Six years ago, serial entrepreneur Kieran O’Neill launched a small start-up business that combined technology and fashion to offer men a personal styling service. This week, that business has received $22m (£16.7m) in funding, bringing its total investment to more than $40m (£30.4m).
The list of investors in the business is impressive – it includes venture capital fund H&M Co:Lab, and retail veterans Andrew Jennings and Maurice Helfgott – and show the backing Thread has won from fashion retail heavyweights, as well as the tech industry.
O’Neill wisely acknowledges that his expertise does not lie in fashion. So it is to his credit that he has built a robust team that combines digital expertise with product insight.
This mix of a tech start-up mentality and strong fashion offer helps Thread to stand out against a competitive landscape. O’Neill, who featured in the Drapers 30 Under 30 2016 cohort of fashion retail’s rising stars, launched his first business in 2003, aged just 15.
He created video-streaming website HolyLemon.com two years before the launch of YouTube, and sold it aged 19 for $1.45m (£630,000).
He has since launched further ventures and Thread looks set to be one of his most successful yet. O’Neill has created a platform that uses technology to create a personalised service, something many retailers are striving to achieve. Its interaction with shoppers is entirely digital, via a combination of personal stylists and an algorithm.
Thread also presents its partner retailers and brands with the opportunity to gain a new customer base. As we highlight this week, more and more traditional high street womenswear retailers are launching menswear collections. Platforms such as Thread are a great way to dip a toe into the menswear market and introduce a new collection to a highly engaged audience that may not have otherwise shopped with the brand.
The latest round of funding will be used to expand Thread’s artificial intelligence team and grow brand awareness through new marketing strategies, while a move into womenswear is still in the pipeline. It will be interesting to see if this style of shopping will appeal as much to women. In the meantime, Thread continues to run its own line through the menswear market.
It’s time to shout about your online achievements
Drapers Digital Awards 2019 are open for entry. Recognising the best of the best in ecommerce across the fashion industry in the UK and Ireland there are 15 categories open for entry, new additions include Best Use of AI, Best Use of Digital Personalisation and Best Digital Launch in an International Market and Best Digital Customer Engagement and Retention Strategy.
For 2019, we have also introduced a Best Digital Innovation category, which can be entered by fashion retailers as well as technology suppliers.
The awards ceremony will take place on Wednesday 15 May at The Brewery, London, as a culmination of the Drapers Digital Festival.