What if your favourite little black dress could talk and tell its story? Or that gorgeous vintage coat you picked up for a song could let you in on the time it stayed up all night in New York?
Well, if it has a Clothes Loop tag you could discover your garment’s hidden history by logging onto the website of the company behind an innovative new scheme and entering its serial number.
Then you could learn not only how and where your favourite togs were made, but also who wore them. And if you wanted to, you could add your own chapter to the story.
RMIT industrial design graduate Rose Duong hopes her project will create a “community of shoppers” who care about the providence of their clothes.
“I am developing a platform for these customers . . . to start engaging with each other,” she said.
“The idea of this marketplace will be mostly social. The system connects people with a common interest.
“You can connect with other fashion lovers who have purchased the same brands.
“The current fashion business model is: we make, we sell, we buy, we wear and we trash it.
“I want to change the way we involve ourselves with fashion. I want to address clothing practices from the tech side, using technology to aid our clothing habits.”
So how does Clothes Loop work? First the clothes designers provide the details of where, when and how their garments were made to Ms Duong who then uploads that information onto the website.
Then when someone who has bought a garment with a Clothes Loop tag logs onto the website and enters the serial number on the tag they can see this information.
They can also add their own details about where they’ve worn the garment. This creates a history of the item that Ms Duong says will add to the story of the clothing.
“More and more consumers want additional information about the designer, the factory where — and when — the item was made before buying,” she said.
RMIT fashion lecturer Jo Cramer, who has researched the ways people buy and discard clothing, believes Ms Duong’s project has promise.
“It’s an exciting development,” Ms Cramer said. “It is really such a simple mechanism but really well resolved. It is making the most of contemporary tech.
“It allows people who own the garment to contribute to the story as well. So each time you scan it and it goes through to the website you can see the stories.
“So, as a garment moves through its lifetime from store to op shop to someone else, you can start to see these garments having an independent life.
“I think this starts to change the relationship between the person who has the garment and the garment itself.”
Kaine Whiteway, the product designer for the luggage and hand bag manufacturer Crumpler Australia, says Clothes Loop “will help to reduce waste and keep products out of landfills”. “For me, it’s connecting the dots of what everyone is trying to do, but in a very concise and clear way,” he said.
“We have a lifetime warranty on our bags and sometimes we get bags back after 20 years of use and it is hard to identify the style, the material, where it was bought, the date and how it’s travelled.
“I would like to get to a point where we could tie all these pieces together. Whether we recycle the bag or repair it and send it back to the consumer.”
Ms Duong came up with the idea when she worked for a fast-fashion company in Melbourne.
“More and more consumers want additional information about the designer, the factory where and when the item was made before buying.” — Rose Duong, the Clothes Loop
“Fast-fashion retailers aim to capture the trends from the catwalk and produce them as quickly as possible to get them to the retail floor,” she said. “I began to notice the rate clothes moved through the store and the number of returns and then I questioned where these garments ended up.
“For example, I have an awesome jumper that I bought about six years ago. It’s got a big turtleneck, shoulder pads and a leather V-neck.
“It’s the Michael Jackson jacket of jumpers. But the tag only says ‘BATSU’; it is untraceable.
“It probably has a really interesting history in terms of its make and its design, and the ‘clothes loop’ is a way of filling in the gaps. And maybe if we supply this information, then maybe people would value things more. That’s the whole concept of this project.”