Seth Porges and his friend Wray Serna sat in her apartment in Brooklyn. Wray was getting ready for a trip to San Francisco and Seth was there to keep her company as she packed. As Wray, a fashion consultant and apparel designer, chose the outfits she’d take with her on the trip, she put each on and photographed herself wearing them. She’d developed her own organizational system for planning out her travel clothing agenda. Having never seen such a process before and curious, Seth started asking questions.
“What I learned was that this process wasn’t unique to her,” said Seth. “Lots of her friends did this, too. And beyond that, people all over the world. But there was no good mobile product that was designed specifically to help people photograph and catalog their wardrobes.”
Seth, a successful technology journalist who’d been pitched myriad tech products throughout his career and learned to critically assess a product’s potential through the eyes of its users, immediately saw an opportunity to productize Wray’s process. The two set to work on Cloth right away.
The original iteration of Cloth, created in 2012, was a photo app designed to allow people to catalog their favorite outfits. As Seth says, “a modest app that did one thing and did it well.” So well, in fact, that in short order the app had hundreds of thousands of users, critical acclaim and a stellar 4.5 average rating in the iTunes store.
“The original Cloth solved a problem for lots of people,” said Seth. “People were already doing what Cloth did. They were already taking photos of their favorite outfits, but those photos got lost in their iTunes camera rolls amid photos of everything else. There was no way to organize them and find them later. Cloth didn’t try to change people’s behavior, it just provided utility.”
Transforming the product, creating utility through communications
When the team set out to reimagine Cloth earlier this year, they honed in on that utility and explored how they could make the app even more useful. Throughout their process, they continued coming back to three things: collaboration, discovery and search. All three areas unlocked in the relaunch of the app by adding just two basic functions with Layer: photo sharing and chat.
“We added these communication features to Cloth with Layer and instantly it was a different product,” said Seth. “It’s now both a way for people to catalog their closets and organize their clothing, but also a chat platform centered around the activity of getting dressed, choosing fashion.”
“We looked at other, popular chat platforms and focused on teasing out contextual value specific to fashion and getting dressed that simply wasn’t possible with other chat apps,” he continued.
The team’s most pleasant surprise since building and rolling out the new Cloth? The app is connecting people globally and allowing people to discover looks from around the world. Users can search for what people are wearing by clothing category, or by city. Seth says it’s poised to fill a massive void in street style search, and this is the natural behavior early users have shown.
According to Seth, in early testing they’ve seen an array of user profiles. On one end of the spectrum is private, where users stay on the sidelines and find Cloth to be strictly an excellent tool to browse for fashion inspiration, much like how people use Pinterest for home decor or entertaining ideas. In the middle of the spectrum are people who want to share photos of outfits with their close friends and get advice. And at the other end of the spectrum are people who enjoy sharing photos of their outfits broadly and publicly.
“People can really use Cloth however they want. You can step into it anywhere on the spectrum,” he said. “There’s utility here for everyone who gets dressed every day.”
As for choosing the service to power the native chat and photo sharing in the app, Seth says they found Layer quickly on a recommendation from an industry friend and looked no further.
“Putting such complex and intricate chat functionality into our first release wouldn’t even have been considered, but because of Layer we were able to build a feature-rich first release that feels like a complete product,” said Seth.
“Getting dressed is a real world behavior. Chat and photo sharing are online behaviors,” said Seth. “Cloth is an app that now bridges the two and builds on how people are already using fashion and mobile together. This app wouldn’t be what it is if it weren’t for Layer.”