drove Litchfield to find another solution to the real problem: fit.
“It was about building a brand that solves this big problem for all women of all different body shapes: You can come as you are. [I wanted] to make women’s lives easier and help them feel better about themselves in their clothes,” Litchfield says.
Unsure where to start, Litchfield set out across the country, interviewing and measuring more than 100 women in multiple markets. What she learned was surprising.
“All the women we measured were different body shapes; no two measurements were the same, and they all had individualized problems with fit,” she says. “And that is when we realized that sizes are the fundamental issue to why clothes don’t fit us. Sizes assume that our bodies are standard, and we’re not standard.”
The daughter of a seamstress, Litchfield realized right away that custom fit was the only way to get beautifully tailored clothing that fits well. “Our mission was to figure out how to do that and how to do that at this scale,” she adds.
Starting from scratch
Litchfield began reaching out to factories, many of them telling her to simply offer more sizes. “We had a lot of [factory owners] who politely escorted us out the back door,” she says, laughing. “We had a lot of designers who said, ‘What are you thinking?’ It really just confirmed our thesis that sizes are broken and we have to eliminate that system.”
The second thing Litchfield heard from the women she interviewed was that they wanted wardrobe essentials that fit perfectly and were versatile.
So RedThread focused first on creating two pairs of black pants, a wide leg and an ankle pant, “because every woman needs an incredible-fitting black pair of pants you can wear to brunch but also wear on the couch at night or wear to a meeting,” Litchfield says. Next came a perfect T-shirt, followed by a comfortable yet stylish jacket. “We wanted to fit that spot in her closet of being her favorite pieces,” she adds.
The research and development process took about 18 months, Litchfield says, because what they were doing was such a divergence from the efficiency of standard sizes in the apparel industry. The solution: All of RedThread’s garments are designed with open seams to be tailored to the individual recipient.
Despite everyone telling her it couldn’t be done, Litchfield found and partnered with a team of like-minded people, and she and head of design and fashion Rachel Richardson started crafting pieces for the 100 women interviewed.
“I personally traveled around the country and delivered the garments to the women because I wanted to see how they fit in person,” she says. “And then we sent out a survey six weeks later asking women, ‘How do they really fit? How do you like them?’ We got some great feedback.”
Eighty-one percent of the women rated the fit a four or five out of five. Litchfield’s team took that feedback and made the process and designs even better.
In October of this year, RedThread officially launched its online site, and Litchfield says the company is still welcoming feedback. The process is simple—you can do it from home with your cellphone, no measuring tape required.
First, you choose the item—pants, shirt or jacket—then you get to customize the fit, including length and snugness.
The second step is a quick questionnaire—a “fit quiz,” as Litchfield calls it. “This is really to get to know you better,” she says. “We’re all about being personalized, so we ask you things like, What are your struggles with how clothes fit you? What are your favorite parts of your body that you want to show off? What are those parts of your body that you want to hide?”
Once you’ve checked out with your product, RedThread will text you a secure link, where you can take and upload three full-body selfie images of yourself. From these photos, RedThread will pull your measurements and build a 3-D body model so they can design your garment. The items are created in the company’s South San Francisco factory, then shipped to the customer’s door in less than a week.
“Our model is about convenience—women being able to do this in their off time at home and getting it delivered straight to their door, with free shipping and free returns. If a woman doesn’t love what she gets, whether it’s fabric or fit, she can return it and it’s on us,” Litchfield says. “But we are always exploring ways to connect with our customers. So there is potential that we would open some sort of in-person experience at some point in the future.”
For now, Litchfield and RedThread are focused on creating what she calls a “sizeless world” and changing the relationship women have with their clothes from a negative one to a positive relationship, “where you put on your clothes and they just feel great—just as you are, and just as you like it,” she says.
And while Litchfield knows that RedThread can’t change the whole world’s perception of beauty, she says they can help women feel great about themselves—one customer at a time. “That’s what gets us up every day and gets us moving. It’s these stories that we are already hearing from women, that we’re just making their lives better and a little easier,” she says.
And Litchfield’s outlook on the future of the apparel industry is anything but grim.
“My belief is that in five to 10 years, sizes will not exist,” she says. “I really believe that. It’s going take the fashion industry a while to catch up with us. But there are also other brands popping up, which makes me realize that we’re on to something big. My hope for the future is that we have a world without labels, a world where all individuals are celebrated, whether it be their body shape or where they’re from or what they look like. So I do see a really beautiful future of inclusivity, that’s sizeless and label-less.”
Photo credit: Courtesy of RedThread