labor of love

Something different today. Something I had intended to share earlier this year, thought under different circumstances. But things don't always work out the way we intend or hope. And that's okay. And I'm still very proud of what I created, even if it didn't pan out as a profitable enterprise.

Remember when I spoke about a business I was starting? Well, I had what I thought was a fantastic idea. And I still do think it's pretty cool. But there are just too many variables to make it feasible. And so after many months of frustration, of trying to hack my way through those variables, I had to admit it isn't going to happen. Not in its current iteration anyway.

First, some background.

A couple of years ago, inspired by flat-lay collages I saw online, I decided to compile outfits of my own. Over the course of a couple of Red Bull-and-EDM fueled days, I pulled all the clothing out of my closet and arranged it in neat groupings that I photographed on my desk. Nothing revelatory, I know. Lots of people do that, particularly fashion bloggers. But after I'd uploaded all the pics to my phone, I showed a couple of girlfriends, and they both responded the same way: "Awesome. I wish someone would do that for me."

Both of these women are working professionals, and neither would have the time (and maybe not the patience) to do this for themselves. And when one of them said, "Seriously, you could charge people for a service like that," I had the exact same (admittedly dim, because I never think any of my efforts are really all that great) sort of lightbulb moment as I had when someone said I could charge people to redesign their blogs (resulting in Rainy Day Templates). Hmmm. I wonder...

And that's how Trove was born.

Sort of.

Trove wasn't actually born until a couple years later, because I shelved the idea for a very long time before dusting it off to really examine it again. The reason I pulled down off the shelf? Stylebook. If you've never heard of it, Stylebook is an app for visually cataloging your clothing, and easily compiling it into outfits. It's absolutely fantastic and super useful...once you get past the incredibly tiresome task of photographing every. single. item. of. clothing. you. own.

When I discovered Stylebook, I re-shot all of my garments separately. And holy hell was it tedious and time-consuming. But once it was done and I could use the app, it was amazing. So much fun. And I instantly saw that someone could make a business out of doing the grunt work, for professional women who had no inclination to do it for themselves, so that those women could then enjoy the fruits of all that grunt work. I thought about fashion bloggers and stylists, too. Even costume designers. I saw the market for it.

At that stage of the game, I still thought flat lay was the way to go. But that didn't last long. I realized after a few weeks of playing around that I wanted something that would look spectacular. Magazine-quality images. Something visually appealing and fun and interactive.

That's when mannequins came into the picture.

There's not much point in walking you through the process from there, because it's very easy to see where I was going. My idea was to inventory garments one by one styled on an actual mannequin for shape, and under professional lighting for accurate color representation. I would then edit the images to remove the mannequin completely, leaving a "ghosted out" garment. These images could then be used by clients in apps like Stylebook (because by then, other similar apps had emerged onto the market) to easily and quickly create outfits.

Only, it's not as simple as it sounds. Because women and their clothing? Come in lots of different sizes. And you can't put a size 0/2 top on a size 6/8 mannequin, without stretching it out. And here's a fact you might not know, because you haven't spent about a hundred hours in mannequin factories like I have--mannequins don't even come in size 0/2.

And there are a whole other host of insurmountable issues I'm eclipsing. Loads of problems related to dress forms (yep, tried those), mannequin shapes, lighting, the technological obstacles, and much more that I'm skipping over. Bottom line: it is all but impossible to do what I want do to, large scale. I'd need a ton of resources. I'd need a studio where I could have an army of different sized mannequins, plus bins and racks and tables for temporarily storing clothing. I'd need a small team of employees to help with the steaming, the dressing and undressing. If you've never fought to pull a pair of skinny jeans onto a rigid, lifeless mannequin--trust me, you never want to.

And this isn't even touching the subject of editing the images, which I planned to outsource, because OH MY GOD the tediousness of background removal, even with how powerful Photoshop is.

Oh yeah, and the problems of where, how, and how quickly to accomplish the inventory. Would you want some stranger coming in and packing up all of your clothing for a few days? Maybe if you saw how glorious the rewards were...but maybe not.

Also, and perhaps that which is most important: It became glaringly apparent throughout my efforts that I simply do not have the temperament or discipline to work for myself.

Anyway, that was my idea. I got as far as doing my own entire closet for sampling and exampling, and creating a pretty gorgeous website (if I do say so myself). You can see it for yourself here (I'm particularly proud of the copy, so if anything please read the "about" page), but here are a few screenshots, too:

The silver lining that came from this dead end, of course, is that my own wardrobe has been beautifully inventoried, and I can use the Stylebook app exactly how I'd envisioned others using it. And you guys, it is an absolute pleasure. The only way you can fully appreciate how it works is by watching me use it, so I just made this quick, super crappy video just to demonstrate (it keeps timing out here but you should be able to watch it on YouTube):

Again, when Trove still seemed like a viable business idea, I had every intention of making an amazing video that would showcase how cool it is. But yeah. No. Trove is not a viable business idea. Which is a bummer, not the least because it dovetails so well with minimalism and especially capsule wardrobing.

But that was (is) Trove. Defunct pursuit. Abandoned concept. Labor of love.