VICENZI Public Drafts: America’s Greatest Makers Application
This application was submitted in reply to Intel’s public search for TV show participants. I never heard back. Now you can read my idea (hasn’t changed, however will not be using Intel technology) and pre-order the first product. They asked some deeply personal questions here!
16 August 2016 by Allison Vicenzi
What is your idea?
- I believe in a future where people are happier because they are less burdened by stuff. In particular, I see a future where clothing is managed more efficiently through a closed-loop system, whereby we only use items as long as we need them then pass them along to the next-best use case. The cycle continues until eventually the material will be broken down and used as raw materials for new items. My first “unchaperoned” idea is to start a consumer clothing brand that uses this system at a small scale, starting with a few timeless garment styles, and expands as we learn and grow to incorporate other brands and eventually other material goods. The system minimizes waste by design instead of only focusing on sustainable materials, which I see as an unscalable solution to the problem of garment waste.
What was the initial inspiration for this idea?
- I have always been obsessed with fashion but bothered by waste in the industry (second most polluting industry in the world, with oil being the first). While gaining business experience by working for startups like MakerBot and 3Doodler, I’ve spent the last few years researching and testing ways to minimize waste on the side. I believe I have enough groundwork and potential partners and supporters to share this story and get the idea off the ground in the next 6–12 months.
How will at least one or more of the three Intel technologies (Intel Curie Moduel, Intel Atom and/or Real Sense ZR300 Camera) bring your device to life? Please describe.
- I will need one of Intel’s chips to help track the clothing items. We need a little chip inside each item to hold data about the garment, instructions on how to care for it, ways to keep track of it as it’s sent out for cleaning or repair, and seamless transfer of info to the next owner, to upload to their personal system (sort of like a ‘virtual closet’). You can imagine the implications of this scaling — the data can be easily transferred over API to resell via popular platforms like eBay or Tradesy. It eliminates the friction of the buyer filling a listing out on his/her own, and thus leads to better quality data transfer and more “matches” of clothing from seller A to buyer B. Item codes help match products based on location and style, instead of relying on user-uploaded data. The chip is the most important piece of this puzzle.
What skills do you have to make the prototype and what help will you need?
- I have startup and business development experience, have done extensive research in this field of “cradle-to-cradle” clothing, and have eternal optimism that we can find a way to make this work! I have the initial garment designed (it’s a chic women’s blazer, which my research has shown as a hole in the market currently). I have relationships for production. I need help with the garment data tracking piece, which is where I would be honored to work with Intel’s top-notch engineers on a solution. I have help for marketing, website, branding and visuals, etc.
Is there a need in the market for your invention?
- Yes. The fashion industry continues to add to landfills and without consumer awareness and ALSO a solution, the problem will compound. Efforts towards sustainability in the fashion industry so far are noble but not mainstream enough to reach a tipping point. The answers are already out there — I’d just like to help put the pieces together and find the magic balance between financial and personal incentives to get this off the ground and in front of interested parties. Even if the technology exists already, it’s all about the user experience to get people excited about this idea, in order to convert their habits and behaviors now and in the future.
What is the benefit for the consumer?
- I truly think people are happier when they waste less and aren’t overburdened with items they no longer need. This system can maximize utility and satisfaction while also saving money and energy. The clothing is high-quality and lasts long, and when you no longer need it you can pass it along to another buyer or a worthy cause, and claim a reward. Consumers can stop worrying about their clothes, and stop treating them as disposable.
Why do you want to pitch your product?
- I get excited to share this idea with the world. I love when people poke holes in it because I find that is the only way to grow. I am passionate about sharing this idea before it’s fully fleshed-out, knowing that we need to start small and build on momentum and feedback to make a product and service that consumers will truly enjoy to use. Something that will make their lives easier, and more fulfilling, and help the environment as a result. The only way to find out is to get the idea in front of as many consumers as possible, and turn their feedback into actionable data to prioritize and solve the problems they face in this industry. Even if your viewers only learn and remember one thing about material on the show — that they should never throw out clothing — we will already make huge strides addressing some of the biggest hurdles facing the industry now.
What is your background? (Please describe your former occupation(s), training, interesting life experiences, etc.)
- After growing up in Connecticut as part of a big Irish Catholic family, I graduated from Notre Dame with a degree in Finance, a few karaoke championships, the nickname “Styles,” and no job. I had big dreams and no focus. I went to work for an elite private concierge service in NYC, where I brushed up on my customer service and problem solving skills doing things I never knew existed, or that people cared about (like turning hunted deer meat into sausage links). I moved on to help start the business development team at MakerBot, where I envisioned a future in which every school had a 3D printer and everyone felt empowered to make things whenever they wanted, with no fear of failure. I moved to Hong Kong to help 3Doodler set up their EDU division and shared the same dream there. I returned to NYC this summer to work harder on my own project, which is this idea of starting a consumer clothing brand passionate about doing things better, meeting clients’ needs in new and unique ways, and minimizing waste all the while.
List any organizations or clubs with which you’re associated.
- altMBA6, Notre Dame Corby Society, DPS (underground NYC startup club), various jogging and fitness clubs, HATCH Experience, Hacker Paradise, Camp Cannibal, Factory45, Everlane NYC Brand Ambassadors, NY Cares
List any awards or accolades you’ve received.
- Published in A Letter to My Freshman Self, a new book published by Notre Dame to become part of the required reading for all freshman students starting in the 2016–2017 academic year. (Transcript here: https://medium.com/raw-material/allison-23487dff2d9#.eyc90thhx)
Describe your biggest accomplishment.
- My biggest accomplishment was graduating early from Notre Dame. I came up with an audacious plan to study abroad in London the summer before Senior year. I’d never left the country before (not even to Canada). Neither had my parents. I showed them that they would *save* money paying for this program because, combined with my AP credits and a few extra electives, I could graduate a full semester early and save the last 1/8 of my tuition. They went for the idea (my parents are saints!) and I was able to get my degree in 3.5 years AND live in Europe. For the first time, I was able to see for myself that this world is a big place and I have a lot of work to do to leave my mark.
Describe your most disappointing moment.
- My most disappointing moment was graduating early from Notre Dame. I stayed in South Bend, IN for the last 5 months after finishing classes until the graduation ceremony. I’d graduated with honors but for the life of me could not garner up job prospects. I had no motivation to find a job for the semester, let alone for the rest of my life. I was frustrated and paralyzed by indecision. I knew I should try harder but didn’t know where to start. I spent my days doing crafts, watching movies, going out with friends, sending online job applications into the abyss, surfing the internet. At the time, I felt worthless. By saving my parents money, and saving myself from an extra semester of classes, I’d created an unstructured environment plagued with self-doubt. I picked up my diploma in May and went home to live with my parents for the summer, still jobless and still unsure of what the future would bring. It was that spring and summer of overwhelm and confusion, during one of my frequent trips to the local libraries, that I discovered Yvon Chouinard’s book Let My People Go Surfing and the idea of using business for social change. I knew then how much of a problem the clothing industry was creating, and started to see that my mission would be finding ways to help make it better. It wasn’t until years later, reflecting on this disappointment, that I realized how much it helped shape my future.
What are the biggest hurdles your product has had to face, and how did you overcome them?
- I’m still in alpha stages, as I haven’t yet launched a pre-order for the product. The biggest challenge so far for me has been leaving my day job and getting mental clarity to address this problem full-time. I left 3Doodler last week in order to go all-in on bringing material to life. I overcame this by realizing that fear was not venturing out on my own, my only fear remaining was “what will happen if I don’t?”
How did you hear about applying for the AMERICA’S GREATEST MAKERS?
- My former MakerBot colleague (and recycling superstar) Kathryn Hurley was thoughtful enough to forward the application to me yesterday. With my maker background, I was well aware of the program since before it launched, and was a big fan of trying to partner with Intel somehow on it before I left MakerBot last year. I was flattered that Kathryn thought I was qualified enough to apply on my own grounds, and decided to go for it.
Describe in general terms what your product is. What does it do?
- It is a women’s blazer. Data about the blazer is saved on the item itself, so people can better track their belongings and get them cleaned, repaired, resold, recycled in a seamless and social system.
What is the next milestone in your life if you are not selected to participate in the Series?
- Launch the product in NYC and through beta programs nationwide, test and gather feedback to improve.
Describe the general concept of your product, including the way it operates (please be as specific as possible; it may be useful to submit a picture of your prototype or additional materials).
- Clothing items are tagged with important item data. Items can be used as long as the owner wants. When it is no longer wanted or needed, the buyer can easily list the item for sale or send it back to the manufacturer. Manufacturer partners will break item down to basic molecular level and rebuild new materials.
Describe the circumstances surrounding how you conceived and developed your product.
- I’ve been thinking about it and researching existing technology for a long time. I firmly believe the tech and consumer readiness levels are at the right point ripe for new innovation like this to come to market.
Is your product an improvement upon any current product and/or idea? If yes, please list the specific product(s) and/or idea(s) and how you have improved upon it/them or what differences exist between them
- It’s a combination of existing technologies. It has not been brought to market in this way, by combining 1) high-quality product 2) data chip 3) seamless user interface 4) upcycling partner program.