“The data is all really easy to manipulate to give you the perfect report that your executive team is looking for.”
“Our product data was scattered all over the place. It ranged from Excel spreadsheets to Google Sheets to random binders of printed pieces of paper with little sketches and dates on them. It was really hard to manage.”
Kalin Mowry, Director of Production and Development at Frankies Bikinis describes the state of product development prior to PLM. Using spreadsheets and email wasn’t ideal for such a fast-growing company.
Founded by Francesca Aiello, who hails from Malibu, Frankies is based in Venice, California. Aiello grew up on the beach and in 2012, began her mission to create the perfect bikini after her mother encouraged her to have swimsuits custom made.
Soon, she was designing bikinis for friends and gained even more momentum when she began to showcase her swimsuit designs on Instagram. After creating two collections, Francesca made her Miami Swim Week debut in 2014, making her the youngest designer ever to do so.
Francesca Aiello’s designs are sported by supermodels and celebrities including Gigi and Bella Hadid, Hailey Bieber, and Kylie and Kendall Jenner. Mowry enthuses, “Just recently, JLo was seen in our swimwear, which is huge for me because I grew up admiring her so much!”
She continues, “Frankies has created the most perfect silhouettes for any customer, any age, to feel sexy and confident and be able to wear these fun, flirty prints at the beach. People get stopped and asked ‘who makes that swimsuit?”
The brand has evolved into a beach lifestyle brand, expanding product offerings to include ready-to-wear clothing, footwear and beauty. The company produces their products in Los Angeles and South and Central America. Frankies Bikinis designs can be found in select retail boutiques nationwide and online at their website.
Mowry brings extensive experience in product development and production, having worked for mid-sized or startup companies. Upon joining Frankies, one of her primary goals was to move all of the design and development in-house. “Prior, we were working with third party contractors, and the lead times were up to eight weeks. From previous experience I knew that that could be minimized to four.”
She built the case for getting PLM and building her team, simultaneously. “Not only did we need a great design and development group, we needed a system to track and accelerate it. The spreadsheets and basically all of the archaic ways of tracking weren’t really suitable for how quickly we were growing,” says Mowry.
“In 2020 our business increased by 70%—I would say about 300 SKUs. With that rapid increase, it was even more challenging to track the design and development that went into those new styles. That was when we raised the flag and said that we can’t use spreadsheets for this anymore. Centric was the solution.”
To get to that point, the team at Frankies Bikinis reviewed several PLM providers, but decided on Centric PLM because of its out-of-the-box configurability and the ability to meet their current and future needs. Mowry states, “We chose Centric because we wanted a long-term partner whose solution can grow and expand as we do. Having all the data at our fingertips will make it easy to share documents and calendars with other departments, making the process extremely streamlined and cohesive.”
Centric has made its way into multiple facets of the company. Says Mowry, “It’s being utilized, I would say, in every design development opportunity that we possibly can use it. We concept and mood board initially with Francesca who is the creative director, and then from there it goes to the development team where SKU creation, CAD, line sheets happen.
We use the bill of materials to determine what our cost is going to be as well. So that then helps us integrate with our ERP system. We use PLM when setting retails and wholesales and strategizing on our margins.”
Tech pack creation takes up a significant amount of time and effort in any fashion company. Centric PLM facilitates this task. Mowry explains, “Another amazing attribute is the tech pack feature. This is a tool that has saved us a lot of time because you can essentially upload a template, and it’ll populate all of the pieces that go into a garment and then you’re able to update from there.
Like if the construction is single needle or double needle, all of your points of measure… We have found that it’s easier on our technical team to approve and reject a sample from there and then quickly download the PDF and send those comments, rather than batch-sending Microsoft Excel tech packs.”
Mowry describes the benefits of being able to easily pull together different reports in PLM. “Our COO loves a good report, and our creative director really loves visuals. I’m able to pull a data driven report for the COO based on SKU counts, coverages—whether it’s minimal, mid or full coverage—I’m able to pull by colorways and product offerings within that colorway. I can even pull by category.
My creative director loves that we pull all of the CADs out and basically showcase the line to her that way, and she can bring merchandise that she wants or drop bodies from there, and it’s very simple and quick. “The data is all really easy to manipulate to give you the perfect report that your executive team is looking for”.
The Adobe Illustrator plugin allows the designers to continue to work in the environment where they are comfortable.
For example, if you’re changing the width of a strap on a dress or you want to add a hook to a neck band instead of a tie, you can update it in Illustrator, click ‘save’ and then it pushes it through to Centric and updates that CAD as well. It saves you a lot of these little time-consuming tasks that really add up during the day—having to save the CAD to Illustrator and then download it, and upload it into the line sheet as well as ERP. So, many, many hours are saved with that feature.”
Mowry says, “Besides creating your style, your sketch, your prints or colorways and manage the merchandising side of the business, PLM also helps tremendously when it comes to tracking lead times and making sure that everybody’s hitting their deadlines. There is a great feature in Centric, where it can ping team members and remind them of their upcoming due dates for the week, the month, what milestones they’re looking to hit.
This feature has made me feel like less of a micromanager which has been amazing, and then just seeing the results when it comes to getting protos in, getting samples delivered on time and getting tech packs or production calendar approved.
“Our whole team has just been singing the praises of Centric because of the pain points of tracking something on multiple spreadsheets and then not having it align or some of the information is misrepresented. Having one place where essentially the truth resides, has been a tremendous help for the team and I know that everybody has just been super grateful for this product.”