Custom Fit Clothing for Women
Custom Fit Clothing for Women
Just like our grandmother's dressmakers used to sew. Merin Guthrie is the Founder and CEO of Kit, a forward thinking clothing company changing the way clothes are made and how we buy them. 1.What/who inspired you to start your company? The ‘what’ and ‘who’ go hand in hand. The ‘what’ is that I always struggled with fit. I’m a pretty normal height and weight, but I’m pear-shaped. Pants fit terribly, and any skirt or dress that isn’t an a-line was a no-go. That just seemed kind of silly to me. Truly, we can put people on the moon but we can’t make pants that fit me properly? Really?! And then the ‘who’ was all of the women around me. I worked for a nonprofit arts organization in Washington, DC, at the time, and I was surrounded by these bright, talented women who also struggled with all sorts of clothing issues. It just seemed so deeply lame. My grandmother had given me these beautifully tailored garments that she had worn as a young woman. Some had been made by her dressmaker and others were just beautiful cut and sewn clothes from the 1950s. Those became my capsule wardrobe, but not everyone has a bevy of stylish grandmothers who hoarded their clothes (I have three grandmothers!). I kept waiting for someone to solve this problem. And fit is a problem: it’s a problem for consumers like me who are left sorting through tons of product in the hopes that something might fit, and it’s a business problem for an industry that can ill-afford a 30% hit to their sales revenue. That’s how big of a problem it is: 25-30% of all clothing purchased online are returned, and the vast majority of those clothes are returned for poor fit. I thought that surely someone within the industry would step up to the plate and try to find a way to improve fit. But I just kept waiting. Finally, it got to the point that it was an itch I had to scratch. 2.Where did you grow up? What was your childhood like? I grew up in Pasadena, California, surrounded by strong women with beautiful taste. My two brothers and I were lucky kids in that our parents largely let us do our own thing. I would spend hours flipping through fashion magazines, making scrapbooks and sketching designs. At the same time, I spent a fair amount of time raising hell with my two younger, rough-and-tumble brothers. We were a loud, messy family, full of passion and opinions. And then I went to this amazing all-girls boarding school where I got to geek out with really smart girls. It was the best decision I’ve ever made – to go away to school – and I came away with it thinking that women can do anything. Come to think of it, Kit is really a combination of all of those experiences. Our emphasis on functionality and beauty, for instance. There’s a great saying that I wish I could claim for Kit, but it was my high school motto: function in disaster, finish in style. 3.If you could have any super power what would it be and why? I’m not sure if this is a super power, but I would love to clone myself. I need one of me in New York to do PR meetings and another me back at the production workshop in Houston troubleshooting production with our seamstresses. Conversely, I’d like to be able to manufacture time. I either need more time or more of myself. Does anyone know how to do superpowers? Anyone? Please? 4.Tell us a story/incident that happened while starting or running your company that may have made you feel defeated. Now tell us how you overcame that. When we launched, we worked with a non-profit production partner to execute the cutting and sewing of our garments. They had a small sew shop and a job-training program for refugees who were new to Houston and had garment industry experience. On paper, it was the ideal partnership. But in reality, it had major issues, several of which popped up right away. While the seamstresses were great, there was no production manager. The program manager who oversaw the workshop was great, but she had no garment industry experience. And there were no systems in place to manage a growing number of production orders. I ended up spending more time there, trying to make sure the train wasn’t going off the rails, than I did in my own office. It was hard. I wasn’t ready to spend the money – we really didn’t have it to spend! – and bring manufacturing in-house, but I didn’t see any other option. We had raised enough seed money to start the company we had envisioned, one that worked with a production partner for several years before even contemplating bringing production in-house. But we went out, raised more money, hired one of our favorite seamstresses, and found a tiny artist studio in Houston that we could afford. We bought industrial machines the week before Christmas 2015, and we started production in our own studio on January 2nd. That was possibly the best decision we have made in our short history. It allowed us to grow more quickly, gave us much-needed flexibility, and provided the basis for our tailoring program. But at the time it was incredibly stressful. It really seemed like, “Oh, wow, this major, major part of our model is untenable. Now what?” 5.Have you ever been underestimated simply for being a woman? Tell us how. Oh gosh, YES! I feel like it happens so often that you lose track of specific instances. Bankers who ask you if your husband/father is involved. That always happens, despite that fact that I’m pretty good at accounting and have overseen several audit processes in my past nonprofit life. I’m fairly sure I could be a CPA and bankers would still ask that. One thing that grates on me is the widely held belief among many men in the start-up and technology world that women can’t be both smart and attractive. I’m pretty sure it’s a pervasive problem, but once you’ve been the only female-run start-up at a tech conference, you really feel it. Men are visibly shocked when you demonstrably know what you’re talking about. You get back-handed compliments like, “It seems like you’ve really thought this out.” Yes. Obviously. I decided to give over my life to starting a company and then I went out and asked other people for their faith and money. Not only have I thought it out, I continue to lay awake at night thinking out every possible future scenario. Now I’m pregnant, and it’s worse. I can see it in their eyes: are you still going to be able to do this once you have a baby? No one asks that, but it’s there. And the answer is yes. I have an awesome team, an awesome husband, and a mother who is so excited to have a grandchild that I’m pretty sure she’s going to move in with us and make my life more tidy and organized than it has ever been. 6. Are you working on any upcoming projects you can tell us about? We ran a successful Kickstarter last summer to introduce a new product – perfectly fitting silk blouses – and it was such a good way of forecasting demand that we’re planning another Kickstarter to launch knits this fall. Knit fabrics require a different sourcing and manufacturing process than woven fabrics, so we’ve been doing a lot of research and work on that. I’ve also been working with a number of local Houston designers and companies to try to build a stronger platform for design in America’s fourth largest city. We’re not there yet, but there are a lot of things in the works, from better small batch manufacturing facilities to creative spaces that give fashion in Houston a major platform. 7. What are your goals with the company? To build a company that empowers women. I want our customers to feel empowered: to know that they can demand better from their garment makers. Women spend trillions of dollars on clothes. We should recognize our purchasing power and require apparel makers to set a higher bar. To build an industry that celebrates who we are instead of telling us how we need to aspire to better (which is pretty much the point of 99% of all fashion marketing). And I want our employees (who are all female) to be empowered and supported, and to know that as this company grows so do their opportunities to make a difference. I want to build a company that gives women a platform to succeed – whether they are sewing a dress or wearing that dress, that’s our vision. _________________________________________________________________________________ Female Founders Giveaway this Friday on Instagram KIT will be a part of our Female Founders Giveaway this Friday!! We will post the giveaway around 7am PST and you will have 24 hours to enter. As always we will be giving away something from Too Pretty along with the Friday giveaway. Want some Custom fit clothing for women? We know you do! Check out last week's giveaway HERE.