This sponsored post is produced in association with Original Stitch.

The online design-your-own made-to-measure (MTM) shirt category already has a lot of competition from the likes of Luxire and Modern Tailor, among others. Yet, when a new entrant appears with engineers at the helm, there’s likely going to be a difference.

Powered heavily by original technology and software, Original Stitch founders spent four years building its own photorealistic and 3D rendering technology to be able to serve up imagery for 300 fabrics that is so realistic you may just be able to count all 80 threads.

As company founder Jin Takahito explains, “It was a very difficult challenge to bring the fabrics into photorealistic content that made it very similar to the original fabric. We iterated through a lot of different technology throughout the R&D period just to get that right.”

Take the color white for example. As anyone knows, white can mean 100 different different shades, and depicting those differences to consumers online was paramount to the company. As well, the weave of a fabric is important in buying dress shirts and consumers need to be able to see as realistically as possible what they’re buying.

Translating what you see into what you get is also why 3D rendering is so important. Selecting a solid color is pretty low risk, but if you’re partial to paisley, you’ll really want to preview the whole shirt to ensure you’re going to be happy with how a fabric swatch translates into the finished product.

Software + engineering = quality and low price

Original Stitch founders were also dead-set on high quality – they were determined to offer a custom-made shirt of Burberry or Brooks Brothers quality, but at a far lower price. They knew it was possible when you’re not dealing with inventory and bricks and mortar retail presence.

Their early manufacturing explorations took them to China and Thailand. “I wasn’t happy with the quality coming out of there,” says Takahito. “If a customer spends a lot of time designing a shirt, and the shirt comes out low-quality, it’s a waste of time.” As a result, the founders chose Japan to manufacture all Original Stitch garments, a location known for high craftsmanship and attention to detail.

However, Japan’s manufacturing price point is higher. This is where software and engineering enters again to solve the quality/price challenge. To reduce time on what is usually a hand-cut process in places like China or Thailand, Original Stitch invested in German laser cutting machines. A customer’s measurements are translated into CAD data, and the laser cutting machine then cuts the fabric automatically from that data. What is usually a 15-minute hand-cut process is reduced to 30 seconds. As well, the error rate — usually 5 percent to 8 percent in a hand-cut process — is reduced to 0.001 percent.

By increasing efficiency, Original Stitch is able to produce more shirts in a given hour that is then passed along as reduced costs to consumers — $75 per shirt — while still providing high-quality fabric and craftsmanship. The company is looking at LTV (lifetime value) as their metric of success rather than raw transactions; it believes that by finding that sweet spot of value and quality, customers will prove loyal to the brand.

Early adopters = early wins

Officially launched in April, Original Stitch now has 70,000 registered users and within a 6-month period, an 18 percent re-order rate. Their conversion rates (site visits to purchase) are also quite high: According to the March 2014 Monetate Ecommerce Quarterly, average ecommerce American conversion rates are 2.7 percent. Original Stitch is experiencing an 18 percent conversion rate.

Certainly, some of this comes down to the time-investment users make selecting just the right fabric, the right collar, the right cut, and uploading measurements. Then again, it may come down to the fact that a lot of men are hardly fans of real-world shopping and would rather find a trusted source online to order from the comfort of their office desk, especially when it means getting a custom-fit and design.

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