Stylebook was created over a decade ago to help people plan their outfits, saving time, money, and headaches. The app is also pushing for more sustainability in the fashion industry. By sharing styling tips on social media, reaching new audiences through various publications, and encouraging customers to get the most out of their existing clothes, Stylebook founder Jess Atkins is using her app to make our closets greener. Check out Stylebook App’s website here. Plus, download the app or find out more about the technology on Instagram.

FH: Can you explain how outfit planning can create more sustainable wardrobes?

JA: The main idea is to use the clothes you already have more, which has many benefits. The first and most obvious is that when you wear what you own, you reduce your consumption, which is good for the planet and helps you save money. When you plan outfits, you always have something good to wear. If you get dressed on the fly, stress and time pressure can block your creativity and make it feel like you don’t like any of the clothes in your closet, triggering you to shop unnecessarily. The other reason is you get to know which clothes you genuinely enjoy wearing because you’re focusing on what you own instead of chasing new clothes to make up for the lack of creativity. This can help you make more thoughtful purchases in the future, improving your wardrobe and avoiding wasteful purchases.

That’s just a small fraction of what Stylebook does, though. The app is designed to help you build a cohesive wardrobe that you can easily mix and match. There are automated stats that make it easy to spot neglected clothes in your closet, you can see cost-per-wear, and you can use it to test potential purchases with what you have. Using the app helps you shift from an acquisition mindset to a creativity mindset. I actually wrote an e-book about it called “The Whole Closet Method!”

FH: How did you decide on the best Stylebook features that appeal to your customers and promote sustainability?

JA: So many different inspirations contributed to Stylebook’s creation! When Bill and I first created Stylebook 11 years ago, there was nothing else like it; we focused on helping people like myself, who didn’t have much of a clothing budget and wanted to build a better wardrobe. My own experiences inspired core features like saving successful outfits so they could be repeated and keeping track of a list of clothes so everything was actually worn. Even though I like clothes, I found getting dressed stressful and difficult, so we developed tools to help me plan what to wear to get dressed effortlessly. When we started the idea, sustainability wasn’t part of the fashion world, and honestly, apps were barely part of that world. It has evolved a lot over the years, and while sustainability wasn’t our initial goal, that’s where we ended up because it turned out some of the same things that help you save money and hone your personal style also help people be more conscious consumers.

FH: What sparked your interest in outfit planning and closet organization?

JA: I started getting interested in closet organization while trying to build a better wardrobe. I always loved clothes, but I struggled with my wardrobe, even while working at one of the world’s top fashion magazine publishing houses. My closet was mismatched, poor quality, and I could never achieve the look I wanted. I was stuck in a cycle of constantly shopping for cheap clothes and blindly copying other people.

Because I worked in fashion, I saw that some editors and other fashionable people were planning their wardrobes and outfits using polaroids. Even my mom had an outfit formula drawing in a notebook from when she was younger! That inspired me to start creating my own system to improve my wardrobe. Looking at it as an organizational challenge made it more manageable.

FH: Having worked in the styling field for over a decade, how have you seen the sector evolve to consider people and the planet?

JA: More people are starting to see the negative impact of unbelievably low clothing prices, which I think is a massive shift from just a few years ago. When fast fashion first became popular in the early 2000’s, I saw it as purely positive – a way to democratize style, which is still true in a way. It gave people like me, who were on a budget, the opportunity to buy affordable clothes that looked similar to pieces in the current season’s runway shows. Back then, I thought that most people, including myself, would supplement their wardrobes with fast fashion until they could buy the real thing; unfortunately, that’s not what happened.

I appreciate that more people can participate in fashion-forward styles. Still, access to affordable clothes has also fueled a throwaway culture where people who could buy better choose to over-consume because it’s easy and cheap. So many people are choosing volume over quality. It has also accelerated the trend cycle and pushed people to wilder styles, like neon purple fur-trimmed cardigans or cow print pants that get dated quickly. While I love distinctive pieces (where would fashion be without joy and creativity?), when they start popping up everywhere, most people get bored and want to move on, creating a wasteful cycle.

In my experience, fast fashion didn’t live up to the initial promise of being a stepping stone to a better wardrobe. In reality, I became dependent on buying cheap stuff, and it quickly ate up my budget. I was constantly replacing what I purchased because the clothes didn’t fit well; the fabrics were uncomfortable, everything I had felt overly trendy and wrong for my actual life. On top of that, I found out through reading books by Elizabeth Cline and watching various documentaries like Made in LA that there’s a steep cost to the environment and workers’ rights. Thankfully consumers are becoming more aware, and a few companies are even starting to make changes like becoming a certified B-Corporations.

FH: What do you think our closets will look like in five years?

JA: I hope that more people begin to see their closet as a long-term collection instead of seeing shopping for disposable clothes as a hobby. This kind of shift will hopefully mean fewer, better-quality purchases. In the luxury market, a few companies are moving towards creating quality timeless pieces that are meant to be with the buyer for many years, like the The Modern Artisan Project created by Yoox. I’ve also noticed online services that repair and maintain clothes like Alterknit and The Cobblers, which can easily extend the life of your favorite items. I actually saved a pair of heels with The Cobblers last month! Having access to services like that also makes buying luxury items more viable because you know they will last. Secondhand shopping also makes buying luxury items more accessible, although I worry that people sometimes still over-consume thrifted pieces.

In terms of digital consumption, I hope virtual fashion doesn’t eclipse real clothes! On the other hand, perhaps that could be the answer for those who want to show off something new on their feed constantly. If you can buy a virtual outfit and “wear” it once that’s 1000% better than wearing a real outfit once, but I still want to feel good in my clothes in real life. I want the fabrics to feel nice and for things to fit well. While I’m definitely not immune to trends, I’m done with chasing trends just for likes.