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Why DVF Believes in This Venture-Backed On-Demand Tailoring Startup

Talented tailors are stepping out from the shadows and into the spotlight.

On-demand tailoring service Hemster announced a $4 million post-seed funding round Wednesday, along with powerhouse partnerships with luxury icon Diane von Furstenberg, millennial-friendly activewear brand Outdoor Voices and “mindful movement” label Alo Yoga.

The news comes 18 months after Hemster presented its innovative and much-needed business model fighting fit-related returns at a demo day hosted by XRC, the New York City-based retail tech incubator.

Hemster is looking to change the way that brands think about sizing solutions by operating a network of on-demand tailors the company said can both drive conversions and traffic during the initial in-store fitting session and especially 48 hours later, when the altered garment is ready for pickup.

Tailors in the Hemster network are trained and experienced in specific garments and alteration skills, which Hemster says makes its network “four to five times more productive” than the average tailor.

“I grew up in South Korea, where shoppers typically find the correct size based on weight first and where tailoring is expected, even with budget options,” Hemster CEO and founder Allison Lee said in a statement. “In the U.S., shoppers very often have to choose from small, medium and large sizes, but those sizes don’t fit almost 90 percent of people.”

Hemster has been able to collect $5 million in funding to date, with the latest post-seed round led by Bullpen Capital and supported by Hustle Fund, Oyster Ventures, The Fund and FJ Labs. The startup said it will use the new capital to expand its team and scale into new markets across the U.S.

“I founded Hemster to make it simple, convenient and cost-effective for U.S. consumers to solve the fit problem, while giving brands a new, scalable way to provide excellent service to customers,” Lee continued. “We’re extremely pleased to now be partnering with this group of investors, who will be key to our strategic expansion into new markets.”

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Hemster offers its own take on omnichannel. In addition to in-store services, Hemster also offers home fittings with either a personal, on-demand tailor or by using patent-pending markers called “RulerSticker” to request alterations if the consumer prefers to drop garments off at participating stores or schedule a home pickup.

“It’s critical for us, as a retailer, to continue to implement features and services that help enhance our consumer’s life: the woman who is in charge, busy and needs an unparalleled one-stop experience,” Sandra Campos, CEO of Diane von Furstenberg, added. “Hemster provides the perfect solution in offering a custom fit, and we are excited to partner with them at DVF.”

Hemster said its work to date has also inspired industry experts to come aboard as advisors, including XRC Labs founder Pano Anthos and Karen Katz, a former  Neiman Marcus CEO.

Bullpen Capital says Hemster’s on-demand tailoring service has the opportunity and now the runway to change the way that tailors interact with consumers while simultaneously reducing the cost of refunds and returns.

“Bespoke tailoring is one of the world’s oldest professions, but the industry hasn’t seen a radical update in decades,” Paul Martino, general partner at Bullpen Capital, said. “We invested in Hemster because of the unique opportunity they’re giving retailers and brands to connect with their customers. Their ‘perfect fit’ data holds massive potential for traditional retailers, e-commerce DTC players and marketplaces alike, who all crave new and personal touchpoints with their customers.”

In India, fit-conscious apparel platform, Myntra, is also teaming up with local tailors to provide doorstep alterations for online orders, which can circumvent costly returns.