#FrenchTechFriday: Tilli – When an ancestral skill meets digital

Sep 28, 2018
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Team from Tilli

Sewing used to be on the curriculum. Anyone could shorten a pair of trousers, some could change the size, a few could transform a garment. Now one can barely find a seamstress at all. But the startup Tilli is making you keep your unfitting clothes a little while longer.
 
That’s a fact. People now are quicker to buy new clothes than have them adjusted. In a consumer society, unfitting clothes are re-sold online or simply stacked up in the attic. Sewing is not a skill shared by all but left to a few in DIY groups. Tilli’s CEO, Beryl de Labouchere, decided to bring consumers and seamstress together using the digital ecosystem.

From Fintech to Seamtech

 
The start of Beryl’s story has a “four weddings and a funeral” feel to it (minus the funeral, thankfully). She was looking for an entrepreneurship opportunity on a year seven of her friends chose to get married. Rather than buy new clothes each time, she looked for someone to revamp her current wardrobe. This turned out to be harder than expected but she found a skilled seamstress who came over to her home, took measures, made suggestions and did a great job. Beryl wanted to launch a Fintech startup but when she witnessed the feedback when she shared her experience, her choice was made. Getting a decent sewing job done was a challenge for everyone. A good friend of hers, from Italy, would even return to her home country with clothes to have them mended there. The friend’s name is Tilli.

Tilli: from woman to startup

And so, one and a half year ago, Tilli, the startup, came to be: Beryl and her two other associates Benjamin Michel and Antoinette Fine at the helm.
Tilli is a service to find a skilled seamstress nearby. An app is available which lists all the freelancers who have joined Tilli. Once the choice is made, the freelancer goes to her client’s to take measures then returns home to work. Once the work is done, the seamstress can either return it directly to the client or send it through Tilli’s logistics.
The freelancers also have a back-office to keep track of their missions.

Competition and partnership

 
Tilli doesn’t have much competition except with general services exchange apps such as Stootie and the scarce brick-and-mortar shops. Their services are available in two cities so far (Paris and Marseille) and the team is deploying a plug-in for online shoppers. When a person buys clothes but is worried it will not fit, they can add the Tilli service to their basket. When they receive the parcel, they already have an appointment with the Tilli freelancer. To easy the adoption of the service with online clothing stores, Tilli has worked on a very simple integration through a short line of code. A partnership has also been sealed with Madura (curtain makers).
 
Although Tilli doesn’t offer creation services, some missions can lead to a complete change in the garment. This is not trivial and also means to counter the ever-consuming spirit. Re-use instead of discard.

Raising 400,000€

 
Tilli has succeeded in raising 400,000€ this summer with Business Angels among which Aurelien de Meaux (Cheerz), Elie Kouby and Frédéric Biousse (Experience Capital), Andrew de Murga (Wexford Group, Polène), and Régis Medina (Keenly). They will be able to open in new cities, aiming at the ten biggest ones in France. Within a few years, the concept will cross borders: Switzerland and Luxemburg might even join in sooner than that.
The team of three, self-sufficient so far, has quite a bit on their plate and recruiting will take place very shortly (stay tuned).
 
Tilli is a great example of an old craft that gets its second wind through digital technologies. May this be an example to follow for other trades.