Less is more: Here’s to you Impossible Wardrobe 2.0
From Planet to user
At Impossible, we like to challenge ourselves by working on what we call planetary problems. This means considering our planet’s needs first, trying to build products that have a positive impact on the biosphere, not just the human sphere.
One of the top 5 industries with the largest environmental impact is fashion and clothing.
A couple of years ago we started developing a system to help reduce fashion waste: Impossible Wardrobe.
In the UK alone, the value of unused clothing in wardrobes has been estimated at around £30 billion, while the value of clothing that simply goes into landfill each year is about £140 million. A household’s newly bought clothing, along with the washing and cleaning, has an annual footprint equivalent to carbon emissions from driving an average modern car for 6,000 miles. And yet, the average lifetime for a garment of clothing is about 2 years.
There is a simple solution to this problem: buy less and extend the active life of clothing.
But how do you incentivise people to change their behaviour?
The reality is that sustainability will never be more important than convenience for most people.
This is why we narrow down complex planetary problem to user problems: if your product solves user problems, people will use it. And ultimately, enough people using your product will make an impact on the planet.
So, what’s the user problem when it comes to clothes?
Wardrobe visibility. Consumers don’t remember all the clothes they own, they spend too much time thinking about what to wear every day and they end up buying new items all the time because they think they don’t have enough options. Then, when they need more space and decide to get rid of their old clothes, there are no convenient ways to upcycle, share or resell their items of clothing.
How can we solve these problems? By digitalising users wardrobes.
Many rivers to cross
There are many ways to digitise wardrobes.
At first, we thought of RFID tags.
This was our initial concept.
Since then, we have looked for partnerships and ways to develop the idea and scale it.
Along the way, we realised that our solution was too reliant on multiple stakeholders adopting a new technology. The system only really works if most fashion brands are on board, but big industries are mostly slow adopters.
We asked ourselves: what can we do that is actionable now? How can we make an impact independently from the fashion industry?
We took a step back and reminded ourselves of the core problems.
We stripped our existing concept of all the unnecessary parts and redesigned the Impossible Wardrobe app to be used by itself.
After brainstorming a few ideas, we started sketching user flow and paper wireframes, and quickly prototyped the experience and usability in order to test.
Once happy with the UX, we digitised the wireframes and worked on the final UI.
So how does Impossible Wardrobe work?
To digitise their wardrobe the users need to take a photo of each item of clothing.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking now: who has the time for that? (That’s why we thought of RFID to begin with). Researching other digital wardrobe apps, we realised that this is one of the main issues that limits their audience.
So, we designed the new Wardrobe to be a social platform and marketplace that works regardless of how many items you photograph and archive.
Every time someone takes a photo and catalogues an item of clothing, it is posted on the app feed and shared with your friends (who you can invite from Facebook, Instagram or from your contacts). That’s right, basically like an “Instagram for clothes”.
But the real treat is Wardrobe’s automatic pricing engine: once you register the item, you can ask the app to automatically assign the value of it, looking at the latest market.
These features will incentivise circular economy by enabling users to realise the value of their unworn clothes, estimated to be about £200 per UK shopper.
Friends can comment or private message other friends and offer to buy or borrow one of their clothing items at any time. The user can also choose to actively put the item up for sale, which then highlights it and pushes it to a wider audience where it’s sold to the highest/most trusted bidder.
Impossible Wardrobe is also a digital wardrobe app. The more items are digitised, the more features the app unfolds:
- It will allow you to digitally browse through all your clothing, organised by categories
- It will suggest what to wear daily according to your personal settings (season, weather, occasion…)
- It can help you plan outfits and track what you’ve worn in your diary
All of these will allow better understanding of the content of a users wardrobe, avoiding unnecessary purchases and saving time spent deciding what to wear.
America can’t be discovered twice.
Once the idea was fleshed out, we started looking at existing peer-to-peer marketplaces that prioritise clothes, to understand how they deal with transactions, shipping, warranty, etc.
When we looked at Depop, we realised that the exciting and obvious solution “let’s make it like an Instagram for clothes!” wasn’t as unique as we thought. They had done a great job.
Users need to feel familiar with what they’re experiencing, and these guys (I mean Instagram) have properly nailed down the best way of sharing photos. So why not just use their “format” for the social features? There’s no point in reinventing the wheel.
I guess Depop thought exactly the same thing and executed it.
Where they have not executed well is in trying to give users a better understanding of their wardrobe. They also lack the benefits of an automatic pricing engine (it’s a real hassle to price our own items… we are never really sure).
Ultimately, by stimulating the upcycling economy, we intend to benefit the planet by reducing the amount of clothing going to landfill. We aim to achieve a 1.5% reduction in clothes entering UK landfill within three years, through a user base of one million.
Partnerships will get us there. So here’s a call out to Depop and the other marketplaces in the space, to fashion brands: let’s work together. We have a few features well fleshed and tested that will increase your audience, you already have a working product in place, let’s get together.
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