Dress-making sisters use tech to be a cut above
You wouldn’t normally associate blockchain technology, mobile body scanning and artificial intelligence with the world of fashion but siblings Laura and Rachel Beattie are used to rewriting the rule book.
The fashion tech entrepreneurs are behind the Careaux dress, which comes in a top and bottom half, connected by a concealed zip. It’s completely unlike conventional dresses which are limited to certain body types.
The pair have just hit their first target of £10,000 on the online funding platform Kickstarter as they bid to fuse the worlds of fashion with technology.
Described as ethical womenswear the sisters intend to use blockchain to introduce complete transparency in the supply chain and create ‘virtual fitting rooms’ so customers can use VR headsets to see what the different dress combinations look like before they order.
Their achievements are all the remarkable as Laura has Cystic Fibrosis and is awaiting a lung transplant.
Rachel told BusinesCloud: “Sometimes the word technology we think only applies to computers, apps and AI. Whereas, technology is also about using scientific thinking and principles to solve problems.”
Rachel had first had the idea for what is now the Careaux dress when she was 14 whilst studying for her GCSEs.
The founders said that their grandma, who was a dressmaker had always inspired them by reiterating the importance of quality, fit and tailoring each outfit to the individual.
With the seeds of an idea, Rachel would go on to study not fashion but maths, at the University of Manchester.
Graduating in 2017 with a Masters, she is currently on a graduate scheme and her expertise have breathed new life into the idea.
“The dresses are made in the traditional way but they are based on the maths topic of combinatorics (the number of different ways you can combine things). For example, the number of ways you could combine Careaux tops and Careaux skirts to make Careaux dresses, which works out to be a number of dresses equals the number of tops times the number of skirts.”
The maths continues, as she explains that over 90 per cent of women need a different size top and bottom, making returns an issue for women and retailers and contribute to the £140m of clothing which ends up in a landfill in the UK alone because they are unused.
After deciding to make the idea a reality, it would take a few years for the sisters to make sure that it would actually work, they said.
“With many ‘no’s’ along the way it was, at times, quite difficult to develop - we had a vision, but we needed to take it from idea to prototype,” said Laura.
The company took to Kickstarter to introduce the idea to the world, but the new entrepreneurs were at first too nervous to share their page and received their first donation from their mum.
“Since then we’ve been lucky enough and feel extremely grateful to have had incredible support from truly amazing and extremely kind people including three pledges for the complete Careaux collection,” said Laura.
The company’s Kickstarter has already surpassed its first target and is still taking pledges.
Laura’s Cystic Fibrosis means she requires regular hospital appointments and earlier this year the sisters were included in the prestigious Northern Power Women list.
In Rachel’s final year at university, she was accepted onto the Natwest Entrepreneurial Spark Programme, and was at E-Spark for nine months whilst developing Careaux and the pair also completed The Princes Trust Enterprise Programme.
They now say they are now planning to build an online eCommerce store to officially launch later this year and will be making the first limited edition run of the pre-orders of the Careaux dresses following their Kickstarter campaign.
They plan to integrate blockchain technology into their website, to provide the customer with a verified and also real time update on the status and location of their item in the supply chain.
Clients will be able to customise their orders on the website.
“We are so excited to deliver and see the first collection,” said Laura.
They are also advocates for sharing knowledge, having both worked as primary school tutors for The Tutor Trust, a charity which tackles educational inequality.
As entrepreneurs, they are just as open to sharing knowledge.
“When we do workshops in schools, we speak about how we can use maths and STEM to solve very real-world problems in our case for women, people and the planet that have been left unsolved,” said Rachel.
Now a member of Tech Manchester, the new entrepreneurs are excited to continue their love of education.
“Meeting [Tech Manchester Executive Director] Trish Keating has been brilliant and she has introduced us to Tech Manchester and all the fantastic things they are doing,” said Laura.
“We attended the mentor session back in March last year, which was amazing and we will be signing up as mentees for the mentoring programme this year which we can’t wait for!”