How made to measure e-tailer Hockerty and Sumissura tailored its own technology

Online made-to-measure retailer Hockerty and Sumissura has grown significantly since it first started out 11 years ago and now has 250,000 global customers. The two are aimed at men and women respectively

But while there a now a number of other bespoke e-tailers offering customised clothing, the firm believes it was one of the first to use 3D modelling and measurement algorithms to ensure customers get the best fit. 

That is partly because its three founders all have an engineering background, so were keen to use technology to optimise their offering, co-founder Alberto Gil tells Essential Retail. 

“We saw a niche in custom clothing online because there was nobody else offering this,” he says. “What was important for us is when a customer is designing a suit, he or she really needs to see how it is going to fit.” In order to visualise that the company used 3D models early on so they could get an approximation of what it will look like.

The firm built the technology from scratch using its in-house engineering expertise. “We are a company that relies a lot on technology in many of our processes,” he says. “Because we are going to produce a suit very far away from you without even measuring you, we need to make sure the measurements are right.”

Cutting its own cloth

As such, the firm also built a system that can self-correct any inaccurate measurement inputs by the customer – able to detect anomalous entries using machine learning. 

“We used a group of mathematicians from our university in Barcelona to develop an algorithm to estimate [the measurements]. And we have been evolving the algorithm… then two years ago we [introduced] machine learning to make it even better. It learns every day. It is quite impressive,” he says. 

Once the measurements are entered the order is sent to Shanghai where the garments are made and shipped to the customer within 15 days. The company’s biggest markets are the US and UK, although it also has a presence in the rest of Europe, Australia and Canada. 

The aim is to avoid returns as much as possible. “Thanks to the technology we use, the cases are quite small. But if it happens, the customer can take the item to a local tailor and they can fix it. Or if it’s a case of the item being too short, or the customer not liking the fabric, then we remake it and send a new item.”

Gil says he’d like to build on the current platform to provide a more personalised service. “We have more than 100 fabrics for suits, more than 100 fabrics for shirts. We want to develop something that is able to suggest the best fabric for you.”

Although he is sceptical of introducing unproven techniques for their own sake. “There are so many places we can still optimise technology to make the processes work better. And from the business perspective, that is much better than investing time in something that is super disruptive and we don’t know if it is going to work. 

“For example, something that sounds very attractive is being able to take a picture of yourself and then get the measurements out of that picture,” he says. Problems arise over the accuracy and understandable privacy concerns that customers might have or doing something like this, he says. 

However, he adds it’s important not to rule anything out as technology advances so quickly. “Things can change so quickly.”