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Two extremely smart guys meet at Stanford. Each studies arcane computer science things that possibly no one else anywhere understands. The two smart guys turn their numbers and equations into something that seems like it could change the way people shop forever. The startup changes shopping forever. Not much later, said guys buy Teslas and homes in Tahoe.
Only the first part is technically true so far, but that's shaping up to be the story of Miles Penn and Rafi Witten, who launched MTailor 10 days ago. The iPhone and iPad app lets men order dress shirts from their mobile device, then delivers a 20% better fit than conventional hand measurements, according to Penn and Witten's studies comparing the two methods. How? The MTailor app uses your phone's camera to take precise body measurements in less than 5 minutes. Are you thinking it must be expensive? It's not. Prices start at $69, about the same as a (non-custom) shirt from JCrew. We had a few questions for these young men, who just graduated from Stanford in 2012. See below for our chat about how they got started, their future plans beyond shirts, and more.
What are your backgrounds and what led you to founding MTailor?
"We met at Stanford freshman year doing math and computer science. We both have strong backgrounds in machine learning and computer vision, which led to the development of the MTailor technology."
Miles: "I buy everything I can online, from computers to tea leaves—I love the convenience of it. But I always bought my clothing in a store, because I need the fit and style to be right. One day in college, I saw my dad buy 5 different colors of the same shirt online. I asked him why he didn't need to try it on. He said that he already had tried it on in the store in a different color, so he knew that it fit him well—but he would never buy something online he didn't already own or know would fit. That's what inspired me, the idea that I could get my clothes as conveniently as everything else I buy, if only I knew they would fit. We then realized we could take it one step further and provide the perfect fit by offering custom clothing online."
Did you develop the scanning technology? Can you tell us how it works and why people should trust it?
"We developed the scanning technology 100% in-house. It's incredibly easy to use: (1) download the app, (2) design your shirt, (3) get measured by your phone's camera (you only ever need to do this once) and (4) order right from the app. We've found people start receiving compliments as soon as they begin wearing their first shirts.
Getting measured by MTailor is so easy, our parents can do it.
MTailor is 20% more accurate than a professional tailor. We've done a lot of work to scientifically prove our accuracy. And we really stand behind our shirts. If you don't love your shirt for any reason (not just fit), we will remake it for free or give you a full refund, no questions asked."
What types of fabrics do you use?
"We use only 100% cotton fabrics. We offer a variety of weaves, including broadcloth, twill, flannel and others. We also have 100% cotton wrinkle free fabrics.
We're very proud of the quality of our shirts. Some of our $69 shirts are 100's 2-ply, and many of our $89 shirts are 120's or 140's 2-ply, which is about the best you can get.
Because we automate the expensive measurement process and sell directly to consumers, we're able to pass on those savings to the consumer and offer an amazing value. Typically, custom shirts of similar quality start at $125 and above."
Where are the shirts made?
"Our shirts are made by hand by professional manufacturers in China. We work closely with them to ensure that the shirts' quality and accuracy exceed our customers' exacting standards."
Is it iPhone only?
"It is currently iPhone and iPad only. Android is in the pipeline!"
Is it shirts only? Do you plan on doing other garments eventually?
"Men's shirts are just the beginning. We started in this space because it's what we know and what we needed, but with the technology we've built, we can provide your entire wardrobe. We've created a new way to buy clothing, and we think that in a few years, it will be the way everyone shops—better fitting clothes from your mobile device."
How many employees do you have?
"It is just the two of us."
How many orders have you taken so far?
"We were in beta, launched 10 days ago and have now sold hundreds of shirts."
· MTailor [Official Site]
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