Clo is the project I developed with my classmate, Bruno Silva for our thesis in the MFA program Design for Social Innovation at the School of Visual Arts.
Having worked in the fashion industry for many years, I had become aware of an array of social and environmental issues linked to apparel production. Through secondary research, surveys and interviews with experts in sustainability and fashion, I found that one of the root problems related to the negative impact of the industry is the overconsumption of low quality clothing. In recent decades, the industry has shifted towards disposability rather than investment, otherwise known as fast fashion. Fashion used to be produced in two seasons but over the past decades fashion cycles have sped up requiring new trends to emerge weekly. Fast fashion retailers introduce new clothes to their stores weekly and consumers believe they must buy clothes constantly to stay up to date. In order to get people to buy clothes so often, they have to be very low priced and low quality. Because we have come to understand clothing as cheap items with high turnover, we see them as disposable without having easily available access to information about the impact that has, such as pollution from producing synthetic materials and dyes to the piling up of those un-biodegradable items sitting in landfills for hundreds of years.
After identifying the overconsumption of fast fashion as the problem we wished to address, we looked at who those retailers were mainly targeting, college age women. We continued our user research, completing surveys and in depth interviews with this audience. After analysis, we identified that there are two ways they consume clothes, by buying and by sharing. We learned that sharing clothes offers them the same value that they get from fast fashion but also serves our goal of reducing the demand for new items to be bought.
After we identified sharing as the behavior we wanted to increase, we prototyped three ways to sharing more appealing and interesting than shopping. A paper prototype of a clothing library, facilitating a group of friends to decide together what to purchase with the intent that the group shares them, and getting girls who do no know each other to share an item of clothing. After collecting feedback from these prototype, we chose to move forward with getting this audience to share the clothes they already have more often and with more people.
By working with our users we learned what was working well in how they currently share clothes, what pain points they had, what tools they use, and who is involved so we could understand how we could better that experience and make it more attractive than buying.
We identified that the solution must be digital because majority of the user journey when it comes to sharing happens through social media and communication platforms on their phones. Our first goal was to increase the users awareness about the clothes their friends had that they could borrow, compared to now how they passively think about borrowing from others. We created a prototype website where users could upload items they were willing to share with their friends who could then use the site to request to borrow them.
After iterating multiple versions of the prototype site, we designed an application called Clo, a platform to create digital closets, find your friends and others in your network to share with easily and conveniently. It is designed to give access and visibility to clothes in your network, creates trust to share more often and with more people, and reduces barriers like location and the hassle of cleaning.