My wardrobe is full of clothes and yet I never know what to wear. My wardrobe probably offers sufficient pieces of clothing to create different looks for a couple of weeks and yet I always wear the same. My wardrobe is not up to par with today’s zeitgeist, in which products need to be connected, intelligent and customer-centric. It is the complete opposite of it. Dead wood, stupid as hell and not helping me in the slightest except for storing my clothes. Thanks for nothing! And unless I have been living under a rock for the past years, I believe this is true for the overwhelming majority of wardrobes in this world.
What are the problems?
Please note, most of the ideas and thoughts below are primarily based on my very own personal experience and it may be very different for others!
1) Poor interaction with my wardrobe
There seems to be hardly a more frustrating experience than interacting with your wardrobe besides talking to a rock maybe. When I get up and step in front of my wardrobe I see lots of clothes, neatly folded and tucked away, even sorted by the different types of clothing. And yet, I have no idea what to wear, what to best combine, what to best put on based on the weather forecast.
2) Broken customer journey
This is the customer journey in its simplest form:
Within that journey there are so many poor experiences that the overall journey is completely broken.
- There is a complete disconnect between the physical and digital world. If I go into the shop the assistant has no clue what other clothes I have in my wardrobe. (S)he does not know my style, she does not know what I could combine the new clothes with. The same is obviously true for services like Outfittery and the likes or if I shopped online for clothes which I never do. (see next point)
- I do not shop online for clothes simply because I need to see myself wearing the clothes to make a choice. On the downside though I am then faced with a very limited selection. And due to my extremely short-lived patience when it comes to buying clothes the choice goes down south rapidly.
- Being tall and rather skinny I usually fall outside the „normal“ sizes. It is so damn difficult to find clothes that truly fit me that I usually give up before I even start shopping. When I do, I end up with either mediocre clothes or clothes that I simply wear basically everyday because I landed a lucky punch and found something that really fits me well.
- Having such a low confidence in my personal taste when it comes to clothing I often wear the same combination and the same colours (blue and white). Yet funny enough there are more colourful garments in my wardrobe, but they often never see the daylight.
- And this brings me to the last point, I have clothes in my wardrobe that have been never or seldomly worn and are in very good condition. They have been in there for more than 5-10 years because there is always the chance that I could potentially wear them at some point in the distant future…you guessed it…it never happens.
3) Fragmented services
New technologies are finding their way into the fashion industry promising to revolutionise everything. Let it be AI, Augmented & Virtual Reality, 3D Printing, Voice, Smart Fabrics, Big & Smart Data, Blockchain. And in the past years myriads of start-ups have cropped up to tackle single issues along the customer journey described above. Here are just very few examples I know of:
- Presize – Measure your body size and always order the right fitting garments
- Stylehacks – Outfit ideas from clothes you already own
- Amazon – Provides style assistance and style check
- Geschickt-Gereinigt – German online laundry service
- Stuffstr & Zalando Wardrobe – Sell back the apparel you don’t use anymore to your favourite retailer in a simple way
The issue is that none of the services connect with each other. They are all closed silos, except Presize.ai which e-shops can integrate into their platform. Thus, these fragmented services only help to improve parts of the customer experience and customer journey. And this is where in my eyes the real opportunity lies.
What is the opportunity?
The opportunity should be clear. Clothes are an essential part of our lives. It is a $2.4 trillion industry. Most people would like to dress well or dress better and yet seem to be incapable of (that is me and I would assume could include the majority of men). They also might splash out money for clothes they never wear or follow the awful fast-fashion trend promoted by the likes of Primark. We should become more conscious about the consumption of clothing and look for quality than quantity.
What could be the solution?
I would like to own a digital wardrobe! Plain and simple! It is the digital representation of my physical wardrobe. It acts as a platform for potentially different services or even one service that can cater to ALL the different needs in my journey.
Here is a sample journey with different with the different steps.
My Digital Wardrobe
It is basically the hub to all my clothes, purchases and other relevant information. It comes as a mobile app but also web-version. Even better of course would be an interface in the wardrobe itself! My digital wardrobe will be with me wherever I go, let it be on e-commerce sites or physical stores whenever I go shopping. That way, whoever interacts with me when looking for new things to wear has a complete view of my wardrobe and not just the clothes I am currently wearing.
- Profile Setup: I set up my profile, enter basic information including address, credit card details and others. The digital wardrobe also helps me to measure myself and stores the details for future purchases. Bonus point: I can scan myself and have a digital avatar. I will come to that when talking about buying clothes.
- Scanning of Clothes: The app makes it incredibly simple to scan and capture everything that sits inside my wardrobe (including shoes, accessories). It identifies the brand, label, colour, style. It automatically categorises the scanned items and provides me a visual representation in my digital wardrobe. Bonus point and quite important actually: It registers all the things that are or are currently not in my wardrobe (e.g. because they are in the laundry) in real-time.
Buy / Rent Clothes
- Complete My Look: Whenever I go shopping I am suggested garments and accessories that can complete my existing clothes. That way I am not buying things that I don’t know how to combine. At the same time I am buying clothes that would help me make the most of clothes that I normally do not wear.
- Shopping Assistant: The shopping assistant can suggest new clothes based on my style, favourite colours etc. But it can also throw the odd curve-ball and suggest something completely new that I may want to try out (obviously this needs to be made transparent to the consumer). Having an (hopefully) unbiased AI suggesting new clothes represents also a huge opportunity for small and unknown brands to break the dominance of large and well-established brands! Because actually, I do not care about the story or hype around certain products or labels. Bonus point: I can see the clothes being worn by my virtual avatar instead of some beautiful model, so disappointment will be limited. Thanks to my size information stored in my profile I will buy the correct size. YaY!
- Style Assistant: I get up, shower and am standing in front of my wardrobe. Based on the weather and potentially schedule my wardrobe suggests me an outfit I could be wearing today. On a weekends I might try out different outfits and styles that are suggested to me by my assistant. That way I personally learn what could be matched and what shouldn’t. Also, I become more confident about the outfits and do not have to rely on my assistant every day.
- Wash: I can order a laundry service via my digital wardrobe. It handles pick-up, delivery and payment. Or I can simply do my own laundry.
- Repair / Upcycle: Once in a while clothes will break and need to be repaired. I can simply snap a pic, upload it to my wardrobe and request a quote. Again, it handles pick-up, delivery and payment. My assistant can also suggest ways to upcycle worn out or broken garments.
- Donate: My wardrobe obviously learns a lot about my preferences and behaviours. It registers what I wear and what I not wear. At some point it can suggest clothes to be donated. It handles the whole donation process including pick-up.
- Sell: Equally, if garments are still ok to be worn, it can suggest to sell them. It could also notify me of special offers to sell certain garments.
I really hope someone somewhere is working on a solution like this and it comes sooner rather than later. I know Zalando Wardrobe goes into this direction but when I tried it it seemed to be early days and more focused on reselling clothes I have in my wardrobe. Since I wrote this article, I found out about Save Your Wardrobe. a start-up that very much sounds like what I am imagining. I am looking forward to their beta release, which is supposed to come out before the year ends.
All challenges aside I really do believe in the potential and the opportunity of such platform & ecosystem.