Written by Brian James & Leigh Maynard
London Fashion Week is fast approaching, and this season with-it, a mix of live and digital shows. The fashion industry has been forced to adapt over the last 18 months. Where once sustainability was a byword reserved for independents, conjuring images a world away from high fashion aesthetics, now it is a crucial element of every atelier and independent’s ethos.
Now more than ever, there must be a shared approach to sustainability, not just from the fashion houses but also from consumers. But for an industry that thrives on the mutable nature of trends and the next new bag, sustainability can almost seem contradictory. That’s where Whering comes in; this free fashion app allows you to photograph, digitise and rediscover your wardrobe, inspiring you to choose existing pieces rather than buying new ones.
Once your clothes are digitised, you can easily find and select items to build and save favourite outfits, create look books, choose a style by event or mood, and get that dopamine fix from your own wardrobe rather than a store. The app is a one-stop-shop for creative but considered fashion, full of added options like styling tips, alteration, and cleaning services straight to your door. Behind the interface lie powerful metrics that provide feedback on your style choices, helping you gauge what you wear and how often. Over time the service becomes personalised to help you create the perfect looks and use your wardrobe effectively and sustainably. And if you do feel the need to add new items, the app works with a host of ethical partners through its ‘marketplace’ to give you that retail high but with a conscience.
The Whering app has transferred from its digital space to a physical one with a pop-up store in Soho as part of Second-hand September. The store opening coincides with London Fashion Week. CEO and Founder Bianca Rangecroft has gathered some of her ‘marketplace’ partners to create a space for education, collaboration, and style. There will be the opportunity to join in a host of events and workshops and meet other members of the Whering community.
Boyfriend met Bianca at the Pop-Up to learn more about the inspiration behind Whering, what the future holds and all the exciting things we can expect at the pop-up, including a screening of the iconic film Clueless!
Your background is in investment banking which to many might seems a world away from fashion. Have you always been interested in fashion, and what led to this quite pronounced change in your career?
“I spent the early part of my career in Barclays and then with the consumer division here in Fleet Street, and I guess I have always had this passion for fashion from a very young age, and a lot of my friends are stakeholders in the creative industries. They always said to me, what are you doing? Why are you trading when you should be doing your own thing? When I joined Goldman, I was fortunate to be in the consumer division. So, I was working on big fashion tech IPOs like Stitch Fix and Far Fetch and trading for these companies, so I already knew many people in the industry. I started to investigate how we could use machine learning to personalise the shopping journey for what we already own. By looking at utilisation rates, we could launch an impact-led product that could help us dive into what we already had and really use it better.
I also got people to come to the Goldman headquarters for the women’s network to recycle clothes going to landfills. It contributed to this overarching vision of how we could make a digital wardrobe with flawless AI and where you can access your whole wardrobe from a styling perspective and a conscious shopping perspective.
And then finally, I was in Shenzhen in China just before 2020; I did a pitch on a stage in front of 20,000 people and thought, this is it, I’m going to take the plunge!! I was wearing the Ganni dress I have on today, so it’s kind of a good luck token. But yeah, it just felt like that’s what I was going to do, and I thought I just really want to see this through.”
The app is described as a combined digital wardrobe, personal stylist and outfit planner. For those who haven’t used it or heard of it, how does it work, and how do you want it to change our relationship with clothes and our buying habits?
“I think we as women (and this is part of a UK study) use between 30-40% of what we own, so you’ve potentially got 60% of your wardrobe unused that you don’t connect with. That’s the first unique selling point, just being able to upload it and really create some incredible outfits, create flat lays, add those to your calendar for events and lookbooks, travel, packing lists.
All of these things really just democratise your own wardrobe, and there’s the whole styling aspect which is really exciting. That’s the Clueless homage and the ‘dress me’ function, which uses AI to show you algorithmically all the possibilities that you could never have dreamt up.
We’ve also just launched the marketplace, a collection of edits around rental with a couple of amazing partners, and we have pre-loved edits too. We’re working with places like Beyond Retro and some great sustainable and ethical smaller designers, which is exciting.
Again, all of that will slowly become more personalised to you. The more you create outfits on the app, the more you interact with our styling. Next month we are launching a tinder swipe on AI made outfits that are made just for you with your clothes. So now you can shop and try before you buy, which is a lovely feature and something just very close to my heart. It will help you make sure you buy the right things, and that coupled with the wishlist functionality, is great to be able to sleep on things and make sure that you purchase something that you want to wear lots of times.
The last thing is the newly launched ‘caring partner’ section where, at the click of a button, you can select what you want to dry clean, repair, mend, repurpose etc. and then lovely teams like Sojo, OxWash come to your house, pick that up and redeliver it. So, the aim here is just to provide you with the ease and convenience of a service that was not sustainable, but that now is. The objective is really to provide you with a beautiful dopamine hit that we all want when we shop, but with your own wardrobe.”
We’ve read that Cher Horowitz 1995 Clueless digital wardrobe was the inspiration for the app? What one item would you want from Cher’s wardrobe?
“Absolutely, so you can see that I’m blonde, so I’d have to be very cliché and say the yellow checked suit, with the chunky loafers that I’m currently wearing would be my choice! One of the amazing vintage sellers that we have here has two of those kinds of suits. We’re doing a clueless movie screening on the 23rd, and I said to them, I’ve gotta wear that! I just need it (laughs).”
You have opened this pop-up in Soho for September, which coincides with Oxfam’s “Second-hand September” initiative. What partners will be sharing the space with you, and what range of experiences will you offer visitors?
“There will be many fantastic independent sellers and people like Closet Detox who offer an alternative full cycle of garments from mid-range to the high-end market with pieces that are hard to come by. Closet Detox offers an alternative to young adults who are fast-fashion buyers to find them a more reasonable price in clothing and to really focus on having their consumer attitude change.
You’ll have the chance to buy not only clothes but homeware pieces from Scene by Chloe and jewellery like the earrings I’m wearing by Alexandra Hakim. There will be a range of events throughout the time we are here, from yoga sessions, talks and workshops to a Clueless screening; it’s going to be great fun!”
The pop up also coincides with fashion week season, including LFW. Sustainability has become the buzzword for brands from high end to the high street, yet it seems little more than a marketing ploy. How can consumers best identify which brands ethical claims are genuine and which are “greenwashing.”
“I think it’s challenging, and I believe that there are definitely two layers to this; subliminal marketing is working very hard to instil brand confidence in you. Especially with fast fashion brands that we’ve all grown up with. For some of us, it’s a relationship that’s twenty years in the making, knowing your size, your favourite store, learning how to buy things online etc. So, there’s definitely a consumer-led awareness that has to happen, you know, ‘Let me just reassess here and think about what I’m being told, or should I just go with my gut’.
I think the first thing that really has to happen is that we need to use places like the Good on You directory, and there are many brand rating agencies and fantastic apps for which ours is too. We do a lot of due diligence into the providers and brands that we work with, including platforms that sell multi-brand stuff. So yeah, I think you just have to start thinking about how you sense to check what you’re seeing. Use Good on You, do a bit of Googling about the brand and look at the description about specific things they are doing very well and things they aren’t doing very well.
And the last thing I’d say is, and this is all in the context of privilege of a certain level. So, I think as a consumer it’s essential to think about what you really want to buy, assess whether you are going to keep it, whether it’s something you really love and goes with the rest of your wardrobe. Maybe trying it on before you buy with Whering and paired with knowledge from an app like Good on You, and a lot more context on what they are doing well/not so well. Then you can then choose which brand values kind of align.
Change can’t happen overnight, but we need to choose things we can stand behind and put our money where our mouth is. Sustainability can be so daunting, and it is time-intensive to source vintage pieces and travel to charity shops all over London to look for pre-loved clothes. I know many working mums and a lot of people who are working at the weekends, and it’s tough.”
What advice would you give to preserve our garments longevity and stay in love with our clothes?
“I think when we buy, we all just have to be kind and a bit more specific about what we do purchase. Then almost have this loving relationship and say, whether I have bought something fast fashion or expensive, I’ll do my very best to care for it and make sure I really use it to the max. With the help of our caring partners, you can clean and adjust items so that you really do get the best from your garments so that they’ll be pieces that you can keep in excellent condition and want to wear for years.”
The app’s motto is “less stressed, better dressed”. What positive personal benefits have you felt from adopting the Whering philosophy?
“I think the first thing for me, and obviously, I am an early adopter. So, I would say the brand is built for women by women. It’s practically a women-only team, so obviously, I’m a big fan, and I am a big recovering hypocrite, and that’s one of Venetia Falconer’s terms, I’m borrowing! It’s just the fact that I can see what I own, and I have about 550 pieces on the Whering app. A lot of hand-me-downs from my mum, a lot of fast fashion that I have accumulated from school years, university, and banking that I no longer use. So that initial upload, digitisation process was beneficial for me in realising that letting go is an essential component of achieving wardrobe zen.
And our partnership with Thrift Plus to ethically donate and get credit on FarFetch for the pieces that can still be sold and just make sure that we aren’t dumping and contributing to landfills. That’s a great first process. And the second thing for me that has been a game-changer is just creating these stunning outfits. Every time I wear an outfit, I just forget it, and when D-Day comes, I have nothing to wear, so I look through my wardrobe and say, ‘comfortable outfits’, ‘chic’, ‘travel-worthy. It’s so incredibly useful. Adding them to my calendar and getting reminders from Whering is a game-changer.
The other thing that I personally really love is the combination of three features, the mood board, the wishlist and the lookbooks. I can arrange all the outfits that I will wear day to night, generate a packing list of what to take away with me, and then create a mood board around the vibe I want around this event or trip. If I want to buy anything, I link them all together through the wishlist; I really think about it, I assess how many things it will go with from my existing wardrobe and then I purchase it, which brings me full circle.”
Talking of philosophy, you have very quickly built a community based on users who have become known as “Wherers”. How important is that sense of community engagement, and what areas have they influenced as the app has developed over the last year?
“We really wanted to be very conscious of who we are building this product for, so since we founded the company in June of last year, we have been holding a weekly focus group to stay close to the market. So, it includes our super users from the app; it includes our network, friends, family and everyone we meet and talk to and say, how can we make your life better. I think that’s just a beautiful way of creating a product that, although it’s in its infancy, we’ve got high hopes for what Whering can look like in 18 months.
Women spend about 8 minutes a day on the app, which is insane, and we’ve got 15,000 monthly active users. The community has really been the soul of Whering. And for me, this means two things; we’ve always wanted to take the app social because one of the most critical pillars of circularity is swapping, and for me, that is only really useful if you have your own wardrobe, and you can borrow from friends. Currently, it’s only through WhatsApp, but once we take it out socially, we will be able to share, chat, and create shared events and trips through the app. I just love the idea of really uplifting women in the community and making sure that they can swap beautiful pieces with each other for free; just really democratise that fashion experience in terms of community styling, a bit of a Burning Man vibe!!
We really want to understand the entire user journey. Creating this one-stop-shop, from in the morning when you wake up, until the evening when you are planning for the next day, how can you care for things, how can we accompany you on your shopping journey, how can we keep digitising as you use the product. So, we are relying on all these amazing women giving us their feedback app reviews.”
How would you like to see the Whering brand and ethos develop so that it can become an even bigger part of the environmental and climate conversation?
“We have loads of huge plans in the next 18 months for where the brand is going. First and foremost, we will be launching pack metrics, which is a massive piece of this climate discussion. Not only to really educate women around how their choices directly impact their carbon emissions perspective but also to help them make the right choices. Because when you see the impact of what you are doing in real-time, I believe that we all desire to do a little bit better.
Even if we try hard, we all make mistakes. So, taking it socially is the next big step. We can examine micro clusters of data and what is Genz doing. How are millennials using pieces we call luxury? When do we need to resell them? Once we’ve taken it out social, it will be easy to lend, mend, rent, and resale within this beautiful community of women. So, it’s really about propagating a beautiful, intelligent group of women to tune in to ‘how I can use my wardrobe’, almost like a financial portfolio and make the best of it.
Obviously, the last thing is we are looking at how can we start talking to brands and how you purchase from inception to present. But also, can people optimise their styling choices? Because we’ve got this opportunity to see real-time what people are doing with their clothes. So, yes, lots of exciting things are planned!”
As Fashion Week opens this season, it will be interesting to see how stylists, models, influencers, and the press express themselves through their wardrobes. There’s a hope that outfits will comprise more pre-loved pieces artfully pieced together as a beacon of sustainability from the forefront of fashion to all who follow.
Whering is an example of how technology, data, and community can contribute to that social and environmental cause. The app empowers women to make responsible fashion choices and create fabulous wardrobes that will last way beyond the trends of SS22.
As we left the Whering pop-up, we had our eye on lots of beautiful pre-loved pieces of clothing. And we were left with a sense that Bianca Rangecroft is just as dynamic as her excellent app; powerful, engaging and destined for success.
You can visit the Whering pop-up between the 8th – 29th of September at:
5 Upper James Street,
London, W1F 9DG
Opening hours: 9-7pm (including weekends)
For all events for the pop-up, including talks, workshops and screenings, see here:
Many thanks to Bianca and to Anna at AB Communications