San Francisco-based Meghan Litchfield is a former e-commerce executive turned entrepreneur who was fed up with clothes that didn’t fit. After having two kids, her proportions had naturally changed — as had those of most of her friends. Rather than blame her body, she asked the radical question, “WTF is wrong with clothes?”
First, Meghan grilled designers and manufacturers to figure out how sizing really works and why it fails women. Then, she threw herself into a year of R+D to re-imagine the traditional supply chain. The result was RedThread: the first apparel company that creates custom-fit garments to each woman’s unique silhouette. Via email, we chatted with Meghan about her company, her life as a working mom, and everything in between.
How did you come up with the idea for your company?
A few years ago, after I had my second child and my body naturally changed again, I really struggled finding clothing that fit me. I realized in talking with my friends that all of us had problems finding clothes that fit us really well, and that we really loved. We’d manage to find an hour in our busy lives to get to a store and end up leaving the dressing room empty handed, or we’d buy clothes online in different sizes, then end up having to send them all back. We all were feeling like it was frustratingly difficult to find items that were made to fit our bodies and make us feel great. And we were fed up.
I’d also spent some time at Gap in my career, so I already had a sense that fit was a real customer problem and there was a big opportunity to fix. I became kind of obsessed with solving it. I interviewed and measured over 100 women from coast to coast and not one of them had the same proportions, even when they were technically the same “size.” So I thought about creating a custom-fit apparel company, allowing women to get clothes that are literally made to fit them, that was super convenient and easy for women. I wanted to create tailored clothing to each woman’s individual shape, at scale, to make perfectly fitting essentials the new standard. That’s where RedThread came from: the idea that all women deserve clothes that are impeccably made, and perfectly fitted to us.
Why is your work so important?
It’s so common for women to try on things that we think are our size, realize they aren’t (for whatever reason), and then feel like our bodies are the problem. But it’s not us — it’s standard sizes that are universally failing most women on fit. They’re arbitrary and inconsistent, and don’t consider the reality of women’s bodies: chests, hips, thighs, and different shapes and ratios that are beautifully unique! That’s why fit is the No. 1 reason for returns, and the No. 1 reason women walk out of stores empty-handed. Our bodies aren’t cookie-cutter, but most brands start with a single size and generic measurements, then scale up or down proportionately.
And beyond the very real frustration that comes with ill-fitting clothes, there’s also a lot of weird emotional baggage for women that comes along with sizing. No matter what size you are, you’ve likely felt at some point in your life like your “size” labels you as acceptable … or not. I think there’s something really powerful in refusing to exist within a system that really doesn’t serve us, and saying that we deserve better. We deserve a world that supports us just as we are.
What’s been the most surprising thing that’s happened since you started your business?
I continue to be positively surprised by people. So many people have stepped up to help me on this journey, despite being busy themselves, and having all of their own things going on.
One of many examples: when we first kicked off our research, we interviewed and scanned hundreds of women. I scheduled it sort of last minute, the first week of school, in the evenings — a nightmare for most women. And everyone showed up, with smiles and support!
RedThread would not be where it is today without the support from so many people. I have been very grateful and humbled by the people in my life, and welcome them to please keep surprising me!
What advice can you give for women when it comes to shopping for new clothes?
As a busy working mom, I do all of my shopping online, and historically sent back about 60 percent of the items because they didn’t fit me at all. The rest I would get tailored to fit me, which always took time and and was super inconvenient. As a supplement to my RedThread wardrobe, I love using the rental services. I still only have a 60 percent hit rate on fit, but it is fun and non-committal!
How many hours do you work a week? Is it a typical 9-to-5?
Definitely not a typical 9-5 schedule, yet I rarely meet any woman who has that! We are constantly juggling so many priorities, the 9-5 work week seems extinct. I typically work during the day between school drop-off and pick-up, and then late in the evening after the kids go to bed, 8-11 pm. I try to wake up early on the weekends and get some hours in before everyone wakes up. If I’m not working, I’m thinking about the business, asking women about their clothes, or dreaming of the next thing. I have always loved working, and find great purpose in it. When you run your own company, it really is intertwined with everything in your life, and I love that!
How do you handle childcare?
My kids are 7 and 4, so they are at school and do aftercare most days until 6 pm. I try my best to drop off and pick up most days (that’s when I get all the good info!). When I travel, we have babysitters who help out. I also have one day a week when I have a consistent sitter (Thursday), so I use this night to go out with friends, go to a dance class, or have a date night with my husband.
How do you manage your time when it comes to being a mom, household stuff, work, workouts and having fun?
I don’t know any woman who has figured it all out. My only secret is that I ruthlessly prioritize. I focus on the things that matter most that minute, that day, that week, the year. I let the small things slide, like that form I was supposed to fill out for pre-school 3 months ago …
Do you outsource any tasks (business and personal)?
Yes! I have a cleaner every week and a babysitter at least one night a week to get some “me” time. I would like to do more … open to ideas!
What advice would you give to other working moms?
“Having it all” is a myth. Focus on what is really important to you, be ruthless with your time, and make yourself and your health top priority … as often as possible at least.
What’s your morning routine like? What’s your evening routine like?
Mornings are hectic so I run it like a military operation. I wake up first and meditate for a few minutes before the chaos ensues. Once the kids are at school, I grab my cup of tea and tackle the hardest problems first. I like to think hard first thing in the morning.
In the evening, we try to have dinner as a family every night, and then get the kids to bed early after some reading. Then I’m back online for a few more hours before reading my latest non-fiction book, which is the book about Alibaba by Duncan Clark, and then I hit the sack early.
How do you destress and how often do you try to destress?
Dance has always been a big part of my life. It’s exercise + meditation + an art form expression for me. So, I try to hit a dance class as often as possible. When I can’t get to a class, a dance party in the living room with my family is a close second!
Do you have a personal mantra that keeps you motivated and sane?
Changing the world isn’t easy.
What’s your go-to workout when you don’t have a lot of time?
Taking my rescue dog, Sully, for a walk.
What’s your go-to workout when you don’t have a lot of energy?
Taking my rescue dog, Sully, for a short walk.
What’s your go-to meal when you don’t have a lot of time?
A bagel with cream cheese and an avocado.
What are a few of your favorite on-the-go snacks?
Almonds and bananas … not together.
What’s the one thing you wish you knew about parenting before you became one?
How much joy children create in your life.
What’s the best piece of life advice you’ve ever received?
Keep going fearlessly. (This was a text I received from a dear friend last week!)
What’s the best piece of life advice you can give?
Keep going fearlessly … and make friends along the way.
What’s your fave kind of indulgence after a long day?
A glass of red wine and one or two of those peanut butter cups from Trader Joe’s.
So many good gems in this interview. What stood out for you? Besides the whole idea of disrupting the fashion industry when it comes to sizing (HIGH-FIVES!), I love the idea of having a sitter booked on the reg — that way, you can’t skip the me-time or date night AND you don’t have to keep planning it and booking a sitter! –Jenn