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View from the Other Side: From Fashion to Tech

Graphic courtesy of Backbone PLM

After logging a combined 30 years in the fashion and apparel industry, we decided it was time for a change. As entrepreneurs and small business owners, we feel extremely lucky to have earned a 360-degree view of the product-to-market lifecycle. From concept to development, through ideation, production, sales and marketing (not to mention owning the budget for all of the above), we witnessed every facet of the process and couldn’t ignore the paradigm shifts taking place. These days, there is increasing demand for shorter lead times, pressure to lower development and retail costs, a soaring increase in competition — largely due to the DTC space — and much more.

Throughout this time, we’ve developed global relationships within every aspect of the industry, including brand owners, designers, retailers, public relations, media, showrooms, distributors, materials suppliers, factories and more. We’ve both had the privilege of running our own brands (Thread Social/Thread Bridesmaids and Lexdray) as well as working alongside various other international brands (Haney, Taylor Stitch, Serena and Lily and Lululemon, to name a few), and we have a thorough understanding of the hurdles brands face everyday.

Today, while tech is transforming fashion at a faster pace than ever, we sit on the other side of the fence. Rather than researching trends, planning for upcoming seasons, designing new collections, sourcing new materials, preparing for trade shows and everything else it takes to launch a new line, we come at the industry from a different angle and new point of view. Our new view has its own hurdles, but the focus is similar. The focus is on developing ways to make the process more seamless, expedited and transparent. The difference is that we are helping hundreds of brands at a time (versus just one of our own).

At Backbone PLM, based in Boulder, Colorado, we work alongside an amazing team that works every day to help apparel and accessories brands get their products to market faster, smarter and with streamlined communication. Still in its early stages, our platform is a modern workflow solution built to house every detail of a brand’s past, current and future products while driving collaboration and clarity along the way. Melissa sits on the front lines as vice president of customer success while Alex directs business development and partnership opportunities. While we miss the creative aspect of designing new products, we thrive on assisting brands in seeing the future of how products are designed and developed. Our brands benefit from our experience and learnings.

Historically, at this time of year, we would be frantically sending emails to factories and suppliers, ensuring our sales samples would be complete and in our hands for New York, Las Vegas and international trade shows. We’d be finalizing line sheets, calculating wholesale and retail pricing, coming up with design ideas for a trade show booth, emailing and re-emailing buyers to book meetings, working alongside our showrooms and international distributors to make sure everyone is on the same page with new product to be shown and making a laundry list of other preparations. To be honest, it’s extremely satisfying not be in this revolving door right now.

Part of our role at Backbone is researching new fashion technology and innovations which impact the market and ultimately find intuitive ways to work together. It’s an exciting role, as I believe the industry needs change. Key fashion tech trends, like 3D visualization design and materials platforms, pattern digitization, body scanning and modern PLMs (product lifecycle management systems), like Backbone, to tie them all together, are hugely increasing a brand’s speed to market while reducing waste and helping them become more sustainable along the way. All of these enhancements help create a more comprehensive, data-driven and transparent supply chain.

With so many years between us in the industry and so many amazingly talented contacts and friends we’ve met along the way, I think we both feel a duty to continue revolutionizing the fashion industry. For an industry that’s given us both so much, it’s our intention to do our part and give back by helping to develop a new approach and ultimately help today’s brands — and those to come.

Melissa and Alex Drayer have more than 30 years of experience in the fashion industry between them. They live in Boulder, Colorado with their two daughters. Melissa holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and Alex from The University of Colorado at Boulder. They can be reached at alex@backboneplm.com or melissa@backboneplm.com.

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