Each week at the Sustainable Shopper, Stylist talks to the people focused on creating a more conscious shopping space for all. This time, Bianca Rangecroft – creator of Whering, the new digitalised wardrobe app – talks to fashion editor Harriet Davey about how the new technology will help you to unleash your wardrobe’s full potential and make you learn to love what you already own.
It can be a regular occurrence to find something in your wardrobe you’ve completely forgotten about. And it’s also common to stick to the same pieces you know how to wear out of ease, or buy something new entirely because ‘you have nothing to wear’, right? Well, what if you could see your entire wardrobe without having to rifle through it IRL? Whering is the new digitalised wardrobe app created by Bianca Rangecroft that will revolutionise the way you wear your clothes.
Designed for sustainability-minded women, the platform helps you to see new ways to wear your existing wardrobe. To see everything you own in the palm of your hand, all you have to do is take pictures of your items, and the app will sort, match and track what you wear. With styling suggestions using the ‘dress me’ feature and personal (eco-friendly) product recommendations designed to fill the gaps in your existing wardrobe without impulse buying, you can also play around at creating fresh, fun and exciting new outfits using pictures of your own pieces.
According to Whering, the average millennial spends on average 183 hours a year deciding what to wear. And with this being more relatable now than ever, the clever app can help you speed up outfit planning and help you fall in love with your ‘old’ wardrobe all over again. You can even pin an outfit to a specific date so you can plan ahead with all those upcoming events. However you choose to use it, Bianca explains to the Sustainable Shopper how Whering will help you save time and money, while in turn helping to save the planet.
What is your earliest memory of sustainability?
Bianca: I had just accepted my first serious job offer in London to start in the banking world at Goldman Sachs. With a background in development studies, I was also eager to get involved in environmental committees to tackle waste, mostly around food and disposal. And I thought to myself, this is ‘your thing’ and good on you for wanting to make this happen (hello, intrapreneur). But then I started work on the Stitch Fix IPO and instead began to delve deep into consumer buying patterns, machine learning to optimise consumption and the environmental cost of fashion. This kickstarted a whole introspective journey into my own contribution to this issue (yes, I had been to Zara that day to buy yet another ruffle top during my lunch break), and I knew this had to stop.
It took me two years to make the jump but I finally founded Whering – in the summer of 2020 – out of a profound desire to democratise the personal styling landscape and fundamentally make efficient the way we buy clothes and use them.
For me, the system was broken. The vicious cycle of not being able to see what you own, impulse buying and the lack of inspiration in the styling process meant only one thing: we needed to build a platform that shows you the best of ethical fashion, how to style your clothes, share tips and tricks on prolonging garment life and have on-tap services to repair and ways to ethically donate unwanted items.
Is there such a thing as truly sustainable fashion?
This dilemma for me is all about tuning into your why (bear with me). Learning to recognise symptoms like boredom, retail therapy (aka the ‘pick me up’ buy), experimental needs and true wardrobe gaps is key to understanding how to satisfy these wants in the least harmful way – pre-loved, rental, ethical.
Obviously I would be remiss to say that the most sustainable garment is the one you already own. At Whering, we offer tailored styling suggestions that enable you to view your wardrobe entirely differently and make the most of it. By starting your wardrobe digital, you’re able to fall back in love with your pieces, go wild with creating outfit combinations and thus become a true outfit repeater. Whering for me is all about the verb (the act of wearing), and for us as a company to find joyful and creative ways to encourage the curious.
Investment pieces vs fast fashion: how do you get people to care?
As a South African, storytelling has always played a huge role in my life. I think that getting ethical brands to tell the tale of why we all need to vote with our wallet and leave behind the notion that a T-shirt should cost the minimum will go a long way in normalising buying better quality pieces that last longer, and in turn respect those who made them. For me, this is all about building emotional attachment to the investment pieces you buy, renting for a ‘trend fix’ (for the price of a high street piece without the guilt) or buying ‘considered’ fast fashion whereby you’ve evaluated the use of the piece and can justify it with more than 30 wears.
I also believe that the industry has to do more to truly democratise personal styling and sustainable shopping, and that’s what we’re striving for at Whering. By being able to shop bespoke sustainable product recommendations, see everything that you own and get your daily outfit of the day sent to you – we’ve seen transformative attachment to owned pieces and decreased fast fashion buys amongst our user base. Our platform allows you to easily identify what you need and makes spending a little more on something that will unlock more wardrobe combinations possible and effortless.
Who is your favourite sustainability influencer? And why?
Céline Semaan – she is the executive director of Slow Factory (an open education platform on fashion, intersectional feminism and colonialism) and she gives us more nuanced views on climate action and consumption. In a world where solutions to better the planet are seen as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and often mislead us into consuming more, I love how effortlessly she addressed the most complex of topics and how she empowers the community through education and really practical resources.
What changes would you like to see happen in the fashion industry?
For me, we need to see a fundamental paradigm shift on both sides of the value chain: production, consumption and utilisation. On the former, stringent regulations in place to challenge brand greenwashing (as this really messes with the mind of the consumer – and normalising legitimacy is the only way forward). Restrictions on the exorbitant number of collections produced by fast fashion houses and laws that enforce living wage and garment worker protection as well as environmental pollution and waste disposal guidelines.
Fundamentally, brands need a better understanding of demand. On the data side, Whering creates unique insights into the ‘black box’ of the apparel industry: wardrobe utilisation and composition data. This will enable retailers to better tailor their product range to consumer needs and ultimately reduce waste and unsold stock. Smart sizing technology implemented across the brand ecosystem is also a game-changer here.
From the consumer standpoint, efficiently using the pieces you already own is one of the easiest things to limit your fashion carbon footprint. Here we need to see a burgeoning system of circular advocates and businesses to ensure we make throwaway culture a thing of the past by ensuring the consumer has easy access to greener choices right throughout a piece’s lifecycle (purchase, care, resell, donation, recycle). The key to real transformation here will be swapping the Amazon-esque ease of fast fashion buying and getting us all to treat the garments we buy like the good friends that they are (not my quote FYI, but bloody on point).
This means more influencers like Venetia La Manna normalising re-wearing, accessibility to on-tap affordable tailors like Sojo (to repurpose/transform what you have), apps like Whering that allow you to track your wears and understand you fashion metrics (but also play dress up more), effortless reselling solutions and even perhaps the rise of digital clothes/styling games to shift our focus away from consumption of material things and into the realm of gamification and experimentation.
Three sustainable shopping hacks
1. Refocus: make yourself a wishlist – sleep on it, debate it, fight it and if you still come back to it, it deserves to find a place in your wardrobe. I’ve learnt over the years to negate the cheap and easy buys by looking inwards first (aka your digital wardrobe: hint Whering), evaluating what I really need and what will bring be continuous joy (for the longest possible time) as well as identifying and saving up for dream pieces that will serve me in my journey. Shifting your mentality to investing in quality creates a special relationship with a piece and fundamentally makes you fight harder to take care of it, style it differently and possibly resell it.
2. Normalising renting, thrifting and swapping (soon on Whering) are the greatest ways to step away from over-consuming for the wrong reasons and shift into a more playful (yet circular) relationship with clothes. For me, this step is all about upending the ‘buy, use, dispose’ model many of us (myself included) have lived by in the last two decades. Allowing yourself that freedom to experiment with fashion by renting pieces you wouldn’t want to own forever (for any occasion, not just a wedding), buying preloved pieces on Depop or Vestiaire Collective usually allows you to buy better quality for cheaper and borrowing pieces is a no brainer if you want to channel your friend’s awesome aura for a day or night.
3. Unlearn: break your bubble and diversify your feed. Again, slightly biased because my personal mission is to get us to reuse what we own but by removing the constant subliminal messaging from the wrong brands, influencers and communities and focusing instead on following accounts that empower with their mission, educate and tell real stories. Connecting with smaller designers, slow-production brands and ecosystem stakeholders is a powerful way of helping you identify what ‘things’ you really want and need and what else is just white noise we’re all overwhelmed by. Good On You also has all the gossip on brand ratings so look them up before you follow.
Sustainable Shopper edit by Bianca:
Mara Hoffman dress
I’ll be wearing this joyous garment on June 21st for drinks on the Allbright roof terrace – as a symbol of coming back into myself after so long under lockdown. Mara Hoffman is a brand I view as having true investment pieces.
Rotate Birger Christensen dress at Rotaro
Our next Whering pop-up will require a true statement piece – yet a comfortable one – and this is on my hit list. I’ll team it with some chunky Gucci loafers.
Silvia Astore dress at Rotaro
Date nights are back and I’m excited to rent this tremendous evening gown. Normalising rental (not just for weddings) is a huge part of my journey.
The Row bag at Vestiaire Collective
As a Vestiaire fiend, this baby is on my wish list – full list kept on the Whering app, obviously – to spice up summer fits.
Female-founded (by a Korean friend of mine), this magic overnight mask is my eternal ‘trick up my sleeve’ to look well-rested.
Alexandra Hakim necklace
Produced by artisans in Lebanon, I love supporting emerging designers. This Aquarius pendant caught my eye and it’s a great layering summer piece.
Halō coffee pods
Biodegradable coffee capsules anyone? This is my all time favourite (non) guilty pleasure. They taste so good, too.
We’re back to running around so these tampons will be neatly tucked away in my purse. They’re biodegradable, made from organic cotton, and let’s face it, CBD is a gamechanger.
Images: courtesy of Bianca/ brands featured