flow.studio is a cloud-based product development management solution that is designed specifically for the fashion industry. It offers an affordable & contemporary platform to support fashion SMEs throughout the development and production process. Founded in London in 2018 by four partners – Teresa, Chloe, Flo and Ollie, this fashion-tech company provides a framework and an easy to understand taxonomy for companies large and small to track the progress of their collections and individual styles from inception to production in an efficient and sustainable way.
The four co-founders come from fashion, technology and design backgrounds – Teresa is a pattern cutter and seamstress, Flo and Ollie are software developers and Chloe was previously UI/UX Designer at ASOS. Together, they combine their skills, knowledge and experience to address the prevalent issue of inefficient and outdated modes of tracking workflow and product development processes within the fashion industry.
Traditionally, spreadsheets, post-it notes and printouts have been used to track and exchange information on the progress of a collection. At flow.studio, their mission is to improve processes for fashion studios through the use of technology. Flo has experience of implementing work flows in the visual effects industry and noticed that in relative terms, the fashion industry was lagging behind when it came to utilising technology for increased productivity. The partners decided to address the discrepancy they identified through offering their solution – an easy-to-use and affordable industry specific-software to replace the time-consuming manual methods and analogue processes they had previously observed.
flow.studio writes their own software which is fast, modern and visually appealing thanks to Chloe’s designs and Flo and Ollie’s previous experience in platform development. Rather than heavily loaded spreadsheets and notes, their system offers a way of tracking progress of collections that is highly visual, instant and online.
Significantly, the platform provides one hub for all collaborators within a company to access – designer, garment technologist, pattern cutter, studio manager etc., – in order to view the trajectory and history of a collection and individual styles. The collection overview provides all information digitally and replaces the standard spreadsheet format providing information for the entire team where sharing becomes effortless and further assists with project management. Established functionality from other platforms is reinterpreted and integrated to offer familiarity to the user/s such as knowing where to swipe etc. Features include a materials library to organise and capture detailed information on fabrics and trims, and a techpack to record and disseminate important technical information on each style (see: https://getflowstudio.com).
First results have involved the development of a minimum viable fashion-tech product, incorporating key features and a sketch of how the product should work as informed by intelligence gathered through interviews with fashion companies. In March 2020, flow.studio entered their beta phase i.e. the initial testing of their product with beta testers to obtain feedback and insights for further improvements. The plan had been to work ‘hands on’ with multiple designers and visit them in their studios for a short feedback loop – this was rendered impossible by the pandemic and all interface was online. So far, responses to their platform have been very positive and encouraging and the team continue to work on refinements and the development of new features in readiness for their commercial launch next year.
flow.studio are currently running as a private beta with small companies in London improving their foundation so they can adapt quickly after Covid-19 which hit shortly after the launch of their beta programme. The company is a self-funded enterprise and all founders are still working in their day jobs. As of the time of writing, flow.studio has not taken any external investment. In terms of support, they have worked with the DeFINE mentoring programme, who have provided advice on marketing, social media, pitch training and investment readiness. A programme the team have found incredibly valuable to get the right connections and extend their network. They also stress the importance for them of having worked closely with companies i.e. their target customers, to develop their product. Here, dialogues have been affirmative to their potential value as a company and therefore motivated them further.
When asked to summarise the next steps for flow.studio, Teresa highlighted 4 key objectives:
To develop new faster and slicker features and present these to their beta customers
To conclude their beta phase and commercially launch in 2021
To increase their user base
To explore collaboration with universities and exchange ideas with young fashion designers on their platform and tools in preparation for them starting their own fashion startup companies.
On her own personal experiences of starting flow.studio, Teresa confided the shift into fashion-tech from a manual crafts background has been challenging and that tech is a ‘never-ending story’. Previously as a pattern cutter, she has worked with CAD (systems such as Gerber) but now she is involved in a project with a more complex application programming interface (API) and has had to learn new language connected to software development methodology, tech terminology and different workflows etc. She notes that it is thanks to her partners – Flo, Ollie and Chloe and their collaboration that she has been able to solve the problem she identified and implement her ideas in fashion through learning from other industries. In terms of fashion-tech start-ups such as flow.studio, Teresa also notes the importance of ‘staying true to your values’ and of all partners ‘remaining on the same page’ to ensure a successful outcome and positive experience.