Northern Playground was founded in 2014, and is run by Jo, Camilla, Anine and Marita right down the street from our offices. Their vision is to reduce the world's clothing production and consumption. They know that producing clothes in a ‘sustainable way’ only reduces the products emission by ~10%, and that the closest thing to sustainability is owning fewer and better garments. That's why we helped develop a digital interface and business model to change the textile industry.
We first got to know Northern Playground back in January 2020 when we challenged their brief to stabilise their Woo-commerce site. After building both Dagens and Woolit, we were confident that a headless e-commerce platform and CMS, together with a react frontend, would be the best fit for a business with their ambitions. Northern Playground agreed and we used two months to completely transform their rigid system over to a flexible, tested, and scalable shop. By using Centra for e-commerce, Sanity for content, and Gatsby for serverless rendering, we created a fast and secure website with a great SEO. This transformation resulted in a 300% increase in sales and gave Northern Playground the confidence to change their model from B2B to D2C.
After the successful rebuild, Northern Playground was ready to take the next step in changing the industry. They were granted funds from Innovation Norway to develop the D2C model of the future. The model integrates customers in both the design- and decision phase of all products. By basing production on known facts rather than assumptions, Northern Playground aimed to defeat the biggest environmental embarrassment of the manufacturing process – overproduction. In order to do so we had to change the digital interface from a traditional web store, to a community with a web store. A small team of two designers and developers packed their stuff and moved down the street – ready to pursue the vision of selling more and less products.
This would be the biggest project in the history of Northern Playground. A project this size involves a lot of complexity and uncertainty. From experience we knew that the best way to handle such a hefty undertaking is to do hypothesis driven experiments from the get go, and turn those uncertainties into certainties. We set up one digital and one physical community-group to test our hypothesis. With the headless CMS and e-commerce platform as our foundation, we could swiftly validate, or discard our hypotheses, and release one feature at a time. This gave us the possibility to iterate and optimize the design based on real customer patterns and feedback – while at the same time writing new features. This, in combination with a tight knit team, expert-knowledge from our advisor and Kickstarter founder Charles Adler, and the flexible tech-stack we were able to have the entire interface live in just 5 months.
The new interface integrated the D2C business model directly into the web store. Products now had four different stages: A design phase where customers can pitch and improve ideas. A decision phase where proposed products are validated through reservations. Within the project we have launched and filled the number of reservations for one such product. This product goes through a production phase where it's produced and sold simultaneously – before it enters the phase of a permanent product, in stock. In all these phases customers can give feedback, share know-how, and help create as few and long lasting products as possible. Northern Playground is with their new site, the only clothing company we know of, with such a transparent and collaborative process.
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