“With our company and our growth, we got to the point where we absolutely couldn't keep up with it anymore. When we hit that point, we brought Centric on.”
“It was all very manual. Everything was in spreadsheets or PowerPoint. And there were multiple different locations where information lived, so it was hard to keep track.”
Kaki McGrath, COO at Dudley Stephens describes the situation prior to implementing Centric PLM. She says, “As we grew over the past six years, it became even more complicated because we have more styles and greater quantities, so more planning.”
Today, processes are automated, information is accessible and in one place and there is a way to track eco-friendly materials and vendors. How did Dudley Stephens get to this point?
Based in Greenwich, Connecticut and launched in 2015 by sisters Lauren Stephens, CEO, and Kaki McGrath, COO, Dudley Stephens is a female-founded, family-owned brand that produces apparel made from eco-friendly fleece and other responsible materials. Says Stephens, “The whole concept of our brand was originally to take fleece, a very outdoorsy, athletic fabric, and make it stylish. We grew up in a New England coastal town, spending a lot of time in the water and at the beach. As we became moms we noticed that there was a lack of well-tailored, fleece clothing that fit our lifestyles and still looked fabulous.
With Kaki’s marketing background, my fashion PR background and our mom involved in design, the three of us banded together—we knew we wanted to have a family business. It was really important to us from the start to use recycled fabrics. We found a manufacturing partner locally in Brooklyn. We started small to see if there was a desire for our product.” There was. The company has seen double- and triple-digit growth since its inception.
The pandemic lockdown meant people were at home, and the casual, comfortable styles that Dudley Stephens is known for, fit the mood of the day. Being direct-to-consumer was also a point in their favor, not having to deal with retail closures. Stephens says, “Everyone was home and wanted to be cozy yet still cute for Zoom. We’ve seen really, really tremendous growth because of that.”
McGrath explains that, as with any startup, they made do with spreadsheets, email and PowerPoint for product development. Information lived in multiple different locations, making it difficult to track. Stephens says, “With our company and our growth, we got to the point where we absolutely couldn’t keep up with it anymore. When we hit that point, we brought Centric on.” Indeed, the complexity of the business necessitated a change in product development.
To develop the most efficient workflows, the Centric team interviewed people at Dudley Stephens to find out what their requirements are and how they were currently working. Coupled with Centric’s extensive knowledge of best practices, the processes are formalized and configured in Centric PLM. The Dudley Stephens team then test drives and verifies whether or not the process is working how they need it.
The company was founded with environmental considerations at the forefront. McGrath says, “We started with fleece and we’ve since expanded to eco-jerseys. Using recycled fabrics has been our North Star, the heart of our brand since we began.
We started with some of our signature styles like the Dudley turtleneck; people recognize it from a distance. We also have outerwear and accessories. We’ve expanded our childrenswear collection—we do a mommy and me for little girls and have branched into little boys’ clothes too; I have three boys. We have one men’s style now and we’ll continue to expand that as well.”
Dudley Stephens’ customers appreciate the high eco-standards of the brand. Says Stephens, Our environmental mission is extremely important to our customers. We listen to their feedback.”
To maintain an eco-friendly position, supplier certifications and materials are tracked in Centric. Stephens says, “We have great relationships with our suppliers. They now know us and what we look for and what to present to us. With the current supply chain, and the state of the world, we’ve run into issues daily of delays or cancelations.
We take the position of, ‘Okay, that is not available, what else is out there?’ Our community and customers are expecting more from us, and all brands. They want to know where their products come from, where they’re made, and what they’re made of. As brand owners and founders, it’s important for us to push back on our supply chain. What are the benefits of that, where was it made? And how was it recycled? It’s constant brainstorming and research that we talk about literally day in and day out, and how to remain true to that.”
Stephens explains how they came to release new products. “We were really fortunate from the beginning where our product had such high demand that we would drop it and it would sell out. It became part of our business plan where we’ve now moved to a schedule of dropping something new most Tuesdays.” She continues, “This also plays really well with our recycled fabrics—it sells out, and then we move on to the next. We just fell into it, which was awesome.
Fast forward to where we are today. It’s a balance of producing enough where we don’t have extra inventory to avoid marking things down, but also not miss out on sales by not having sufficient quantities. We have data to assist with projections, and a good read on our community and our customers through social media and direct feedback.” Better inventory planning translates to fewer markdowns and higher margin.
By staying close to the pulse of what their consumers want, the increased speed-to-market, courtesy of Centric PLM, gives Dudley Stephens the means to react in a timely fashion to consumer desires.
PLM makes keeping track of the increasing number of available environmentally friendly fabrics and trim, simple. McGrath says, “Since we launched, eco-friendly materials have grown so much; in the past six, seven years, it’s really taken off. It starts with the consumer’s desire for more responsible fashion, and then trickles up to the manufacturers. We play a big part in making sure that our customers are heard and pressure our manufacturers a little—if there’s a delay with one material, what’s another material that’s similar? What can we do to work around it? There’s so much new science and technology out there leading to new options every day.”
With digitalized processes and all data in a centralized repository, the elimination of manual data re-entry in multiple locations saves time and reduces the human error factor. And as the company grows and new people are brought on, having workflows defined in the system makes onboarding much easier.
Another area that is improved by easy access to information and transparency to product development is decision making. Stephens says, “There are so many decisions to be made and we like to make decisions quickly.” McGrath concurs, “Quick decision-making is so important. We always talk about how we need to be doers, and not just sit and think, because then nothing gets done.”
Having a modern PLM arms users with the tools to make decisions, to be efficient and to make work life easier—also important for young, digital-savvy companies to retain talent.