This app is working to combat clothing waste by helping young people in the U.K. find their “clothing twin”…
As awareness surrounding fast fashion’s impact on the environment grows across the globe, Gen Z and Millennials are fueling an eco-friendly movement as they think more deeply about how their shopping habits impact the world. Gen Z and Millennials in the U.S. say climate change is one of the biggest problems their generations face, while 77% of 13-39-year-olds say it’s up to their generation to stop climate change from getting worse, according to YPulse’s sustainability research. Combined with their worries about climate change and the pressure to do something about it, these gens are taking action by changing the products they buy, and secondhand clothing / accessories is the No. 1 type of product they have purchased to become more mindful about their product consumption. Globally, fashion brands are listening, and have been implementing a variety of techniques to take action alongside Gen Z and Millennials—from launching upcycled collections and tapping brands like ThredUp to bring new life to old clothes. YPulse’s fashion and style research covering 13-39-year-olds in Western Europe shows more than half (64%) of young Europeans say they make an effort to buy clothing brands that are sustainable, and secondhand clothing is a fashion trend they’re interested in. Cue Bandi. Founded by sisters Frankie and Nicole Theakston, this U.K.-based fashion app is on a mission to combat fast fashion and clothing waste by helping people find their “clothing twin.” The Bandi App officially launched in October 2021 after spending seven months growing the community via a members-only Facebook group. The concept behind Bandi has been brewing for quite some time, however. Frankie and Nicole grew up swapping clothes with one another when they wanted a wardrobe refresh without the hassle (and environmental impact) of buying a new outfit. After a Morocco trip where Frankie spent a few years and Nicole came to visit, the two found themselves emptying their suitcases to swap clothes just like they did growing up, when Frankie realized how cool it would be if the two found a way to help everyone find their “clothing twin.” Bandi is more than just a clothing app; the sisters are building community with sustainably-minded young people in the U.K. and educating the public on how to fight back against fast fashion’s impact on the environment via Bandi’s app, website, and social media. Bandi frequently shares sustainability tips to their 1K and counting Instagram followers, from education surrounding packaging waste in the U.K., to how to have a green holiday season, and thrifted style inspiration. YPulse talked with Bandi’s co-founder and CEO, Frankie, to learn more about how they’re reaching eco-minded young Europeans:
YPulse: How did Bandi get started, and what inspired you to fight back against the fast fashion industry through Bandi’s model of finding your clothes twin?
Frankie: My sister and I have always had the same style and size, so the first time we moved away from home and we came back together, we would swap clothes with one another and basically have a complete wardrobe clear out—but actually we were just swapping all of our clothes. We also have an older sister who we’ve stolen stuff off of forever, and our mum is very trendy and we all still steal all of her stuff. So, it’s been this family culture of swapping our clothes when we’re tired of ours. Bandi started because we were like, it would be so amazing if everyone had a sister to swap clothing with and I didn’t have to just swap with her, I could swap with whoever. We had the idea of making it like Tinder where people could swipe and find the styles they like and that was it. Then, COVID happened and we didn’t have anything to do so the idea for the app was born.
YPulse: How did Bandi go from a members-only community on Facebook to an app?
Frankie: It happened the other way around. We already had the app planned for seven months, drawn all the pages, tried to set up a bank account during COVID-19 and that was impossible. We were looking for investors and had done a couple of pitches. We had already been seven months into Bandi and were at a complete standstill due to COVID-19 and not being able to open a bank account. [From there,] we were like, let’s use this time positively and to develop proof of concept even more, so we created a members-only Facebook group and it did everything we needed it to do. It completely proved the concept and gave us data and feedback. With the chat feature, people were always messaging each other about it or commenting. We learned so much from the Facebook group and still have loads of people on that group and people are still joining because what we found is, we already released on iOS, and we next want to release on Android. Most of the people on the Facebook group are like, “We want the app! Bring it to Android!”
YPulse: Currently, How many members are in the Facebook group?
Frankie: To be exact, it’s 1,823. Nowadays we don’t accept everyone. We have a couple of questions for people to answer and one of them is “are you okay with us contacting you,” because we want to contact them about the app. And so if people don’t fill out the member questions we don’t always accept them.
YPulse: Who is Bandi intended for?
Frankie: At the moment, we’re U.K.-specific, but our intention is to go all over to Europe, the U.S., Australia. We’ve had an encouraging amount of messages from people all over asking when we’re going to launch in their countries, like Sweden and Italy. Our target is definitely Gen Z and Millennials, female based. [Bandi users] range from 20-35-years-old. We have a couple of older people, a couple of younger, but the majority is Gen Z and Millennials.
YPulse: What does Bandi’s clothes swapping process look like?
Frankie: To get started, you [download the Bandi app] enter name, details, and email to set up an account, and you have to set up your wardrobe. Your account looks like Instagram and [it mimics] the carousel-type vibe. You can see a grid of clothing in your wardrobe, you can have multiple items in one post, and when you add the item you add a photo and it takes you through a checklist of category, location, size, description, etc. It’s around six things you have to add in and everything is very easy. Once you add something you get access to the community, and the community is the Tinder-esque style platform where you have access to everyone on the app…[In the app] you can view clothes listings from other users, say “yes” or “no” to their items by swiping, then much like Tinder, if they already matched with you, you’ll get a “woohoo,” signaling they’ve matched with you. When you’re interested in an item, you can chat with the user and ask questions like “how does this look on?”; “Is it baggy or tight?,” etc. Or, you can just request to swap straight away if you love it that much. Once you request to swap, you both get sent to pay, and once you both pay you move to postage. We’ve given users seven days [to swap]. If you ever want to swap back you can message the person you swapped with and ask, “hey can we swap back?”
YPulse: It’s clear from your website and mission that Bandi is more than just clothes, it’s a place to build community. What types of community building features are available on the Bandi app and website? Do you have plans for more?
Frankie: We do have plans for more. We’re in that phase of collecting what people are interested in and what they’re going to be interested in, and so at the moment, the community-type function is the chat. We also have around 50 ambassadors, so we try to be a lot more inclusive of them by having ambassador events where we all hop together Zoom and ask, “how can we be more sustainable?”; “how can we get people to join Bandi?”; “why did you join Bandi?” We’re trying to involve our original swappers as much as possible because they’ve helped Bandi grow as much as we have. We originally wanted to have [clothes] swapping parties, but then because of COVID-19 we haven’t been able to do that…which is obviously a real shame but maybe one day we can get back to it. We’re also running a “Reuse-olutions” campaign in January where me and my sister are pledging to not buy anything new and choosing to swap for all of January. We’re introducing an app pop-up, so when you’re swiping through the community you get this message that says “Join Bandi’s Reusolutions. Make your Pledge.” When you make a pledge, [Bandi] will get in contact with you and ask “what are you doing for the pledge?”; “how can we help?” We want people’s voices to come out because if they’re on the app, then their values align with [Bandi’s] ethos. We just did The Great Christmas Jumper Swap, so we were encouraging everyone on the app to upload their Christmas jumper and swap with someone else instead of buying a new Christmas jumper.
YPulse: Is awareness surrounding fast fashion’s impact on the environment growing in the U.K.?
Frankie: I would say so, definitely. I mean, obviously I’m interested in it so I pay attention to stuff like that but I think it’s definitely growing. Even the fact that people are interested in swapping [on Bandi] and interest in Depop is growing massively. [Secondhand clothing swapping] is definitely something people are becoming more aware of…There’s not so much a stigma anymore.
YPulse: How is Bandi educating its community about how fast fashion impacts the environment / how consumers can buy more sustainably?
Frankie: We do a lot of blog [posts], about two a month. We try to do them topically, like how to have a more sustainable Halloween or Christmas. We try to stay on-topic or season, but also our blogs are a mix between educational and tips on how to be more sustainable. We do the same things in our newsletters by having tips for a sustainable Halloween, and then break it down. Instead of trying to overly bombard, we try to keep it fun and on-brand and not focus too heavily on the downsides of sustainability. We come at everything with an educational, slash, this is how you can make it fun.
YPulse: How is Bandi using social media to connect with young Europeans? Do you have plans to partner with any influencers/content creators?
Frankie: We post consistently [on Instagram and Facebook], we’re always posting tips. We try to grab people’s attention with memes. Just trying to get in front of people as much as we can. We also just did a 12 days of swapping on Instagram Live. We tried to reach out to other sustainably-minded people that really align with us. A lot of them are on Bandi, which is awesome. We’ve tried to connect with influencers, but everybody we want is from the sustainable angle…The one thing I’ve learned is there really isn’t a template for how to use social media as a business. Everybody has a different audience and peak time to post. The world of social media has become a monster and trying to tame it as a two-month-old startup isn’t going to happen, so we’ve taken the mindset of figuring it out as we go and learning exactly what it is that works well for Bandi.
YPulse: What’s next for Bandi?
Frankie: Come the new year, we’re definitely going to start looking at our next round of funding and have three months of data to look at user feedback—what do they want to see, what do we want to see, and add some new features in. We are also working on getting on Android devices and launching to other countries. Probably somewhere in Europe or the U.S. would be our next target country / area. But it’s all dependent on what we can raise and how quickly. We’re also getting familiar with TikTok and want to create more videos that bring out me and my sister’s personalities. We have an ad running on Instagram that is going really well, and [shows a video of] my sister and I just putting on some clothes, dancing around to the music, and swapping clothes. It was the best feedback we’ve had ever, and it was literally just me and my sister dancing around, laughing, and being ourselves.
Frankie and Nicole Theakston are the co-founders of Bandi. Frankie manages the business side of Bandi as CEO, and Nicole is the Creative Director, managing the design, look, and overall feel of the app and its social channels. Nicole also oversees Bandi’s social media team. As Frankie puts it, they are each other’s “yin and yang,” growing up around the same friend groups, sharing the same style, all while complimenting each other in all aspects of building Bandi.