Welcome to part four in our series introducing you to the New York Fashion Tech Lab 2016 class. Thursday Finest uses 3D-knitting machines to provide “individual apparel on-demand in minutes.” We talked to co-founders Veronika Harbick and Michael Carlson, who told us about their journey and the ways they are using technology to disrupt the supply chain.
Describe Thursday Finest.
Thursday Finest makes the best knitwear on-demand in custom styles, colors and sizes. Every product is made individually on a new technology called 3D-knitting, in only a few minutes in Brooklyn.
Accessories have traditionally come in one size fits all. This works for no one. So we launched ThursdayFinest.com to offer customers not only choices in styles and colors that they can mix and match for nearly infinite combinations, but what we call “granular fit.” We started with ties, which is a surprisingly emotional fit problem for men. Shorter than 5’7 and the back is too long. Taller than 6’1” and you can barely tie it. We’ve had basketball players tear up after putting on our ties.
How did Thursday Finest get started?
We had this crazy idea – what if we could make custom clothing in the same amount of time it takes to receive a product from Amazon? So we’re doing just that. Every knit accessory we sell on our website is made in a matter of minutes to a user’s individual specifications.
In January, we opened the first ever pop-up that enabled customers to design their items and walk out with their individually made custom products in minutes. That was incredible to see it all come to life… and to see that same excitement from our customers.
Tell us about your bespoke 3D knitting business model.
On-demand manufacturing is an emerging trend. Right now, it’s mostly talked about as a way to shorten production cycles and manufacture based on customers existing orders. This is something we’re already doing today. On-demand enables us to make products quickly and to personalize them during manufacturing. As a business, it also allows us to respond to consumers wants, needs and trends in the market in a matter of hours, not months like traditional supply chains. Product development can take as little as a few days and we can test products on the site and with customers quickly – just like digital products. We iterate quickly and regularly.
Our on-demand business model means that we’re able to partner with retailers and brands to offer greater choice and flexibility to them and their customers. Specifically, this empowers retailers to offer and curate more styles and sizes for different retail markets. And in-store, we’re partnering to enhance the traditional retail experience by bringing the 3D-knitting manufacturing right to the customer. This on-demand approach also means the process is inherently sustainable. We don’t make guesses as to what customers should want and then throw out what doesn’t sell. We have no inventory. Customers tell us what they want. We’ve found that when customers have a product made for them, it’s likely to become their favorite.
What value does Thursday Finest have that makes it stand out against other startups in the space?
How often do customers go to a store and think “I like this, but why isn’t it available in blue this year?” “I like that, but I wish it didn’t have this insignia.” “I used to like this brand’s sweater, but the fit is off this year.” Thursday Finest sells truly individual apparel in a way that hasn’t been done before. It’s made to fit and available in custom colors and styles. It’s made fast. And, it’s sold at a very accessible price point from the finest 100% Merino and silk Italian yarns.
Instead of shopping around and wondering if a brand is carrying a blue knit tie this season, for example, shoppers can come to our website and know that they can find this great quality basic and it will be made to fit them perfectly. At Thursday Finest, it’s not about getting a “custom” product. It’s about getting the best product made just the way customers like it.
What has been the hardest obstacle for you in starting Thursday Finest? What has been your favorite part?
We had to learn much more about fibers and textiles. We’re trained in 3D-knit programming so we understand how to write programs that run on the machine, but this is only one part of creating a product. What we discovered is that traditionally, all these roles in design, manufacturing and textile/fiber development have been siloed. There are very few people who understand the whole process – from raw material to fiber to knitted product to product finishing. So, we became experts for ourselves.
We’ve tested hundreds of yarns. We’ve run thousands of swatches. And we’ve learned way more about fibers and yarn spinning and development than we ever thought possible. And ultimately, we’ve had to build out our own supply chain and finishing processes to support this new manufacturing process.
Tell us about your journey to get to New York Fashion Tech Lab Class of 2016.
NYFT Lab has been fantastic. We’ve gotten access to a wonderful network of mentors and insider access to retailers. The other female founders in the program are all tremendous – smart, dedicated, inspirational. We all come from so many backgrounds both internationally and in our expertise and careers. It’s an incredible opportunity to learn from and support each other.
We remember looking at NYFT Lab in early 2015 when Thursday Finest was still in stealth mode, and hearing great things. We are thrilled we were able to participate and that we can continue to support NYFT Lab and the Springboard network.
Where can we buy your products and what is the cost?
Our products are available on our website. Our Merino wool ties are $59 and up. They are also available at Colette in Paris.
Where do you see Thursday Finest in the future?
On your neck. And soon on even more appendages and body parts.
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