Innovator Spotlight Series: in conversation with Hasna Kourda, Save your wardrobe
Updated: Feb 22
Sustainability is an issue that permeates the fashion industry today and as a result, there’s a growing number of sustainable fashion brands, technologies and new business models that aim to change it for the better. But who are the innovators in the space? Fueled will be speaking to founders that are leading the sustainable fashion movement in a series of interviews called the Innovator Spotlight. Read on and get inspired.
We recently caught up with Hasna Kourda, co-founder and CEO of Save your wardrobe, a mobile application that helps customers seamlessly and effortlessly digitise their wardrobe through Artificial Intelligence. By using online receipts found in emails and auto tagging the clothes captured through the app, the technology learns customers' behaviours and recommends new outfits based on what they own, makes conscious shopping recommendations and suggests creative ways to up-cycle their clothes through third party services in the app (cleaning, alteration, selling, donation, recycling).
Save your wardrobe was founded in 2017 and since then, it's been selected to be part of the Fashion for Good accelerator programme, the Dream Assembly programme by Farfetch and most recently, the 2020 Facebook Accelerator: Commerce.
Hasna is an Economics and Corporate Strategy graduate from Paris Dauphine University and has extensive experience in fashion, working with David Lachapelle and for the Ethical Fashion Forum.
What does sustainability mean to you?
Sustainability to me is being conscious of the limited resources you are using and making sure you find a new purpose for them so you can extend their lifecycle. It is actually something I grew up with and very early on, both my parents and grandparents wanted me to embrace it. Sustainability and circularity were part of their survival as they were born on an island - the island of Djerba, Tunisia - where communication with the mainland was sometimes difficult. This meant many constraints in terms of resources availability and that they had to make do with what they had.
This philosophy also extended to fashion: the way we dressed was always, in a way, conscious. Teaching me to be aware of my use of resources included understanding how a garment is made, how to knit, create the yarn and thread it... I didn’t consider it as anything special and I never labeled it as “sustainability”, until I moved to Europe and became aware of the culture of overconsumption.
Talking about overconsumption, can you tell us more about the problem in the market that you are solving?
The obvious problem is indeed overconsumption and throwaway culture that has an impact on the environment on a global scale. The world now consumes about 80 billion new pieces of clothing every year, and this is 400% more than the amount we consumed just two decades ago. I personally experienced the imports of second-hand clothes from Europe to Tunisia, that were then burnt or buried. Consumers have no idea what happens to their clothes after they give/ throw them away due to the lack of transparency, and ignore the environmental impact of this practice.
There is, however, a new generation of young activists and responsible citizens who don't want to identify with the culture of consumption, so I'd say we are already stepping away from it. Buying something thrifted instead of new is an extended way of vocalising their beliefs and values that I really want to commit to.
Lack of data and little understanding around it is another problem we are tackling at Save your wardrobe. Brands are navigating in a dark space, as they rely only on their own data - if they have the data. Lots of them don't even know what a data lake is, for instance. So that's another problem we would like to solve by helping brands achieve sustainability through data driven initiatives.
What's your vision for Save your wardrobe?
I'm very happy that we have stuck with our vision and have managed to really push for our sustainability agenda. The conversation is finally happening and I hope that in the future we’ll continue to push this. Our vision in the short term is to help service providers currently on the platform with their digital transformation, which is something they struggled with during lockdown due to the closing of their physical shops. Even though dry cleaning is an essential business, they had to close for safety reasons and this unfortunately affected their operations. We had an overwhelming request for support, from automating the pre-booking to quoting on the app for instance. This is something I'm very excited to support! These businesses are still very traditional, and automation would facilitate their operations, with booking taking from days to a couple of seconds/ minutes.
I'm also very excited to join the Facebook Accelerator. In November 2020, after applying to Facebook’s newest program for start-ups and overcoming multiple rounds of elimination, we were chosen to be part of the first cohort of the Commerce program of Facebook Accelerator. Facebook is disrupting the shopping experience and being part of this initiative is a huge deal for an early stage startup like ours. Saying that, I am aware as well that many brands haven't even entered the e-commerce space, let alone social commerce! So this will definitely be another challenge to overcome.
What are your challenges in the market right now?
Raising funds with the aim of streamlining sustainable living was very tough. At the beginning, we had to reject investment offers due to the lack of alignment with our values and mission as we felt that compromising them was not the right thing to do. We thought (and still think) it's extremely important to stick to our values and what we think is right.
The other challenge has been scaling a team in a digital format. It was difficult at first, because you don't get to meet in real life and let's be honest, we are all suffering of Zoom fatigue at this stage. Being a young but very resilient team, I'm proud that we managed to adapt and be agile. We have set up lots of tools to make sure that there isn't any miscommunication or there aren't any lags between the three teams located in three different countries. That set up was tough in the beginning, and I think this new digital format is hard in general for the fashion industry.
Anything else you would like to add?
I would just like to finish off by saying that staying true to your values and what you want to do can be extremely rewarding, like in our case. So don’t be put off by the challenges in your way!
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