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Euromonitor International is pleased to present an interview with Liz Tilatti, Co-Founder & CEO of Chicago-based ZipFit Denim. Having found her knack for helping people find jeans at an early age, Liz began ZipFit Denim with the mission of finding the perfect pair of denim for everybody, wherever they may be. In her conversation with Euromonitor International, Liz discussed her company’s disruptive business model, prioritising personalisation and convenience, denim’s role in an increasingly casual American workplace, and the importance of inclusivity in both clothing sizes and life beyond. Below is an excerpt from our interview.
What is ZipFit Denim?
We believe everybody should be able to feel their best exactly as they are. We find the perfect fitting denim for every shape and size.
We don’t operate as traditional retail. Instead, we carry samples for you to try on in a fitting, and then we sync with our partner brands to give you options to all the colours they have in stock. The jeans you want are then tailored according to your measurements and delivered straight to you.
When was the service launched?
We began by testing a few different pop-up models, the first of which opened in October 2012 in Chicago, IL.
Who is your target market?
We target customers who are looking for premium denim but don’t have a lot of time to shop. They need tailoring or have specific challenges in regard to finding the right fit. Our customers value the convenience of ZipFit and don’t want to have to go to the tailor over and over again.
How do you differentiate your service from department stores that offer complimentary tailoring?
Part of our service is that we’ll fit you where it’s convenient, whether that’s your residential building or right in your office. We also save your measurements, so every time you order from us that is all already on file.
Can you comment on the denim category in the U.S. as a whole?
In the past year we have seen a lot of larger, more formal firms beginning to allow denim in the workplace. The common phrase we’ve heard is “dress for your day,” and with that comes the ability for employees to wear jeans. You may have seen announcements that EY, William Blair and Goldman Sachs now allow jeans.
Jeans are now generally acceptable in the workplace. At the same time, no one wants their employees to wear 20-year-old jeans with holes in them, especially at the office. For that reason, American consumers are moving towards a more tailored fit that is work appropriate.
Are most of your customers buying denim specifically to wear to work?
Many of our customers wear jeans to work, especially darker washes. With more conservative firms we suggest dark blue or black denim. If it’s a hip tech firm, of course they can wear a light wash or a white destructed jean.
For some office clients, we provide information sessions or “lunch and learns” about what’s appropriate to wear in the workplace. For example, you may love the destructed jeans, but you cannot wear these to your law firm.
Have you found a gap in understanding as to what is and is not appropriate to wear to work?
Yes, I think there is. It’s also hard for some companies because rules can be abused, and nobody wants to be the jeans police. That’s why they work with us. Not only are we able to find their employees the best-fitting jeans, but we are also able to communicate what is and is not appropriate through these information sessions.
What do you see for the future of denim in the U.S.?
It’s becoming more prevalent in the workforce, which is one of the biggest things we’ll see over the next couple of years. In general, a lot of the jeans we’re selling right now are softer and stretchier, although there are still some waves of stiffer denim or more durable denim. Almost all of our jeans are made in the U.S. I believe that denim will continue to be a staple in the American closet, but, just like a suit, it should be tailored.
What is a personal goal of yours beyond ZipFit Denim?
Around two percent of venture capital dollars go to female founders or female-run companies, which is really, really low. I believe it’s moving in the right direction, but it still has a long journey ahead. We are seeing more and more success stories from women in Chicago. Just like we believe everybody – man, woman and everything in between – should be able to find clothes that fit, I believe the same thing should happen when you’re starting a company. No one should be judged based on sex, race, ethnicity, etc. I want to do anything I can to help that cause.
Is there a strong network of female entrepreneurs in Chicago?
Yes, I call it small and mighty.