While it's quite possible that you're shopping for everything but sweaters right now, for some investors, knitwear is at top of mind. On Thursday, the London-based startup Knyttan — which, yes, is angling to disrupt the knitwear business — announced that it had raised £2 million (roughly $3.1 million) from a host of backers including Connect Ventures, Farfetch CEO Jose Neves and Zegna's head of digital Edoardo Zegna.
Much like your grandmother, Knyttan currently makes cozy sweaters and scarves, each of which is completely unique. Unlike your gran, it does that by programming knitting machines to make each sweater according to its own specifications. The result: customizable clothing produced on-demand for each shopper. You could compare Knyttan's manufacturing model to 3D printing, which uses one machine to translate digital files into any number of shapes.
It's cool and, maybe more importantly, timely. Knyttan hits on a few hot button (and some perennial) issues in garment production. On the politically charged side: the startup explicitly positions itself as a non-fast fashion company. Whereas the H&Ms of the world sell disposable garments that fall apart with wear, Knyttan says its goods are built to last; while most consumers would find it difficult to say where their clothes come from and under what conditions they were produced, Knyttan creates its pieces in England and makes the production process visible.
Customization, too, has become a topic of interest within the fashion world, particularly among startups like Tinker Tailor and Bow & Drape, which offer made-to-order pieces at both the luxury and sub-$100 ends of the pricing spectrum. A Bain & Company study from 2013 found that while just 10 percent of respondents had customized products, two to three times as many would be interested in doing so. With Knyttan's raise, investors are clearly still interested in backing companies chasing that space in the market.
As for solving recurring problems, Business of Fashion duly points out that because a customer's order comes in before Knyttan creates the product, there's no unsold inventory left over at the end of the season — excess on which the designer loses money and that, in many cases, winds up in a landfill. Good for business, good for the environment, and again a point of distinction from mass retailers.
Knyttan has also made inroads with young designers. Earlier this week, some Knyttan-made sweaters appeared in Christopher Raeburn's runway show at London Collections: Men. With this investment, Knyttan is hoping to expand its reach further into the worlds of fashion, art and music — and, of course, everyday customers' closets.