The Future is Finery: Designing for Female Empowerment

If we learned one thing in 2018, it's that the future is female. Women have a lot to say and a lot to accomplish, but they still have to get dressed in the morning like everyone else. And with the average woman spending seventeen minutes every morning deciding what to wear and only wearing twenty to thirty percent of what she already owns, it's clear that the daily sartorial struggle is all too real.

For journalist turned Finery co-founder, Whitney Casey, this struggle wasn't just a female empowerment issue—this was a sustainability issue, too. She was determined to help women reclaim their power and reduce their consumer footprint, one outfit at a time.

As the world's first "Wardrobe Operating System," Finery leverages the clothes women already own to help them determine what to keep, what to toss, how to style, and what to buy to maximize confidence and minimize waste.

A picture of Finery's Wishlist feature that gives shopping sugguestions based on what's already in a woman's closet

With some initial success and a loyal fanbase, Whitney and her co-founder, Brooklyn Decker, brought MetaLab into the mix to level up their MVP. 

There were ideas to test and questions to answer: Who was the Finery user? What was she inspired by? How did she feel about her personal style? What were the pain points that hurt her most? Where did she spend her time? 

As with many projects I've worked on at MetaLab, the insights garnered from the research phase can often impact both the product's DNA and our approach to the design. Finery was no exception. Whitney and Brooklyn originally decided to create Finery based on the assumption that once women had a better way of tracking what was in their closets, they'd have no trouble styling outfits themselves.

Finery's homepage pulls fashion inspiration from Instagram

Their working theory was that if they could provide women with an app that got their digital inventory off the ground, completing and making use of said inventory would be the easy part.

After combing through interviews and over four hundred responses to our user survey, we found that this was not the case. For the existing user base, simply creating an inventory of their closet wasn't enough; our target woman was desperate for a tool that would help fill in the gaps in her wardrobe while providing style assistance and inspiration for those days when her own fashion sense was falling short. 

Whitney's past life as a reporter—and her eagerness to do whatever it took to solve the true pain point—made her an ideal collaborator with our team. Her belief was that "you can't make a good product without users and without really being in touch with what they want," and it was her on-the-street approach to research and discovery that helped validate assumptions and refine the Finery product from the beginning. She even tapped her local cookie dough café for the lowdown on what women wanted, helping to shape the research team's key personas.

Our collaborative efforts led us to develop a clear sense of the Finery woman: relying on her phone for style inspiration, with a closet full of clothes, a solid sense of style, and a desire to be more organized and intentional with her clothing choices.

Once we clarified how to focus the product's core functionality and on whom, we turned our attention to how to reach her. When over seventy-five percent of women we spoke to said they'd prefer using an app over a browser, it was clear that our best bet was to focus the app experience on iOS and responsive desktop. 

From there began a ten-week wireframe phase, during which the founders—and their extensive network of well-informed female influencers—contributed invaluable input to shape the brand into one that felt fresh, refined, and truly met the needs of the end user.

The geometric shapes in Finery's branding are a metaphor for the limitless options of a woman's closet

The geometric shapes and bright colors in the resulting visual design system were inspired by the limitless outfit possibilities in a woman's closet.  The way her brain pieces these outfits together; seasons change and styles come and go, so the goal was to echo the potential for versatility and dynamism in every woman's wardrobe.

We wanted to empower women to dress with confidence while also ensuring that Finery became a habitual source of inspiration and support.

Our goal was to design an experience that was both functional and aspirational; we wanted to empower women to dress with confidence while also ensuring that Finery became a habitual source of inspiration and support.

Here's how we did it:

Make it smart

The app can sync with your email to create a catalog of purchased items to add to your closet, making it easier to mix and match your outfits. It uses machine learning to identify gaps in your capsule wardrobe and makes suggestions for how to complete the look. The more it learns about your personal style, the more useful your digitized wardrobe becomes.

Make it sticky

An image of Finery's reminder that a user only has 7 days left to return shoes she recently purchased online

To reinforce Finery as the destination for daily style assistance, the app sends useful, actionable push notifications that inform and inspire. Something on your Wishlist just go on sale? You'll be the first to know. Have something that needs returning? Finery's got your back, letting you know when the return policy window is ending.

Make it social

Sometimes, it takes a village to find an outfit. Finery connects with your social networks (think: Instagram) for examples of how other people have styled things you own for inspiration. But beyond the tech itself, Finery was designed with creating community top of mind, at every touchpoint.

Each interaction with the brand should leave its users feeling seen, heard, and connected to a kind of global sisterhood, one that includes everyone from Chrissy Teigen and Serena Williams (real-life Finery fans and users!) to your own circle of friends. By celebrating women and their individual styles through social media, blog posts, and community events, Whitney and Brooklyn wanted to make it clear that female empowerment was always en vogue.

Make it fun

A snapshot of Finery's ui that shows the weather for the day

In addition to helping women get out of their own way and onto world domination, Finery was, in part, about helping women enjoy getting dressed again. And a big part of achieving that meant creating a brand personality that made you feel like one of the girls.

Taking cues from personable brands like Glossier, Outside Voices, and Soulcycle, we developed Finery's voice and tone to be one that was both confident and kind, playful and patient. Through routine in-app messages or unexpected moments of delight, Finery is like having your best girlfriend in your proverbial closet corner, infusing tiny bits of joy into your daily routine.

It was never just about the clothes—it was about helping women conserve energy—both their own and the planet's.

What I loved most about working on Finery was that it was never just about the clothes. It was about helping women conserve energy—both their own and the planet's. About the idea that you don't have to buy more to be more, and that feeling better in the skin (and clothing) you're in is a powerful victory, every day.

A fashion app may not be the likeliest candidate for changing the world, but I've certainly given my "back rack" more of a fighting chance. I also think twice before purchasing new clothes for my daughter, because I want to encourage her to find creative inspiration from within. The future is most certainly, fashionably, female.