Designing an intelligible addition for your clothes hanger
In Part 1, we left with an understanding of the design, behavior, and ecosystem around clothes hangers. We also recognized that hangers are just a tiny piece of the puzzle when it comes to clothing, the fashion industry, and the environmental impact they have. However, one statistic stood out to us in particular — the average person in the United States will only use about 18% of their wardrobe 82% of the time. Whereas they think they actually use 39% of their wardrobe.¹ This statistic not only highlights the overconsumption of clothing but also demonstrates that there’s an underlying awareness issue. Curious to see how we could use hangers as an entry point to tackling these two challenges, we decided to explore if there was a way we could expose and influence consumption habits through something as simple as a hanger.
Hang-bits are small accessories for your hangers. They can be snapped on and rotated. The bottommost piece does not turn and has an inner grip lining. It has an arrow to indicate the date. The middle piece denotes the month; the topmost is for the week. You can rotate the Hang-bits to set the date whenever you take off or put back a clothing item from a hanger.
Hang-bits come in different colors, which can be used to classify your wardrobe according to the frequency with which you expect to use items of clothing. For example, jeans could use red Hang-bits to indicate that you would wear them often, while a party dress could use a blue one to suggest that it is for special occasions. This serves two purposes (i) set goals in classifying the frequency of wearing clothes, (ii) realize inconsistencies in the frequency of expected use versus actual.
Now that you’ve understood what Hang-bits do, let’s understand their benefits in the context of their use.
Let’s imagine a buyer decides to purchase a pack of 20 Hang-bits with a pack of 20 hangers. For her, this tiny add-on to her closet is for personal record keeping of when she wore what pants. Hangers become more than just pieces of plastic that hide beneath her clothes. Through Hang-bits, we increase the importance of an otherwise unvalued object, the hanger. She goes on to notice four red Hang-bits amongst the 16 blue ones and starts segregating her closet based on the frequency of wear. Realizing that she has more frequently worn clothes than blue Hang-bits, she decides to donate a few that have gone unworn for long. Understanding her consumption habits and acting on them prides her.
Eventually, she starts challenging herself by increasing the reds and decreasing the blues, making a more significant difference than she knows. She now only purchases clothes based on her needs which are reflected by the number of Hang-bits she owns, thus reducing consumption and waste in the fashion industry.
Using Hang-bits, we look to build a stronger relationship between a person and their wardrobe. Since each hanger will communicate clothing usage information to the owner through a bright visual cue and date, the hanger can now help with decisions about wearing and purchasing. We think that the labor involved in the usage of the product will enhance the experience by increasing awareness. Automating the “last worn tally” using attachable sensors may not build the emotional attachment we hope to create. As time goes on, we hope the Hang-bits can provide more value by facilitating a change in composition for the wardrobe. As users stay away from fast fashion, the visible Hang-bits will continue to show them their progress toward a more sustainable lifestyle. We also realize that people will have their own stories attached to their wardrobes and individual clothes. By increasing the visibility of usage and sustainability, we hope to create space for more conscious individuals to curate a new and lasting wardrobe experience.
Implementation/Details of Design
To make the adoption of Hang-bits as widespread and straightforward as possible, we envision using the same systems and processes currently used to make and distribute hangers. Hang-bits would be made out of plastic, allowing for it to be injection molded and produced cheaply at scale, making it feasible to manufacture in different colors and shapes as the product evolved. It could also be rolled out exclusively through companies like Braiform or Tam Hangers, which are making hangers only out of collected and recycled plastics, and with retailers closing the loop internally (e.g., Zara, Target), with the idea of attracting other retailers with time.
From an implementation standpoint, Hang-bits would come with all hangers in retail stores and could also be purchased in kits by individuals. By having Hang-bits on hangers, retailers could also visibly communicate their commitment to sustainability to their customers.
As consumers increasingly prefer to shop with sustainable brands and are willing to pay more for them,² having Hang-bits could elevate a retailer’s brand perception and attract more customers. Retailers could even devise marketing schemes around Hang-bits where they could, for example, gift customers a set of Hang-bits with the purchase of an item. Lastly, kits with spare parts for the repair of broken Hang-bits would also be available for sale to individuals.
As our professor, Jonathan Chapman, said — “Design is about sticking a pry bar into an existing crack in a space.” We decided to take his advice and stick a hanger into this crack in the fashion industry.
Elisa Arango, Yash Banka, Rishi Bhargava, Tanvi Bihani
Course 49745: Design That Lasts — Jonathan Chapman
Integrated Innovation Institute, Carnegie Mellon University