Interview by Marija Butkovic @MarijaButkovic
Hasna Kourda is the co-founder and CEO of Save Your Wardrobe. She has a background in Economics with a focus on how to optimise finite resources when creating wealth. She always had a strong interest in fashion both the design and the business aspects and is very much familiar with the challenges the fashion industry is facing and she always wanted to contribute with a solution. She comes from a family of entrepreneurs. She grew up with the entrepreneurial mindset and learnt as much as she could when she used to spend summers working in the family business. Hasna volunteered at the Ethical Fashion Forum and worked in retail for a luxury brand where she found out that most of her clients didn’t know or forgot what they had in their wardrobe, or didn’t know how to style a particular item so they stop wearing it. She saw the opportunity to find a more efficient way to make the most of one’s wardrobe and that’s how the idea of Save Your Wardrobe was born.
How did you get into fashion tech?
I have had an interest in fashion for as long as I remember. Through my education in Economics on how to optimise finite resources when creating wealth, we kept a close attention to new technologies and breakthroughs. I remember working on how digital strategies in retail could disrupt the value chain with the use of NFC or RFID. Not only through a better knowledge of inventory but also on what happens once the clothes are sold. This was seven years ago and unfortunately little has been done in fashion. So after I graduated and had some retail experience I thought I might give those ideas a shot and here I am launching Save Your Wardrobe.There are so many fields in fashion that needs to be thought from a different perspective and I truly believe that new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, AR/VR and mixed reality will open exciting opportunities.
What is the idea behind Save Your Wardrobe and how did you come up with it? When did you start with that business, how did you start and do you have other members in your team?
When I was helping a luxury brand opening their flagship store in London, I have noticed that many clients didn’t know what they had in their wardrobe. I remember one client coming twice the same week to the store forgetting that she already bought the same shirt in the same size and same colour just few days before. I pitched the idea of a digital wardrobe to my husband. He was a CTO in a start up at the time. He came up with his tech knowledge from a completely different industry that we now are applying to fashion. We then conducted some market research interviewing women and men on their wardrobe management behaviour. We found out that shopping takes an important part in their routine. However they weren’t aware of the several ways to extend the life of a garment or how to properly take care of it.
Also from a personal experience, I always had many ideas of customisation for an old fouta or other clothes I didn’t wear anymore and that I wasn’t ready to part with. That’s how I thought about an app that offers services related to wardrobe management with trustworthy service providers. We are now two co-founders with a team of developers, a part time iOS developer and an UX designer.
How long did it take you to be where you are now?
It was fairly quick to be honest. Two years ago, I took advantage of my maternity leave to think about how I wanted to shape Save Your Wardrobe and to do some market research. Last summer we had the chance to meet with Matthew Drinkwater, Head of the Fashion Innovation Agency from the London College of Fashion and get the market validation. A couple of weeks later we registered the company, got into two accelerators and raised a first round of investment. We are very close to the launch of our app. So stay tuned for that or sign up to our beta to be the first one to know - https://www.saveyourwardrobe.com/betaaccess/
What was the biggest obstacle?
Storytelling was our biggest challenge when we started pitching the idea of Save Your Wardrobe. It was nice when people compared us to Clueless the movie or to a personal stylist but we are actually much more than that. We want to promote through the app a healthier relationship to our clothes. We give you access to an ecosystem of services around your clothes as a way to upcycle and extend their life. But what makes us different is also our approach. Fashion is also part of our identity. We dress to feel part of a community, to feel empowered or to express ourselves. We are taking all these aspects and deliver an app that knows you and progresses with you.
What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in the niche you are in? How about being a female founder / entrepreneur?
It is very exciting to be a female entrepreneur now. There is a powerful and ambitious community of women who empower and support each other. I am very proud to be part of the movement and help path the way for younger women to build a more inclusive industry. Otherwise stereotypes are frustrating. For some interlocutors a women in fashion have to be girly, superficial and playful but nothing serious or disruptive. Being an entrepreneur is another question. There are many challenges along the way and as an entrepreneur you need to have a clear vision and stay focused in order to achieve it. The fashion industry is fairly saturated making it harder to run a startup. However, there is definitely a shift on how we consume fashion and how the industry works.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
I am very proud to rally people around our mission. We have been working hard on finding an efficient solution to tackle the challenge of sustainability and traceability in the fashion industry. We have built Save Your Wardrobe around the belief that we can disrupt the fashion consumption by giving our users a tool to manage their wardrobe effortlessly and mindfully. From a personal point of view, I am a proud mother of a two year old son and it is important to me to be able to run a business without compromising on my work-life balance.
What are your projects you are currently working on?
We are working at the moment on our UX Design. We aim at being a lifestyle app promoting a healthier interaction with clothes and by accompanying our users in their morning routine and on important moments of their life. Simultaneously, we are building a recommendation engine to help our users with AI generated outfits based on what they already own. You have certainly already heard that we only wear 20% of our wardrobe. Our challenge at Save Your Wardrobe is to increase that figure or to find ways to repurpose the 80% of clothes we don’t wear. Either by restyling, selling or donating them through our app.
Is #WomenInTech movement important to you and if yes, why?
I believe tech is a great enabler. Tech for the sake of using tech can be sterile. But with the great creative thinking we women have, we can reach new levels. I have a very close friend who changed drastically her life just by learning how to code. Her career took off and she is happier now than ever. She is very ambitious and I look forward to see where her abilities are taking her. It is also very important to educate young girls that they are as much able as young boys in a traditionally men focused field. Giving them female role models in tech they can aspire to be, is as much important than anything else.
What will be the key trends in the fashion tech industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
Unfortunately fashion is very slow to adopt technologies unless they are for logistic purposes. However we are already seeing two big trends being applied to fashion:
Artificial Intelligence - the usage of data and artificial intelligence models is bringing better products recommendations to customers but also size and shape guidance to reduce returns. Augmented and mixed reality will be changing the way we shop online but also in store. The collaboration between the designer Steventai, ILMxLAB and the Fashion Innovation Agency at the London Fashion Week earlier this year was impressive and I look forward to see more event like this one.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs out there?
First I would say dream big and be ambitious! Have a clear vision and build the right strategy/route to bring it to life. Resilience is also a key asset to face the ups and downs of running a startup as a founder. Then I would say networking and surrounding yourself with the right people. There are more and more events run for female entrepreneurs. Pick the most relevant for you and pitch your idea as much as you can.
Who are your 3 inspirational women in fashion tech?
Carmen Busquets is a Venezuelan entrepreneur and investor. Not only she is championing the fashion tech world, she also promotes sustainability in Fashion. She has founded the non-profit sustainability organisation OMINA and is co hosting its sustainability summit in costa rica which second edition is taking place in June 2018.
Natalie Massenet is the founder of Net-a-Porter. She succeeded with her e-commerce venture when other bigger groups have failed in the late 2000s. She is now non executive co chairman at Farfetch which is considered the unicorn of fashion tech.
Rachel Arthur is an award winning journalist, co-founder of Fashion and Mash and the Chief Intelligence Officer at The Current. I have been admiring her extensive fashion tech knowledge for a while now. I am very impressed by her analytical thinking and her vision for the future of fashion.
Instagram: Save Your Wardrobe
Facebook: Save Your Wardrobe
Linkedin: Hasna Kourda
Meet Hasna at our upcoming event - Next Wave Fashion Tech, London 25 April!
This interview was conducted by Marija Butkovic, Digital Marketing and PR strategist, founder and CEO of Women of Wearables and co-founder of Kisha Smart Umbrella. She regularly writes and speaks on topics of wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT, entrepreneurship and diversity. Visit marijabutkovic.co.uk or follow Marija on Twitter @MarijaButkovic @Women_Wearables @GetKisha.