© Ask Quinn
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About Ask Quinn

  • Founders: Kateryna Tymoshchuk, Willem Overbosch, Anna Peliushkevych, Richard van 't Hoenderdaal
  • Founded in: 2022
  • Employees: -
  • Money raised: 10.000
  • Ultimate goal: Ask Quinn wants to provide a platform that helps fashion consumers make better, more sustainable choices

Fast fashion is everywhere. In every mall, in almost every wardrobe and, as a matter of fact, in a lot of landfills. According to Earth.org, of the 100 billion single garments produced every year, an astonishing 92 million tonnes end up in dumps all over the world. In the West, the majority of people contributes to the problem, as shopping both online and in stores is incentivized by cheap price tags and a desire to always get new, disposable stuff, The Atlantic reports.

Ask Quinn, a pre-seed start-up founded and led by CEO and Milan’s IED fashion graduate Kateryna Tymoshchuk, has made it its mission to help people give more than a mindless thought to their online shopping. Tymoschchuk, along with three other team members, have built a Google Chrome extension powered by a reinforcement learning based AI, which, when inquired by the user, provides more sustainable alternatives to any given garment.

In short, the AI recognises a product, evaluates it according to parameters like biodegradability and ethicality, and links another option in case such parameters are not satisfactory enough. Right now, they have over 1.2 million options that the AI can work with.  Also, the process it is rather seamless: once the extension is installed, it is always available, with no need for intermediary steps and additional clicks.

Ask Quinn analyzes a garment’s properties in terms of sustainability and suggests better options.
© Ask Quinn

Making better choices is not always easy

“We aim to help consumers make better and more conscious choices about fashion.” says 28-years-old Tymoshchuk, “It’s not easy to make better choices right now. Even though we talk about sustainable fashion, once you’re in a shop, whether that’s online or in person, you see all these labels and tags saying different things, with a lot of greenwashing, as well as disinformation. Market research,” she continues “tells us that people do want to make those better choices, but sometimes it is really complicated. We want to make sustainable choices easy.”

Initially, the Ask Quinn team thought about calculating the carbon footprint for the production of the displayed garments, exposing numbers and data about the impact of producing clothes. However, they realised that many people would have probably not paid attention to or understood numerical values appearing on their screen. So, they decided to stick with the aforementioned parameters and a straightforward suggestion for a better option in terms of sustainability.

‘Hope for a sustainable future in fashion’

But what exactly is sustainability? “In the last three or four years,” Tymoshchuk says. “People have been talking about sustainability a lot, but we don’t really have a strict definition for it. That makes everything more complex, but despite all looking very pessimistic, there is a lot of hope. There a lots of ideas inspiring a sustainable future and a lot of people wanting to be a part of the change.”

On the same topic, Willem Overbosch, Ask Quinn’s CBDO (Chief Business and Development Officer), believes that sustainability means different things to different people. He says that with their start-up, they want to help people undergo a behavioural change in their approach to shopping, which can be driven by highlighting truly sustainable fashion brands.

A long term endavor

The company is in talks with many of these brands. Overbosch: “We see an opportunity for a business model there, because the sustainable retailers are looking for a place to tell their story and they, of course, want traffic on their websites. It is the simplicity of the model that makes it a small step with a big impact.”

In the future, they say they would like to see everyone, even in physical shops, with the Ask Quinn program up and running on their phone, checking for indicators of sustainability of the products they are about to buy. But that will take some time, investment and effort. 

As of now, in terms of investment, the company has received ten thousand euro from the Fashion For Change EU accelerator grant. With the grant, they have also entered a network of potential investors, but for now they’re being cautious. “We need a proof of concept before we go to the next round”, Overbosch says. They need to think in the long term, Tymoshchuk adds. “It’s short term thinking that led us to this crisis in fashion all over the world.”