Personal online shopping services are becoming very popular these days, with many of my friends using services such as StitchFix and Trunk Club to ease the pain of going to a department store. My family had never tried any of these services (in part because my husband and I wear uniforms to work most days). When GeekDad was offered the chance for writers to try out ThreadLab, a men’s clothing service startup out of Las Vegas, I asked if we could try it out on my husband. Before we had kids, we used to be able to take our time clothes shopping. We would go to places like Aeropostale and American Eagle (back in the mid-’90s before it got, um, mainstream) and actually enjoyed the process.
Taking the time to casually browse for something nice to wear at a department store simply isn’t in the cards anymore for busy working parents like my husband and me. I don’t know about you, but we don’t go to malls anymore. This is where the convenience of a clothing shopping service comes in. Now one doesn’t have to worry about a physical store’s operating hours, the horror of the dressing rooms, or dealing with people in general.
Enter ThreadLab. Started by Will and Henry Hench in 2013, ThreadLab is attempting to bring a fresh look to clothes shopping. They brought together a team with a variety of backgrounds, not just in retail, but also in engineering, data mining, and process improvement. ThreadLab claims to set itself apart from other shopping services with its “unique technology” that helps a stylist really zero in on a perfect look for you. While those words may convey images of computers scanning you for that perfect fit, the customers aren’t really going to see that. Instead, the user will start with questions about sizing, colors, preferred brands, and styles, even before setting up an account. I checked with another popular clothing subscription service with men’s clothing and noticed that the first questions are very similar.
I suspect the “technology” part comes with time as the company is able to learn from and do more with their customers’ shopping habit data. There is not a stylist involved directly unless a customer specifically requests it.
Once the questionnaire is finished, you are invited to make an account before proceeding with more questions. You can’t proceed without an account. Don’t bother. The next set of questions relates to what size box you’re interested in. There are three price points, all of which claim to provide you with clothing worth more than the price you pay. This price is all inclusive, from taxes to shipping. It also includes a label for free returns. This is a different business model than other popular clothing services, which bill you a retail price for each item based on your questionnaire. I liken this more to companies such as LootCrate.
ThreadLab offered my husband a “Full Kit,” and from that selection, you go through screens asking what types of clothing you’d like the service to provide. We were pleased with the variety it offers here. Not only can you choose between jeans and chinos, sweaters and polo shirts, but you can also include socks, underwear, and undershirts. Dave elected not to include underclothing (because he has trusted brands from which he doesn’t want to deviate) and stuck to shirts and pants.
Once the categories are selected, you proceed to the checkout page. For Dave, the whole process took him about 10 minutes.
In the payment/checkout process, you can choose whether you want to preview the items before shipping. If you don’t choose this option, shipping will occur pretty quickly. If you do, a follow-up email will arrive within 24 hours with the selections chosen just for you. Dave received a preview of the six items chosen for his “Full Kit.”
The Preview Process
A couple things are worth noting about previewing the items. First of all, if it says “ITEM SHIPS SEPARATELY”; this means that the item isn’t coming from ThreadLab itself but from another distributor. The blue polo shirt above arrived 12 days after the box that came straight from ThreadLab. I will discuss this issue in more detail momentarily. Secondly, if you “reject” a selected item, it’s not a given that a replacement will be selected. It’s also possible to just go with one less item in the box. ThreadLab will make that decision. If the value of your selected items dips below what you’re paying, you might receive a credit to your account.
The Shipping Process
After reviewing the items and making the one rejection, the company immediately shipped the items that were on site. Here’s the timeline for the items that came directly from ThreadLab:
- Evening of Wednesday, June 22nd: Initial sizing, style, color selections made. Checked out. The whole process took about 10 minutes.
- Evening of Thursday, June 23rd: Preview email arrived with six items. Selections verified, one item rejected.
- Morning of Saturday, June 25th: Shipping information was made available for a box from ThreadLab itself through the ThreadLab account page. We learned that there would be no replacement for the item that was rejected and a credit was posted to Dave’s account because the value of the clothing dipped below the $299 value of the box. Box coming from ThreadLab would have three of the five items that weren’t rejected.
- Evening of Monday, June 27th: ThreadLab Box delivered. Three (long-sleeved) items: two shirts and a sweater.
- Wednesday, June 29th: We made some inquiries about the statuses of the remaining two items. Because the shorts and polo shirt were coming from a separate location, shipping information could not be made available, although ThreadLab said they’d make it available as soon as they knew it. “I’m sorry about the delay! I just reached out to the vendors to see what the hold up is. I’ll get you tracking as soon as we have it. We recently started using drop shipping to help us expand inventory so we are still working through a few of the processes. Thank you for your patience. “
- Wednesday, July 6th: Blue polo shirt arrived from an east coast location. We never received shipping information ahead of time.
- Friday, July 8th: Khaki shorts arrived. No shipping information was made available ahead of time.
The Big Reveal!
The clothing is very nice and fits Dave quite well. The colors and fit are what he would have chosen himself if he was in a department store. We are pleased with the way the stylists at ThreadLab were able to convert the sizing, style, and color data into some great choices. Even though it’s July, Dave is good with the long-sleeved items since long-sleeves are appropriate where we live from September through mid-May.
ThreadLab is a relatively young company trying out some unconventional retail practices, compared to Stitch Fix and Trunk Club. ThreadLab is working with less overhead and therefore can offer some pretty sweet deals to their customers. If you aren’t comfortable with choosing clothing online and would prefer to try things on before handing over a credit card number, perhaps this new way of shopping isn’t for you. But rest assured, the return policy is VERY flexible; each box contains a return shipping label, and you have 365 days to return what you don’t like, with no questions. If you like Zappo’s, L.L. Bean, or LootCrate, this is right up your alley.
ThreadLab’s concept is absolutely perfect for our family in terms of the styles chosen, the prices (5-8 classic fashion items for $300 is hard to do at our local Dillard’s or Macy’s), and the fact that we simply don’t have the patience for shopping malls anymore. This feels more affordable than services such as Stitch Fix, but let me make it clear it’s catering to men. Women could use the service, conceivably, if the women routinely are wearing men’s size clothing.
ThreadLab is NOT a subscription service! There is zero pressure to subscribe (unlike Stitch Fix, which automatically checks all the subscription boxes for you and you need to take action to not subscribe). In the website’s FAQs, the company will work with you for a periodic shipping schedule if you like. If you end up with a refund on your box because your items were less expensive than the value, it’s in the form of a ThreadLab account credit. I’m not sure if you can convert that to an outright refund or not. It’s possible you have to invest in another box to take advantage of the credit; check with customer service if this is a concern.
ThreadLab offers gift cards up to a $300 value (which will cover a “Full Kit” box). I feel this would make an outstanding gift for a college graduate who has a new job. Or perhaps for a stay-at-home Dad who’s heading back into the workforce for the first time in a while and needs some new digs that don’t have ice cream or drool stains.
The shipping process is a work in progress, which was made clear to us with the interactions we had with customer service wondering “Where are our things?” Customer service was always kind as can be, and they were up front with the issues they were having with “drop shipping.” It’s a work in progress, and I recommend giving them a chance to get it right.
If you want to try out ThreadLab, simply check out their website and answer the brief questionnaire to get started.
ThreadLab offered GeekDad a complimentary “Full Kit” box, priced at $299, for review purposes. The credit to the account mentioned above when the value of the box was reduced to $275 was returned to the company. Opinions stated in this review are my (and my spouse’s) own.