About a decade ago, Matteo Maniatty saw some “white space” in the men’s wear market which at the time was extremely logo-driven — very inyour-face, you might say. He saw an opportunity for men’s woven shirtings and other pieces that were more non-conformist and more subtle. “We wanted to design differently, from the inside out,” he says. Maniatty wanted to put more focus on apparel interiors, on what he calls “quiet details,” such as hidden inside pockets or a splash of color or pattern inside the collar or shirt cuff. “These are details that are almost more for the person wearing it than for the façade of the shirt.”
Thus was Descendant of Thieves born. Co-founded by Maniatty and partner Dres Ladro, it’s become known for its fun color play, its razor-slim fits and those aforementioned “quiet” details. (One of those hidden pockets says: “Don’t tell mom.”) Since its launch in 2009, the company has doubled in business every two years. Nordstrom was its first sale — the retailer bought its first sample collection “right off the bat.” From there, the partners scrambled to move into production — developing a partnership with a small factory in Shanghai — and to launch a web site.
As for most retailers selling online, and especially for a startup without a history of customers familiar with brand fit, product returns were an expensive and time-consuming challenge for the business. “People would buy many more pieces [than they intended to keep] and then return what they didn’t like.” The company closely tracked the reasons for return. Sometimes it was because of color, but often it was because of fit.
For help, DoT turned to a solution from Perfitly, which allows customers to “try on” apparel before buying it by allowing them to see the clothes on their own representative avatars, using algorithms that draw from just a few body measurements (chest, hips, waist). Apparel patterns are digitally sewn on top, taking into account fabric content and weight to imitate drape. “Perfitly is fantastic in the way it works with us on user experience and a data return feedback loop to make its product smarter,” says Maniatty. To date, the company has used Perfitly just with shirts, and its return rate has dropped from 28 percent to 10 percent in that category.
Maniatty envisions a day when fit won’t be an issue at all, for retailers or consumers. “We’ll scan our body once, and we’ll use that scan at different retailers.” He expects manufacturing to move back to the United States with more automated tech. “There will come a time when making in another country will just seem weird. We’ll have less waste. Everything will be on-demand.” For now, though, he is thrilled with the reduction in returns and is working to expand the solution to other categories. Next up? Pants.
Jordan K. Speer is editor in chief of Apparel. She can be reached at [email protected].
Editor's Note: Descendant of Thieves is a 2018 Apparel Innovator. Read about all of our Award winners here.