In Season 6 of Shark Tank, Julia Kalimian entered with an interesting proposition. She had been working as the Vice President for Newsweek, but left this demanding career to spend time with her 4 growing children at home. Quickly, she realized she needed to do something, and a business proposition came to mind as she went through everyday life.
During her high-powered job, Julia liked to dress impeccably. But putting together an outfit every single day appeared to be a tad hectic. Her go-to choice was a button-down shirt under a sweater, but she realized that this always ended up looking messy. She tried to find a stretchy, collared shirt that would be more figure-hugging to stop the wrinkles and creases. To her surprise, she found no such product in the market. That led to the inception of SkinnyShirt.
What is SkinnyShirt?
SkinnyShirt is an amalgamation of a camisole and a button-down shirt. This shirt would be slightly more figure-hugging, thereby preventing the bane of wrinkles. Essentially, this product is a skinny t-shirt with a collar to give the outfit a more formal look. It is made to be worn under sweaters, jackets, and even other shirts. It’s a sheer shirt, so you won’t see the bulk that would come with an actual button-down shirt. SkinnyShirt is meant to give you a tidier, slimmer appearance for both formal and informal events. You would find a sleeveless and a full-sleeved SkinnyShirt.
Aiming for a comfortable, stretchy camisole with a professional look, Julia asked her tailor to sew a collar on one of her camisoles. She availed the help of her friend Alexandra Shuman, who was working as a designer at Michael Kors. In 2010, she started selling these shirts and appeared to be doing well until she hit a roadblock. Not satisfied with the quality of the shirts her manufacturer was producing, coupled with problems with cash flow, she decided to appear on Shark Tank. At this time, Julia was struggling hard to keep the business afloat. She applied to appear on Shark Tank in 2013, but her application was rejected. She reapplied the next year, and was selected to appear on the show.
SkinnyShirt was born following an obvious gap in the market. There are many working moms who don’t have the time to assemble and iron an outfit every single day. Even when you’re dressed, a formal, button-down shirt can easily crease as you sit in the office for long hours or pick up your child before heading off to work. These things could lead to horrible wrinkles, giving you an unkempt appearance.
SkinnyShirt combines the stretchiness of a camisole with the formal look of a button-down for those who love layered looks. This product will not crease or wrinkle, and is also super comfortable. Comfortable outfits are hardly very formal, but with a collar, SkinnyShirt is exactly that. It is the first ever shirt that allows you to look formal and feel comfortable without pesky crease lines or the bulkiness of an undershirt.
Julia Kalimian entered Shark Tank in 2014 with an attractive model by her side. She was hoping for a $100,000 investment for a 20% stake in her business. The model, Kirsten, was striking, but she was wearing a crumpled shirt under a sweater. Taking Kirsten as an example, Julia explained to the sharks that she had come up with a SkinnyShirt, to put an end to the untidy layered look.
To display this, Kirsten was asked to change her current outfit to the SkinnyShirt. Since Shark Tank is a family show, the model changed behind a screen. However, her silhouette behind the backlit screen titillated the male sharks, as Lori Greiner pointed out. Robert Herjavec was grinning from ear to ear, and even joked about having a repeat of this. Barbara Corcoran complimented Julia on a great presentation.
When Kirsten reappeared adorning the SkinnyShirt, Julia pointed out how neat and tidy she looked as compared to before. While the difference was clear, the sharks rightfully wanted to know more. Robert inquired about the sales of SkinnyShirt. Julia told them that in the past 3 years, she had made about half a million dollars in sales! The sharks were thoroughly impressed, and Barbara even let out a distinct ‘wow.’ Julia went on to describe that the sales this year had been $200,000 up till now. However, when questioned about the previous year’s sales, Julia looked decidedly uncomfortable and reluctantly answered ‘$50,000.’
She reasoned that this plummet was due to manufacturing problems and substandard shirts. This led to inventory issues. Kevin O’Leary asked if she managed to find a new manufacturer, and she said she had. She said the sleeveless SkinnyShirt was priced at $69, while the full-sleeved one was for $76. The manufacturing cost was $12.75, but with the investment from sharks and the ability to produce larger orders, this cost could go down to $9.50/unit. The sharks were very impressed with the sales margin but still concerned about the manufacturing problems.
What ensued was painful to watch. The Gazette Review recalls that some viewers even covered their eyes as Julia lost her confidence when questioned about her business’s cash flow. When asked about the cash flow or manufacturing, Julia started to fumble badly. Mark was confused that even though the business faced initial quality issues, the business continued to experience sales problems for over 2 years. He didn’t understand this. Kevin did not hold his tongue and even called her a ‘cockroach.’ Despite Lori putting forward an argument for Julia, Mark and Kevin backed out, citing the business’s lack of a business plan and cash flow issues, respectively. Robert followed suit. Lori didn’t like the sweater shirt look, so she declined as well. The only remaining shark, Barbara, took some time to give her verdict. Eventually, she backed out as well, saying Julia’s self-pity was her Achilles’ heel.
Even after getting bitten at Shark Tank, SkinnyShirt did fairly well. Their products were available at many boutiques, including QVC. According to Julie, their sales went up by a factor of 10. They even launched new designs and a style for children.
Unfortunately, this success was short-lived. In 2018, they gave a 75% off on all products after announcing they were shutting down for good. Their last Facebook post was in 2018, and as of 2022, their website no longer exists. Their products are still available on Amazon, but that could just be leftover stock.
Our Review of SkinnyShirt
Just as one of the sharks said, SkinnyShirt was a good product. However, we would still be concerned with the outdated style of a shirt under a sweater, given how fast-changing fashion is. Nonetheless, we can still see a demand for the product, so we wouldn’t say that was SkinnyShirt’s downfall. We agree with Mark Cuban that while the idea was good, there was no long-time business plan which is probably what led to the company’s failure, along with quality problems.
Pros of SkinnyShirt
- Comfortable fit
- No wrinkles and creases
- No bulk of a regular button-down shirt
- Formal look for working moms
Cons of SkinnyShirt
- Outdated style
- Poor quality upper part, made of hard cotton
- Looks bulky under shirts
Who is SkinnyShirt for?
SkinnyShirt is made for any woman who likes to dress neat and clean without the hassle of creases or wrinkles. Given its stretchy, comfortable material with a formal collar, it is perfect for working moms. You don’t need to iron this shirt. If you like a layered look, you’ll love this camisole cum button-down.
Are There Any Alternatives?
We couldn’t find any alternative to SkinnyShirt, which is a camisole with a collar made to be worn under shirts, jackets, and sweaters.
Our Final Thoughts
SkinnyShirt was a unique idea with a market as well. It combined the comfort of a camisole with the formal look of a button-down without any bulks, creases, or wrinkles. This would be perfect for working moms who would look tidy and dressed all the time. However, this layered style is not everyone’s cup of tea. On top of that, manufacturing and quality issues have led to the business’s demise. With better planning, the product could possibly have been saved.