by Jay Garg
I have been called a fashionista.
I have been praised for my refined taste in clothing.
I have been called ahead of my time.
Unfortunately, the only person who’s ever called me these things – is me. When it comes down to it, my sense of fashion at best consists of me knowing what jacket to wear over one of my many free t-shirts.
When we started working on Skirt The Ceiling, a lot of people wondered how this fit with my identity (and Christy tells me people still wonder). I’ve never cared much for clothing. And style has never been very important to me. I never understood why people popped their collars or paid a premium for someone to cut up their jeans, all in the name of style. Out of the goodness of my heart, I’ve always offered my friends a great deal: give me a pair of scissors, and I’m always happy to cut up their jeans for them.
While I don’t think much about fashion, I do spend much of my time thinking about why people behave the way they do. I spend most of my day with my head tilted at 45 degrees, eyes raised towards the sky to ponder the customs of the world. I do this a lot, and I love doing it. I’ve found this habit to be a skill that can actually be applied quite practically when thinking about new products and services.
As we started to work on Skirt The Ceiling, I realized that this part of my background could actually complement my teammates quite well. Fashion was a world they understood far better than I did, but I realized I was a blank canvas and could provide an outsider’s perspective on fashion with no serious preconceptions of how it worked. I’ve had a fair amount of exposure to design thinking and much of the entrepreneurial curriculum at HBS focuses on young businesses and customer discovery. Based on my past experiences and what I’ve learned so far, my strong belief is that having an open mind is one of the best ways to learn about your users since you carry no assumptions with you.
Many of our initial target users might be approaching work fashion with similar openness. As we start with college students who might be preparing for the first jobs of their careers, dressing in business clothes might be quite a mystery for them. Outside my blues, blacks, and grays (these are the only colored clothing I really own) I pretty much know nothing about clothes. But this openness allows me to relate to the most inexperienced of our potential users while serving as a valuable sounding board for my team. I can help make the product more intuitive and erase any assumptions that might be taken for granted in the user experience. And if we can design a product experience that brings me closer to understanding fashion, we will know that we have achieved the near impossible.
One of my many free T-shirts – truely fashionable