01 Dec 2014
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Taking Tailoring High Tech

Jamal Motlagh (MBA 2011), Cofounder and CEO, Acustom Apparel
Re: Olga Vidisheva (MBA 2011); Hayley Barna (MBA 2010); Katia Beauchamp (MBA 2010)
by April White

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Jamal Motlagh began research for his fashion business at HBS, with male classmates who were beginning to recognize the importance of being well dressed. They were part of a larger trend: According to the NPD Group, the menswear market in the United States outperformed the womenswear market last year, topping $60 billion. But these newly fashion-conscious men didn’t want to spend lots of time and money on shopping and tailoring.

Motlagh’s solution: use technology to update and brand traditional bespoke tailoring and create a low-inventory retail business model.

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Shoptiques founder Olga Vidisheva (MBA 2011) offers all the technical tools and support a small shop needs to get started in the e-commerce world and a one-stop boutique shopping portal for customers.

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Hayley Barna and Katia Winter Beauchamp (both MBA 2010) created Birchbox, a wildly successful monthly beauty-samples subscription service that has inspired countless in-a-box imitators.

Motlagh’s Acustom Apparel showroom in Soho, which opened in 2013, has some things in common with a traditional tailor, as men try on sample jackets and discuss lapel width and lining options. But instead of measuring tapes, there’s Molly, a 3D scanner that creates a mathematical model of the shopper’s body. The more than 200,000 measurements collected in just seven seconds are translated into patterns for jackets, shirts, pants, and even denim, for a fraction of the cost and time commitment of a traditional bespoke tailor. The efficiency of the technology allows Acustom to sell jeans—one of the most difficult tailoring challenges—starting at $225, about a quarter of the going price for custom denim.

“As a brand, we’re trying to meld traditional practices and expertise with unique technology,” Motlagh says.

Next: Katrina Lake (MBA 2011) — Dressing by Number »

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Class of MBA 2011, Section A
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