You’ve found the perfect little black dress. Well, actually, you wish it had a crew neck and maybe bell sleeves, but it’s the closest you’ve come after an exhaustive search. It’s better than nothing. But what if you had the power to tweak hem lines, add ruffles, swap buttons, or even change the fabric? That’s the idea behind L.A.-based e-tailer Frilly, which allows users to customize garments online.
Tech business developer Shangwei Ding and former fashion buyer Jeni Ni set Frilly in motion last fall, starting with their downtown headquarters on the edge of Little Tokyo.
Their in-house designers and sourcing teams create seasonal pieces that are manufactured at Frilly’s privately owned factory in China. Shoppers can search for dresses, jumpsuits, or separates, then click through myriad options—wide leg pants can be turned into shorts; maxi dresses, into minis. Fabrics include the luxurious (Chinese silk gauzes, Italian wools) and the sustainable (Tencel). A single garment comes in anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 variations, and everything is made to order, which has the added benefit of reducing waste.
For its next phase the company expects to launch a made-to-measure option later this summer. Customers will receive a jumpsuit with color-coded fasteners that, when snapped into place, will mark a shopper’s proportions. The jumpsuit gets a once-over via artificial intelligence, and a tailor will take over from there, assembling each garment from start to finish. Think of it as bespoke in the digital age.
For Ni, the venture seems like something she was meant for. “When I was younger I used to steal my mother’s clothes and alter them,” she says. “She would get really upset. A lot of people in my family were always losing things to me.”
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