London-based Connect Ventures, who are perhaps best known for being an early backer of Citymapper, led the round, with participation from Frederic Court’s new fund Felix Capital, Playfair Capital, and Ballpark Ventures.
Founded in April 2013 by Ben Alun-Jones, Kirsty Emery and Hal Watts, who all met at London’s Royal College of Art, the company’s technology essentially turns industrial knitting machines into something more akin to 3D printers, unlocking the ability to ‘print’ knitwear on-demand.
“Knitwear is the most complex type of garment to be manufactured,” explains co-founder Hal Watt, and is invariably made using industrial knitting machines that are “insanely hard to program and require expert programming skills,” creating a huge bottleneck to the industry.
“We’ve removed the expert programmer role and turn these machines into something approaching a 3D printer for clothes,” he says.
This means that designers can access the platform and, by using Knyttan’s “revisualisation technology,” can go from production to sales, “and can offer more designs that have never been made.”
In addition, 3D printer-styled garment production enables the option for ‘co-creation’ — the current site lets customers significantly tweak the design of the scarfs and jumpers the company currently sells — but, crucially, it also results in zero inventory since stock is held digitally.
“Using this we can move to a zero stock, on-demand method of production and distribution and only make once the customer has paid,” adds Watts.
The latter part is a potential game-changer bringing production lead times to hours rather than days or weeks and completely changing the speed at which you can go-to-market.
On that note, Techstars London’s Jon Bradford tells me: “The single largest revolution in fashion over the last 20 years was Zara which reduced the overall cycle time from factory to shelf to 6 weeks. Imagine being able to “print” your own clothes in store in less than a couple of hours. It complete destroys the vertical supply chain of the clothing market.”
Other notable investors in Knyttan’s seed round, many of whom are already connected to the world of fashion retail, include José Neves (CEO, FarFetch), Pascal Cagni (Net-a-porter, Apple), and Edoardo Zegna (ex-CPO, Everlane; Head of digital, Ermenegildo Zegna), Mark Evans (a VC at Balderton Capital), and Jon Kamaluddin (an ex-international director at Asos).
Meanwhile, you can watch Knyttan’s Techstars demo day pitch here.