Forget buying shirts made from recycled fabric; a new wave of fashion brands and influencers are leading consumers towards a more environmentally friendly habit. Enter the capsule wardrobe, where the adage of “quality over quantity” is elevated to encourage disposal of low-quality items and investment in seasonless staples.
Cara Bartlett, a former buyer at Rue La La and Saks Fifth Avenue, had a closet full of clothes but constantly felt like she had nothing to wear. In 2016, she launched a Kickstarter campaign to start a capsule wardrobe label. In just one month, she tripled her goal of $30,000, and VETTA Capsule was born.
“We exist to help create a curated option for our customers that they can easily mix and match,” Bartlett said, describing VETTA Capsule’s 5-piece sets—each of which retail for $449—as “starter kits” to a capsule wardrobe. The kits, she reveals, constitute 30% of the company’s sales revenue.
Similarly, Katie Demo and Jay Adams launched a Kickstarter campaign for Brass Clothing in April 2015, raising more than $27,000. The brand sells a 3-piece “Closet Kit,” which comes with a prepaid bag clients can use to send their old clothes in to be recycled.
“Now more than ever, women are working full time, taking care of their families and still wanting to look put together for work, but do not have time to spend worrying about getting dressed,” Demo says. “The Clean Out Bag stems from our desire for women to get rid of clothes in a responsible way and build a better wardrobe.” Based in Boston, the company offers 45-minute in-person appointments at its “studio,” where customers work one-on-one with a Brass team member to build a simpler wardrobe.
Mobile apps are also leveraging the new trend. Cladwell—which raised $3 million in seed funding from 500 Startups, M25, Sovereign’s Capital, and other angel investors—allows users to input their wardrobe items into its database. Similar to Brass Clothing’s “Clean Out Bag,” the company encourages users to reevaluate excess clothing. The app designates a red dot to items that have not been worn in a month, and pulls the daily weather forecast—as well as the user’s planned activities—to generate outfit ideas.
“A [capsule wardrobe] is similar to a crash diet, because it’s breaking the cycle of mass consumption and allowing people to kickstart a better long-term lifestyle,” says the company’s co-founder and CEO Blake Smith. “Cladwell is a guide to that lifestyle: we facilitate capsule wardrobes, but we champion a broader philosophical shift of ‘doing more with less.’”
Consumers are often drawn to capsule wardrobes through social media, where a handful of influencers have made their names—and incomes—in the business of sharing their journeys to a slimmer wardrobe.
After being diagnosed with stage one cervical cancer at the age of 25, Jessica Rose Williams—a UK-based lifestyle blogger—was “stopped in her tracks” and reevaluated the way she was living. “I made a promise to myself that I’d start being more intentional with my life, and after stumbling across minimalism and the freedom this new mindset gave me, I wanted to share it with others,” she says.