Archive Layer Case Study

The concept:

archive layer was an online shopping site that scrapes the internet for vintage designer “archive” fashion. The site scrapes over 50 niche online boutiques daily, allowing users to shop, search, and filter across the scattered ecosystem.

The team: 

- Jeff, the mastermind behind the concept who realized that archive fashion was scattered across the internet with no easy way to browse across boutiques. Jeff leads the full stack development of the site as well as  the editorial section.

- Travis, the python wizard who leads the development of the scraping tool that provides users with a birds-eye-view of archive fashion in near real time. Travis also acts as a liason between the site and the boutique owners.

- Kenny, the creative director and lead designer who handles all things visual for the platform — from branding, identity, socials, as well as UI/UX design.  I work in tandem with Jeff and Travis who translate the graphic ideas to deployment. 

The design process:

Jeff, a fellow fashion-obsessed coder, reached out to me at thebeginning of quarantine with a problem: why is it so hard to shop for archive clothing?  Physical archive stores are often appointment-only showrooms in Los Angeles, New York, Tokyo, London, and Paris. Their online counterparts are equally discreet, with an exclusive, “if you know, you know” allure similar to the clothes they sell. 

We banded together with Travis, another fashion-obsessed coder, and realized that we could apply our CS, fashion, and design backgrounds to create a tool to make the space easier to browse, while making it more accessible in the process.

Jeff and Travis set out on crafting the python scripts while I started designing the brand identity. Originally the placeholder instagram handle, “archive layer” was one of those prototype names that simply stuck.

Ultimately, we loved the geometric layered symbol, along with the clean san serif typeface crafted in “degular” by Ohno Type Co that also became the typeface used on the site. 

Drawing inspiration from the “layer” concept of creating data slices of the archive fashion scene, the geometric logo also inspired a geometric, minimal, grid-based identity.

This early mockup for the homepage above eventually became the live homepage through the incredible coding skills of Jeff and Travis! They not only were able to bring this aesthetic to the web, but were also able to even debug my terminal so I could access the git and add a little bit of JC/CSS/HTML as well on my end. The terminal is a scary place.

We then turned my mockups of a grid based shopping page fed by the scraper to life below:

Through feedback from archive boutique owners, we added a shopping cart feature as well as a pop up modal to access a gallery of images for each product — shout out to Travis for expanding the scraper to collect a more robust information architecture!

Through discussing with the owners that the site features, we realized that these curators and highly influential tastemakers are largely anonymous. The team decided to take a stab at editorial content to spotlight the archive store owners that truly push this subculture forward.

Through the editorial process, we realized that the scraper and site were in the unique position of providing a birds-eye-view of the space through data. Early social media posts of data visualizations proved to be far more popular than any other post, and we decided to publish a data driven report on the “State of Archive.”

We uncovered some fascinating insights:
1. Japanese designers make up the 5 most stocked designers across all archive stores.

2. There are lots of ways to misspell Comme des Garçons:
  • "comme des garçons"
  • "comme des garçon"
  • "comme des garcons"
  • "comme des garcon"
  • "comme de garcons"
  • "comme de garcon"
  • "cdg"
  • "comme d"

3. Raf Simons is the most expensive archive brand on average across all stores (skewed by the infamously expensive Riot! Bomber Jacket.)

4. Archive stores are highly curated, with item count topping off at just above 300 pieces.

Next steps:

Moving forward, we hope to expand archive layer from a passion project to the premiere place to discover archive fashion, get inspired by unique garments, and learn more about the tastemakers who set the stage — making the ecosystem more accessible in the process. We also hope to make the site viable — with the potential for partnerships from new vendors, featured content, featured items, affiliate commisions, and more.