InSight: Inciting Sustainability in the Fashion Industry
By Noa Ferman, Jaela Field, Kyler Gray
Fast fashion is the industry of rapidly manufacturing clothes in high volumes, often at the expense of quality. Its impact is detrimental: the industry accounts for 20% of the world’s water waste1, and clothing factories produce more emissions than the global plane travel and shipping industry combined. Social media, specifically fashion influencers, promote the increased purchasing of fast fashion through partnerships with fast-fashion brands and promotion of ever-changing fashion trends. The largest contributing demographic to fast fashion is women aged 18–241. Through our research, we found that many individuals in this group are conscious of the negative impacts of fast fashion and are interested in being more sustainable, but they lack tools to find sustainable items to purchase and to understand what their personal impact is. They also expressed appreciation for some aspects of fashion on social media, namely reviews attesting to the quality of certain products, and aesthetic fashion inspiration.
We wanted to create a solution that addresses the challenges in shopping sustainably that users experienced while incorporating the positive aspects of fashion on social media that users love. A tool that increases transparency related to environmental impact and creates an interactive, information rich, somewhat gamified way for users to make more sustainable choices. A space where users can easily see the quality of items, can learn about the negative impact of some fashion choices and positive alternatives, and can do so with a product that appreciates the value of aesthetics and favoring self expression as the social media fashion world does.
From this vision, InSight was born. An app with a marketplace that compiles the best sustainable options across brands, individual item quality and sustainability rankings, purchase tracking, and analytics on the environmental impact of each user’s purchases. With these tools users can make informed decisions, work towards their goals, and participate in fashion sustainably.
Refining Our Solution
Once we felt confident in our ideated solution, we wanted to get some real user feedback about its feasibility and concept. To test our solution, we built a paper prototype of our app. Paper prototypes are low fidelity which allows us to explore the best flow for completing our two main tasks: learning about sustainable impact, and finding sustainable alternatives. Our initial prototype supported learning about your sustainable impact through the home and impact page; the home page displayed general impact information, and the impact page delved deeper into the user’s impact (with the option to look at specific contributing factors). We supported our second task, finding sustainable alternatives with our marketplace page that features ranking and descriptions of sustainability and quality. We also had plans for a closet page, where users could view their purchase history, but hadn’t flushed this out in our paper prototype stage yet. Below is our initial paper prototype!
After completing the initial prototype, we conducted usability testing. This involved showing our prototype to three prime users, giving them tasks, and observing their instinctive interactions with the app. The two tasks we assessed were the ability to find a sustainable tank top under $30, and to understand the environmental impact of the user’s Nike purchases. Through this process, we noticed three main problems:
- The home page confused users; it was unclear what it represented with regards to global or individual trends.
- The insights given on the impact page were confusing: What is the unit? What does percent down mean?
- Our users did not understand our ratings in the marketplace based on the leaf system alone.
We took this feedback, and made direct improvements to our UI; we made the home page a place where users can learn about current trends and sustainable fashion news, we made our impact page more readable, with clearer metrics, and we simplified our ratings and added a page where users can learn about how we rate. Paper prototyping and usability testing helped us learn what worked and didn’t work about our solution! Below is our final paper prototype!
From paper prototyping to the digital mockup, the core of our app stayed the same. Below, we walk through the final mockup to show how our primary tasks are supported. You can also look through our interactive design on Figma!
Task 1: Researching and finding sustainable clothing to purchase while online shopping “Can you find a sustainable and affordable tank top to buy?”
From the home page, the user clicks the shopping bag icon to navigate to the market place where they see different suggestions of categories of sustainable items to shop from.
In the search bar they enter “tank top.”
They could use the filter pane to narrow down their search by filtering on price and sustainability ranking.
Selecting the top option brings the user to a detailed view of the item including a sustainability ranking of the item and a quality ranking based on user reviews.
If the user wants more information about the sustainability and quality rankings, they can click the many “learn more” icons to go to the “How We Rate” page for more information.
The user completes the purchase on the external site gets a confirmation notification.
Clicking on the notification takes them to their purchases page where they can see their new and previous purchases.
Task 2: Learning about your fashion impact, successes, and struggles “Can you find where to learn about the CO2 impact of your personal purchases from the last year?”
From the home page, the user clicks the bar chart icon to navigate to the Impact page.
On the impact page they see some analytics pertaining to their recent purchases.
At the top of the page there is a button selected signifying that the data shown is from the last month. Choosing the “Annual” selection instead allows them to see their impact over the last year.
As you can see, our final mock-up took into account the feedback we had gotten in usability testing; we redesigned our home and impact page, we fleshed out the marketplace to include options and descriptions of how we rate, and more. We kept the spirit of our app the same, paying more attention to clarity, exterior consistency, and our user’s feedback.
Further, the style decisions in our mockup were very intentional. We paid critical attention to detail, including care in color choice, alignment, minimalism, and consistency. As you can see, our app features green tones, which are associated with sustainability. Further, our app is easy to visually parse thanks to our careful attention to alignment and minimalist style. Lastly, we maintain internal consistency by using similar shapes, type fonts, and tones throughout our design. The style and patterns in color, typography, and organization are also consistent with other mobile apps, which makes our app easy to learn. In our initial mockup, we paid close attention to these decisions and more. After feedback on our mock-up from peers, we have maintained this design for its minimalism, aesthetic, and learnability.
Our team identified that our users lacked a tool to quickly learn about sustainable fashion options, and make quick sustainable purchases. Our app was created with our user’s needs in mind, and thus tackles this exact gap in the market. By helping our users learn about sustainable options, and learn about the impact their purchases make, we are excited to help our generation break away from fast fashion. InSight helps build better habits for our users, for our generation, and for our planet.
- Cohen, M. (n.d.). Segment and sell to Gen Y: 10 ways younger and older Millennials shop differently. npd. Retrieved October 10, 2020 from https://www.npd.com/wps/portal/npd/us/news/tips-trends-takeaways/10-ways-youngerand-older-millennials-shop-differently.
- “The Environmental Impact of the Fast Fashion Industry: Infographic & Stats”. SANVT, SANVT, 8 Nov. 2022, https://us.sanvt.com/blogs/journal/environmental-impact-of-fast-fashion-infographic?shpxid=85e13d05-aa70-4382-b132-bab28b1d697a.