From the way we work, communicate, shop, bank to the way how we relax and entertain ourselves, digitization has transformed everything. Imagine your wardrobe getting digitized! This is what exactly Bianca Rangecroft has brought to the world through her company Whering. Bianca founded Whering in June 2020 out of a profound desire to democratize the personal styling landscape and fundamentally change the way we interact with our clothes (i.e. upend the throwaway culture).
We at Insights Success got into conversation with Bianca to learn more about her journey and how she is shaping the future of the fashion industry.
Below are the highlights to the interview:
Brief our audience about your journey as a business leader until your current position Whering. What challenges have you overcome to reach where you are today?
For me the system was broken; the vicious cycle of not being able to see what you own, impulse buying (never getting it quite right), and the lack of inspiration in the styling process meant only one thing, we had to take it digital and harness the power of machine learning to hyper-personalize our fashion experience. The journey from there has been mostly organic; Vogue covered our launch in 8 countries, helping us secure 35k users in less than six months. We now have 80k users, with downloads increasing monthly.
My background is totally unrelated to fashion – I studied History and Politics at SOAS & LSE, then moved into the business world after doing my Masters at Imperial (Economics & Management). I worked at Goldman Sachs from 2017 to 2019 in the firm’s Consumer and Investment Management Division in London. I was lucky enough to work on the Stichfix IPO and began to delve deep into consumer buying patterns, how machine learning was being used to optimize shopping, and above all, the environmental cost of fashion. This kickstarted in me a whole introspective journey into my own contribution to this issue and how we could leverage the data found in our own closet to make the supply chain greener, but crucially to make the most of what we already have to get that newness fix and buy to fill wardrobe gaps (all optimized through AI). Before starting the company, we conducted over 350 focus groups to identify key commonalities in the user journey amongst our key demographic: women in their early twenties and thirties.
I absolutely loved working in the Consumer and Investment Management Division at Goldman Sachs – and still manage my own portfolio (it’s my downtime from startup life!). I covered a lot of retail stocks and worked on two big fashion tech IPOs (Stichfix and Farfetch) during my time at GS, and this taught me to deeply understand industry shifts and growing consumer/behavioral trends and how both these factors affected nascent technologies. Not only did this journey provide me with insights into how we could use AI to personalise our fashion experience but during our process to sell the equity story we’d often speak to customers to get a sense of WHY this company was so ground-breaking – and that’s what transformed by relationship to the end user (as the real source of information for product discovery and innovation). I felt we fundamentally had to change the way we interact with our clothes (i.e. upend the throwaway culture) and thought the timing (by the end of my tenure) was perfect to bring to life Cher Horrowitz’ Clueless wardrobe app.
Tell us something more about Whering and its mission and vision.
Whering, the app designed by and created for the next generation of sustainability-minded and style-conscious women, paving the way to an ethical wardrobe and an end to the ‘buy-use-dispose’ model. The launch of the app allows users to quickly and easily digitize their entire wardrobe, resulting in a streamlined, personable, and accessible online styling tool.
Whering creates a digital wardrobe that allows users to see everything they own in one place, allowing them to maximize the potential of their wardrobe. Users will also receive styling suggestions and personalized product recommendations that complement the pieces they already own and love. In turn, this helps users to shop strategically to fill wardrobe gaps whilst helping to reduce the habit of unnecessary purchasing, ultimately leading to a more cohesive and sustainable wardrobe. Whering uses an intricate style matrix and personality test to create the ideal styling environment for each customer. The user can then use these images to create outfits themselves or use the ‘Dress Me’ function, and Whering’s algorithm will provide outfit suggestions.
At the heart of everything Whering does is a desire to improve the fashion industry by tackling some of its most damaging facets. The app aims to revolutionize the way we shop, style, and dress, and in doing so reduce the carbon footprint left by fashion consumers globally. In the UK alone, clothing has the fourth largest environmental impact after housing, transport, and food. Shockingly, half of the fast-fashion items we buy as a nation are thrown away in less than a year. Whering helps users utilize their wardrobes 80% more effectively, meaning consumers are less likely to turn to fast-fashion options, as our app helps them maximize their wardrobe’s potential. Ultimately, there is no place for fast fashion in a sustainable future, making Whering an essential app offering much-needed lifestyle guidance, allowing users to think more sustainably in this time of climate upheaval.
Enlighten us on how you have made an impact in the industry through your expertise in the market.
The ‘I have nothing to wear’ dilemma is a universal sensation of being trapped in indecision. In our view, part of the problem isn’t having nothing to wear, but having nothing new to wear and too many options of cheap clothes to choose from. We keep buying because we think that just one more item will unlock our ideal wardrobe – but how can it do so if we have no accessible inventory of what we own?
This is why having a digital inventory is so key – to aid our visual memory. Not only does it allow you to ‘shop your own wardrobe’ to get that newness fix, but having an organised digital wardrobe helps you identify what you really need and what pieces can unlock a myriad of combinations. You can also easily track your wears, most worn items, decide what’s worth donating or selling, but mostly importantly, create different versions of your best looks from the comfort of your couch (i.e. unleashing your inner creative). We created Whering for recovering lifestyle hypocrites like us: millennial women who are excited to take back ownership of their fashion consumption and the way they dress. Whering is not just a wardrobe organizer, it’s so much more. We’re building a one-stop-shop for all your fashion needs.
Undeniably, technology is playing a significant role in almost every sector. How are you leveraging technological advancements to make your solutions resourceful?
Our tech is focused on two parts of the value chain that consumers own: purchasing and utilisation. For purchasing, I think a big part of the problem is that people don’t understand their style so buy items and wear them just a couple of times before deciding they no longer like them. The artificial intelligence we are building will be able to identify your style, help you maximize what you already have, and only then suggest sustainable items that we know you will love and, above all, love to repeat wearing. You can already use Whering to try before you buy – adding items into your wardrobe and creating outfits – ensuring you will get maximum usage out of an item before purchasing. The app uses an intricate style matrix and personality test to create the ideal styling environment for each customer. The user can then use these images to create outfits themselves or use the ‘Dress Me’ function, and Whering’s algorithm will provide outfit suggestions.
For utilization, you can already track how many times an item has been worn in your wardrobe, and soon, Wherers will be able to get access to a custom dashboard – focused on useful stats for you to improve your wardrobe’s carbon emissions. What could be better than knowing how much you wear an item to be able to properly evaluate the value that your clothes bring to your life?
Where do you envision yourself to be in the long run and what are your future goals for the company?
Our large-scale plans for the Whering app have the potential to minimize the impact of fast fashion and reduce clothing waste and pollution on a global scale. As a small company with big ambitions, we want to inspire others to aim high. Whering plans to work with partners to further tackle the fashion industry’s waste issues and prevent the 350k tons of clothing that end up in landfills each year in the UK. Users will find recommendations of where to mend, repurpose or donate their items, or, as they are already digitized, sell or rent items through third-party API integrations. We want to work with big brands like Depop, Vinted, Selfridges, and other slow fashion figures to grow our brand and provide the best possible platform for all sustainable fashion needs.
Our mission is to extend the life cycle of the clothes we already own (and that are perhaps sitting idle in our closets). We are hoping to reduce the carbon and water footprint of consumers by focusing on the two parts of the value chain that they control: purchasing and utilization. Through digitization and machine learning, Wherers can track what they wear and understand their style. We encourage outfit repeating!
What would be your advice to budding women entrepreneurs who aspire to venture into the industry?
My advice would be to trust your passion and go for it as soon as you get the urge. My mantra is carpe diem, which means no time like the present. I believe in seizing the moment and doing what makes you happy. This mantra carried me through my decision to leave my job in finance and focus on doing something I enjoy that has a positive impact on people and the planet. Life is too short to wait around for the right time to do something. When you have an idea and a passion, and you can get together a team of like-minded and motivated people, the world is your oyster. It is amazing how far having a great concept and being open-minded can get you, even with little money to start off with. As a company, we are proudly ambitious, and this has favoured us throughout our journey, and we have so much more to come.