It is almost customary to mention the 1995 Hollywood blockbuster, Clueless, while writing about wardrobe management apps. The movie’s protagonist, Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone) picked her outfit of the day from a digital wardrobe that captured the imagination of fashionistas galore. 23 years later, that ahead-of-its-time tech remains a fascination.
Entrepreneurs, mainly in the US, have tried their hand at wardrobe fashion apps but didn’t succeed, with the exception of long-standing players like Stylebook and Cladwell. The biggest peeve has been the effort and time taken to get started with such apps. Many users switch off at the prospect of individually photographing every garment and adding its details to the online wardrobe. More so, they have been spoilt by app-developers, across categories, who ensure a quick and easy user onboarding.
Even if a determined user manages to clear the first stage by creating a digital library of clothes, she has more work on hand, for example, putting together outfit looks and packing lists among other tasks. User reviews reveal that the DIY tech approach doesn’t excite them. They want the app to do the heavy-lifting and show the hidden gems in the wardrobe.
The London-based startup, Save Your Wardrobe, has studied this landscape and potential tech-solutions for the past two years. It is gearing up to launch an app that caters to a 2018 version of Cher who not only wants more out of her wardrobe but also is open to making sustainable choices with her clothes shopping.
“We want to grow this eco-system with relevant services and answer the needs of our users and at the same time educate them about the ways of extending and upcycling pieces in their wardrobe.”
Save Your Wardrobe (SYW) co-founder, Hasna Kourda, an Economics graduate and fashion professional says, ‘Studies suggest that we wear only 20% of our wardrobe. We want to rally people around the idea that it is high time for a change around fashion consumption and the tech we are using and digitising wardrobes are the enablers to achieve our mission.’ Here’s unpacking the things that SYW is aiming to do differently.
Taking the first step
SYW wants to make the process of building digital wardrobe easy and quick. It will ask for access to user’s email account and online retailer accounts to extract clothing data from digital receipts. For an old garment, the user stills need to click a picture, but computer Vision-powered tech will scan the photo and auto-upload details like fabric material, colour and shape.
Less user-input, more AI-based output
Besides automating the categorisation and sorting of outfits, SYW will offer artificial intelligence(AI) enabled recommendations from the user’s existing wardrobe, based on her behaviour patterns, style trends and the weather. The existing apps have features like travel packing lists and calendar that require manual input. Again, SYW wants the user to only add special dates on her calendar. Before the due date, she will receive a weather-aligned packing list for a vacation in Bali or outfit suggestions that adhere to the dress code of an event, say Royal Ascot. Human stylists and AI will jointly feed into this style advice.
Extending the Life of a Garment
Positioned around the values of conscious living and sustainability, SYW will carry a first-of-its-kind feature that offers a range of post-purchase services like repair, alteration, dry-cleaning or even selling and donating. Having tied up with a bunch of startups and organisations in this space, Kourda says, “We want to grow this eco-system with relevant services and answer the needs of our users and at the same time educate them about the ways of extending and upcycling pieces in their wardrobe.”
With fewer notifications and more integration into the user’s daily routine, Kourda wants to offer personalised prompts for a repair, refresh or disposal of a piece in the wardrobe. One of her early-beta users bought a wedding gown and intends to donate her dress through the app to the charity, Brides Do Good.
Though not anti-shopping in its approach, the app will steer clear of taking the user on a shopping spree. The standard wish listing feature will be absent on the SYW app. Favoured by e-commerce players and touted for its convenience, a wish list is, more often than not, driven by what one desires than what one needs. Hence, SYW’s algorithms will create a personalised shopping basket for its users with products that can be used for a more extended period. Additionally, shopping prompts will be sent out to fill up gaps in the wardrobe. It will be interesting to see how this ‘buy better’ feature plays out with the 30-45-year-old females (target user group).
Free-to-use, SYW’s beta version goes live this July, followed by a soft launch in September. Meanwhile, another startup, Finery, has entered this space. The US-based app is also banking on tech-enabled wardrobe efficiency. A point of difference though is Finery’s emphasis on style-influencer-driven shopping recommendations and wish lists.
We use apps to organise multiple aspects of our life, yet one of our daily routines (that needs help) aka interaction with the clothes wardrobe still awaits a saviour. The new batch of startups stands a better chance of incorporating wardrobe apps into our lifestyle. They are weeding out the manual work, all thanks to the decreasing online-offline divide. Cheers to a meaningful relationship with clothes.
Molshree is a fashion consultant and researcher based in London. With a background in fashion retail, she is currently focussing on projects that propel the sustainability agenda into the mainstream.