As a burgeoning upstart in the sharing economy, Lauren Wetherbee's startup, thesixosix, aims to give fashion-conscious sharers a helping hand by providing a community closet to pull from. The idea is pretty simple: Create a Netflix-esque service for designer clothing. Wetherbee explains the finer points below.
What led you to found thesixosix?
I was going through my closet one day during my MBA and was shocked by how much waste was inside of it: from multiple expensive sweaters with tiger faces on them to designer clothing that actually had a price tag still on it. Despite all this waste, I still wanted to spend money on new garments. I happened to be reading Rachel Botsman’s book on Collaborative Consumption at the time and thought that, by applying the sharing concept to clothing, I could solve my problem of wanting new clothes constantly without having to actually own them all. I happened to also be interviewing for jobs in banking and finance at the time and starting my own business was far more exciting than either of those career paths!
One of Botsman's great quotes describes how people don't generally need a drill, they just need a hole. A riff on that idea forms the basic premise of thesixosix, right?
Indeed it does. Our tagline is actually, “because you need clothing, not a closet”.
Exactly how does the service work?
For our beta testing, we are just working out logistics, so a person signs up, takes a style survey, and then we match them to clothing that matches their style profile. When they want something new, they return it with the pre-paid return label and they get a new package. Our developers are working on a queuing system at the moment; so, in the near future, it will work exactly like Netflix by allowing members to go through our expansive closet online and select items to put in their queue.
Who would be considered thesixosix's target demographic?
Anyone, really. Initially, we envisioned college kids and hipsters to be our target demographic, but the more we shopped the idea around, the more disparate people we found to see value in the service. Women at my tennis club were interested in having someone like myself curate boxes of clothing for them; people in remote locations were excited to have access to designers they otherwise would not have heard of; college kids liked the idea because it was cost-effective, convenient, and didn’t require them to do laundry.
Which designers are included in the closet? How are you convincing those labels to participate?
It’s like subscribing to Barney’s or Bloomingdales, so designers like Alexander Wang, Marc Jacobs, Rag & Bone, Opening Ceremony, and plenty of great independent designers. We are only a little over two months in, so we spend the first couple months validating the concept with customers before approaching designers. We are just starting to work with designers now and they like the concept because it offers substantial brand recognition and allows them to compete with fast fashion chains such as H&M. Models like H&M are simply unsustainable and, although they allow consumers to always have new trends at low prices, the clothing is extremely cheap: it takes about 45 seconds to make a shirt from H&M and even less time to ruin it and render it garbage. Americans, on average, throw out about 70 pounds of clothing a year, while still purchasing a shocking 20 billion new garments, collectively. By facilitating sharing, thesixosix says anyone can have Barney’s clothing at even less than H&M prices, while providing a more convenient and sustainable way to access clothing going forward.
Are you going to have an online catalog and queue function so that members can note items that they would like to receive?
Yes, our programmers are working on developing an expansive online closet on the website for people to flip through (similar to Mac Cover Flow) that will mimic the process of flipping through one's own closet. The queue system is in the works and we hope to be beta testing that in the near future.
What else can we expect to see as thesixosix rolls out?
Our main focus now is enhancing the customer experience through a better website, development of the queuing system, and ability to flip through the closet online. We have a lot of exciting ideas we are going to test out as we grow, such as allowing customers to see where the clothing they get has been and with whom they have shared. It’s all a learning process for us, so we are constantly surveying customers and testing features to see both what members want in their shared closet and how they want access to it.