The latest in the custom clothing clone wars: Tailor Trucks and 3D scanners

By Carmel DeAmicis , written on March 26, 2014

From The News Desk

Tailored men's clothing startups are getting out of control. There's JHilburn and Trumaker which both send "tailors" to your home to measure you for button down shirts. There's Threadmason and Stantt for T-shirts with 24 and 50 "custom" sizes, respectively. There's Vastrm for custom polo shirts, using online questionnaires to figure out men's sizes.

And now, if you live on the East or West coast, you can get fitted for the perfect suit via a 3D scanner in a truck. Arden Reed, the men's suit startup that lets dudes measure themselves for custom outfits via an online questionnaire, rolled out two Tailor Trucks with 3D scanners to do just that. "Customers kept measuring themselves wrong," founder Carlos Solorio tells me. "We knew [3D scans] would resolve the body profile issue."

They traversed the nation in the first truck, collecting thousands of scans, and this week launched a Kickstarter to fund a line of button down shirts based on the data. They created nine custom fits, using height, waist size, and chest.

It's a hotly contested space and Arden Reed is by no means the first to try out custom sizes. Solorio considers his biggest competition to be Indochino, which sends Tailor's Kits to customers to measure themselves for a custom suit. I'd argue that using the 3D scanner data to create a range of pre-made custom button down shirt sizes puts it more in the realm of Trumaker, Stantt, or Threadmason, which sell a range of custom shirts.

Either way, there's competitive sharks on all sides. "When we first started there were only two or three companies we were directly competing with, but by the time we got [our company] out there there was 70," Solorio says. "Kickstarter has made it easy to launch your first line." It has also made it easy to flub your first line, as the makers of Custom Fit Jeans learned the hard way. They collected more than $47,000, but two and a half years later they have yet to ship their line.

As we've covered, the tailored clothing trend hasn't just focused on the men's space, although that's where the majority of the startups are. In the lady space, custom fit companies largely focus on lingerie. Women's bra company Third Love measures you for the perfect fit via a phone app, and True&Co has women complete questionnaires that funnel information into an algorithm to help them find the perfect brand and bra size for their body shape.

There's no proof yet that custom sizing is a sustainable e-commerce venture that can scale the way a startup needs to. These companies are all young enough that they haven't proved themselves. Their success depends on whether consumers are truly so vain they're willing to track down cheaper ways to get perfect fitting clothing.

Preset ranges of sizes are easier to scale than having customers measure themselves haphazardly or sending "tailors" to people's homes to measure them, so Arden Reed is smart to use their measurements data to move into that space.

Was a gimmicky truck really necessary for the business shift? "We're selling a better fitting shirt than other companies are able to offer because we have this data," Solorio defends himself.

He'll have to hope that's enough of a differentiator to raise Arden Reed out of the throngs of competitors in the tailored fitting clone wars.