Can we leverage technology to save the fashion industry?

I was sitting at a conference in San Francisco listening to a panel discuss the rise of the sharing economy, when it suddenly dawned on me…

It’s been a century old phenomenon for women, “My closet is full, and I have nothing to wear!” Social evolution guides women to think we always have to have something new to wear, follow the latest trends, and never be seen in the same dress twice. Fair enough, who doesn’t want to look stunning, receive compliments, and be attractive for their dates. All have much benefited the consumer economy and the retail industry, but at what cost?

I was an investment banker for 10 years, the demand to constantly “look good” was high. I spent great amounts of time and even more in money shopping for the latest designer fashion. When my closet and all of my girlfriends’ closets were overflowing with things we bought but barely wore, my curiosity had me fascinated with these questions: Who actually makes all these products? How can they make so much, so fast? Where do they all eventually end?

My quest to discover the truth granted some shocking results. The fashion industry is now the 2nd largest polluter in the world after oil, demand for fast and cheap fashion fueled a global supply chain driven by cheap labor, sometimes illegal child labor in 3rd world countries, unregulated practices in worker safety, chemical usage, and dumping. At the other end of this spectrum, most of our garments end their lives in the forms of plastic microfibers in our water supply, and mountains of textile landfill. Around the world, 150 billion garments are produced annually, that’s enough to provide 20 new garments to every person on the planet, every year. Here in America, we throw away 11 million tons of fashion each year.

After watching the award winning documentary The True Cost, doing extensive on location research, and visiting hundreds of charities and 2nd hand shops in California, my heart truly sank. I discovered 85% of our donated fashion actually end up in the landfill, because there isn’t enough sorting capacity to redistribute everything that people send in. When we think that we are doing good by donating our clothes to charities, are we really doing much good after all?

Alternative ways for recycling that yield better economic returns include resell and consignment. With the latest trend moving towards unique fashion hunts, the 2nd hand market has seen an explosive growth in recent years following the success of eBay, and has acquired a huge following especially from the Millennials and Generation Ys who are now more sustainability minded. The biggest issue with resell is that clothes bare almost no cash value in 2nd hand, something that costed $300 initially may get the owner $30 back, even if it’s not been worn, and the fact the seller has no idea who in the world just spent $30 to acquire her treasured DVF dress is often unfulfilling and unsatisfying. Letting go of one’s treasured fashion remains a huge psychological hurdle. Hence given there are an estimated $900 billion worth of high-end women’s fashion inside America’s closets, only $35 billion are being resold as 2nd hand.

At SilkRoll, we are on a mission to advance sustainable fashion. Tapping deep into the psychology of women and their social and shopping behaviors, our community leverages the latest technology in machine learning, and let women regain the lost value from letting go of their favorite fashion. You can expand your closet without spending any extra money, discover high quality fashion from all sizes and styles, and find your virtual style-mates who also believe in conscious consumerism.

When all women are giving up their obsolete closets to discover and rotate new styles with each other, there won’t be a need to produce an insane of amount cheap fast fashion. We by virtue become true beneficiaries of the sharing economy.

With our resilience, grit and relentless pursuit of excellence, SilkRoll is pounding the path for a new generation of female entrepreneurs who are poised to make a difference in the world with our passion and dedication. We are forever changing the way we shop, and we want you to join us.

We are launching a brand new website on June 30, 2017. Welcome to the world’s largest shared closet!

Janet Wu

Co-founder and CEO, SilkRoll

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