• Internationals start clothing app

    Swapping your wardrobe

    Sometimes, your neighbour has clothes that are beyond awesome. And he doesn't care about them, but you do. Robin, Florian and their friends started DarpDecade: an app that brings Tinder to your closet. 

    in short

    Darpdecade is a start-up run by international students. It’s ‘Tinder for closets’.

    The students developed an app to swap clothes.

    They also want to inspire people to deal responsibly with their clothes.

    They need around 250 to 300 users in one city for the app to be effective. Hopefully, after Groningen, more cities will follow.

    The app will be ready for download in December.

    full version

    Reading time: 6 min. (1,111 words)

    During his exchange semester in Tallinn, Estonia, Robin Balser was broke. One evening, he was sitting in a bar and sipping on a gin and tonic when he noticed the jacket the guy on the bar stool next to him was wearing.

    He wanted that jacket.

    So, he just asked to swap the denim jacket for his drink. The guy agreed, and Robin was the owner of a ‘new’ jacket. The idea of ‘Tinder for closets’ was born. Over the past year, the idea has evolved into DarpDecade, a start-up which is run by a team of international students in Groningen.

    DarpDecade  – supposedly from the Latin word darpum, which means ‘beyond awesome’ – tries to intervene in the ‘fast fashion’ culture, by asking people to swap their perfectly good clothes rather than throwing them away. So far, they have been organizing swap events, but an app should soon make swapping even easier.

    Evangelist of the concept

    DarpDecade is meant to fill the need for an effective place to swap clothes, since Facebook groups such as For Sale in Groningen are overrun by users. ‘You won’t even find what you’re looking for in those groups because they are so fast-moving’, says German student Florian Wenzel, an evangelist of the brand and creative concept manager for the start-up.

    Robin started this concept on his own, but after he was infected with a tropical disease for a few months during the summer, he saw the need for a bigger team to give him a hand.

    Now, the core team, based in Groningen, consists of five people. Florian, who shares a room and his clothes with Robin, joined the team in September 2014. He came from Germany to Groningen three years ago in order to study International Business at the RUG. He will receive his bachelor’s diploma in January 2015 after completing a Sports Science minor. He sees DarpDecade as a great activity in addition to his studies and is convinced that the concept can work.

    His own clothes show his dedication to the cause: Florian’s go-to winter outfit is a patterned cardigan which he bought in a second-hand Soviet Union store in Tallinn for four euros, a blue shirt left to him by a friend who went to India, a jacket from eBay, and shoes from the vintage store Stardust.

    Cheap clothes are expensive

    ‘Oh, and I sinned: I got my pants from Bershka’, he adds jokingly. But one day, those pants will most likely be swapped for another clothing item.

    Although Florian comes in contact with fashion every day, he does not consider himself a trendsetter. For him, it’s about trying to live up to his great-grandma’s philosophy: ‘I can’t afford to buy cheap clothes.’

    Namely, he’d rather invest in high quality items which last him a while. Products from popular and cheap clothing chains often only last two washes and are then thrown away, the 24-year-old says. When you add it all up, cheap clothes are, in the long run, more expensive than high quality clothes.

    With an infinite closet accessible through mobile phones, the DarpDecade community is able to directly find what they are looking for, he says. But most importantly, ‘we’d like to inspire people to deal responsibly with their clothes.’

    ‘I can’t afford to buy cheap clothes.’

    According to Goud Goed, a recycling company, 18 to 25 tons of clothes are thrown away every week in Groningen alone. Florian insists that DarpDecade doesn’t want to moralize. ‘We’re not in the position to tell people what to do, we just want to inspire them.’

    Moreover, they want to bring a community together in order to create fun stories, such as Robin’s gin and tonic trade.

    Looking for ambassadors

    For the app to be used effectively in one city, it needs approximately 250 to 300 people to sign up. As such, Florian is looking for ambassadors who will spread the idea in several cities. How the ambassador motivates people to participate is up to them. But first, they’ll focus on Groningen.

    Providing that succeeds, they will try to extend ‘Tinder for closets’ to other cities, not only in the Netherlands but also in the UK and Germany: Bristol, London, Berlin and Leipzig are on their agenda. In order to grow, Robin and Florian are currently attending several start-up competitions and events to pitch their idea. ‘We’re not looking for money investors at the moment, but for investors who are really enthusiastic about the idea and who can provide us with a network and contacts.’

    Inspire differently

    One challenge Florian and the DarpDecade team have to face is that the concept is based on trust. So far, they have had to rely on the kindness of the people – namely, that they won’t bring destroyed or dirty clothes to the swap events. ‘We are still working on a solution for that. The users can possibly rate or report others on the app.’

    It’s a risk, but Florian has faith. ‘I support our idea 100 percent,’ he says. He believes that the app launch in December will be a success. ‘And if people don’t like our idea, we have to inspire them differently.’

    How does Darpdecade work?

    You swipe to the left on your smartphone to dislike and you swipe right to like. That sounds kind of like Tinder where you can try to find your next date, right? Soon, you can do the same to find your new favourite clothing item with the app ‘DarpDecade’.

    When two people ‘match’ – meaning both users like one item of each other’s clothing  – they can chat and arrange a meeting to swap ‘darp’ clothes. The app will launch in the beginning of December. Most importantly: it’s free.

    The start-up business asks people to swap their clothes which they no longer want but are still in good condition. That way, people will receive a new clothing item, clean out their closets, and avoid producing waste.

    How to get involved

    The app is still in the testing phase, but a beta version of it will be shown at the Let’s Gro inspiration festival on the 22 of November. DarpDecade will use the festival to find some testers for the beta version of the app.

    The team also offers an offline experience: they will be creating a Groninger community closet at the festival. The DarpDecade team invites people to figure out what clothes they actually wear by switching all of their hangers in their closets backwards.

    Whenever they wear something, they have to replace the hangers the other way around. Participants are asked to bring those clothes still hanging in the original position to the Groninger Community Closet at the festival to start a swap event.