An exclusive look into the Encore shopping app from our interview with founder & CEO Omar Azmy
The future of fashion shopping is evolving. And the global pandemic has only accelerated the pace of this evolution. On a recent Tuesday afternoon we sat down with Encore App founder & CEO Omar Azmy to explore the subject.
During our conversation, which has been condensed for publication, we discussed how the growing shift away from fast fashion is shaping the landscape of fashion retail, and what this all means for us as consumers.
To start things off, Apple was an early investor in your first startup, what was that like?
Apple was actually our very first investor. It was a delight — we were incredibly fortunate to have them on board.
I would say what impressed me the most is how quickly they make decisions and how efficiently those decisions translate into action on the ground. This is rather unusual for organizations of Apple’s size. Beyond that, the benefits of having someone with Apple’s market presence as an investor are self-evident.
While we’re on the basics, what inspired the name “Encore”?
Our inspiration came from the performing arts, where a repeat performance, an encore, is given in response to the audience’s applause and call for more. This is what the Encore app delivers. More admiration, smiles, and encores.
The desire to be, look and feel one’s best is as old as humanity itself. It’s an integral element of our psychology. So, the notion that this desire is somehow counter to the ideal of responsible consumption, as it is often portrayed, is not only excessive in my opinion but also sets unrealistic expectations. The key is how do we satisfy our desire in a way that is sensible and mindful of the environment.
Do you believe Instagram has fueled a faster consumer fashion cycle?
Oh, there is no question about it. Not only from the standpoint of eye candy and amplifying our desire to wear the new thing, but also in terms of people’s reluctance to be “seen” wearing the same outfit twice.
Does this explain “Wardrobe Panic,” when everyone’s closets are so full?
The data reveals that the average American experiences ‘wardrobe panic’ about 36 times a year. So, the feeling that you have nothing to wear is real. And widespread. The question is what drives this.
I would argue that fashion is not only an instrument of self-expression but also a form of entertainment. You can only watch a given movie, or listen to a tune, so many times. In much the same way, it is only natural that we can wear a given shirt so many times before growing tired of it. Instagram or not.
Do you agree, then, with the movement against ‘disposable fashion’?
It is well known that fast fashion is responsible for more carbon emissions than all international flights and maritime shipping combined, as the UN recently reported.
But the reality is that fast fashion serves a real need. Fashion is continually evolving to reflect our evolving aesthetic as a society, and fast fashion gives consumers an affordable alternative to the designer original.
The driver here is to give people a sustainable alternative that is equally affordable to ‘throw-away’ fashion. This is the approach which the Encore App takes by making high fashion accessible. On top of this, factoring in the high resale value that high fashion enjoys, the economics become a no-brainer.
In terms of resale, is it realistic that we’ll all start wearing secondhand?
Buying secondhand is definitely part of the solution. But it’s unrealistic to expect everyone to quit buying new clothes and start wearing secondhand clothing only. People will always crave the experience of buying new. And there are those who are turned off by the notion of wearing used clothing.
Reselling is a different story, however. There should be no friction preventing any of us from reselling high-resale value clothes that can easily find a second life in someone else’s wardrobe. This hasn’t traditionally been the case, as only one in five Americans go on to resell the clothes that are just sitting and collecting dust in their closets.
Encore houses some 120 retailers in-app, what was the idea behind this?
We want the benefits of using Encore to be relevant to all. The reality of how we all dress today is that we mix and match key designer pieces with items that are more casual.
So Encore’s retail partnerships include everyone from Urban Outfitters and Madewell to Nordstrom, Gucci, and 24S, the e-commerce platform of LVMH, parent company of Louis Vuitton.
At the heart of the Encore App is an experience where users shop directly from the stores they love, as well as discover new ones, all in one place.
What new things are you guys working on, what can we expect to see?
I’m not at liberty to disclose certain things publicly yet, but there are two initiatives we’re launching at the moment. One involving college sororities and the other relating to personal stylists. On the product side, we will be announcing two new capabilities in the app that center around our mission — to make high resale-value fashion accessible to all in a way that is sustainable.
The Encore app can be downloaded for free in the App Store.