• Brooke Roberts-Islam

Meet Michelle: Languages graduate turned coder at fashion startup 'Mode for Me'

The conversation went something like this:

Me. So, you’re a coder? Wow! How did you get into that?

Michelle: I did a free four month free at Founders and Coders.

Me. Oh wow, so are you doing much coding now?

Michelle. Full time, and loving it!

Meet Michelle Garrett, one of the brilliant brains behind ModeForMe, a new fashion crowdfunding platform currently in development on the back of the 54-hour Fashion Startup Weekend event held during London Fashion Week as part of the wider Global Fashion Battle.

Rewind back to London Fashion week; Amidst the chaos of fashion shows and general Soho mayhem; On London’s Southbank there were groups of ambitious and driven technical, creative and business people coming together to pitch and initiate new fashion apps and products, within a 54 hour timeframe. The format is essentially as follows: there’s a big brainstorming session on Friday evening, followed by some mock pitches (during which I proposed an Angry Birds-esque game called Kanye Potato Face – you throw potatoes in Kanye’s seasonal fashion palette at his face and watch Kim’s butt grow as they hit him) followed by real pitches, then the formation of teams. The teams then begin to create a final proposition (throughout Saturday and Sunday) and at the 54th hour on Sunday evening they pitch it to win entry to the final (held in Poland on October 19th ). One such proposition at the end of this incredibly productive weekend was ModeForMe.

Claude Schneider, creator of the ingenious app SmarterQueue, and I.

Michelle, a languages graduate turned coder, tells me that she and her close friend (and developer sidekick) Claire attended the Fashion Startup Weekend to get involved in a project “just for fun”. They’re avid coders and both trained at Founders and Coders on the four month free course, graduating in May and going straight into freelance work as developers. Michelle says she’s getting more offers for freelance work than she can accept and receives daily LinkedIn messages asking if she can take on more work. It’s an inspiring story in itself, and when you add to that the rest of the team’s experience and diverse backgrounds it’s phenomenal to see what a group of creative, business and technical people to build in a matter of hours – especially considering most of them just turned up on the Friday night into session to “see what happens”.

The ModeForMe team consists of Maria, an ex-buyer from Matches and a keen and dynamic entrepreneur; Alex, Ex-Spotify and now a Business Developer at an NGO; Ray and Gigi, Investment Bankers; and Claire and Michelle – coders. Their ModeForMe platform, which was functional at the time of the final pitch already has five fashion designers signed up for the demo phase and allows emerging designers to crowd-fund limited edition production, thereby having the funds up-front to complete production and eliminate the risk for both the designer and manufacturer. Michelle also explains that the team sees ModeForMe as an exciting research tool for designers to understand which of their products show greater demand and where to invest time and energy in development. There is an immense amount of data to be gained by understanding the preferences of customers for certain styles, colours, quantities, so there is a huge potential for industry “intelligence” with this platform too. ModeForMe won the Fashion App battle and are now working solidly to get ModeForMe ready for the final battle in Poland.

The winning team, ModeForMe

Attendees, Fashion Startup Weekend

Michelle has made quite a leap from her previous Tech Marketing role at WonderLuk, where she now works as a developer since completing her coding course. She shows me her recent addition of cool customisation options to the WonderLuk website for their collaboration with designer of 3D printed dress for Dita Von Teese fame, Francis Bitonti. Michelle also tells me about an app she built for a teacher wanting to share assignments with students to complete ‘in app’. There’s also an option for students to give feedback in three words to sum up their feeling about that particular piece of homework. Totes amaze lol!!

Michelle is bursting with creativity and excitement over building ModeForMe from scratch in Java but without the JS backend. I’m baffled and impressed all at once. It’s inspiring to meet someone who launched into a whole new career simply because she was dabbling in website customisation when launching a blog with her friend and became frustrated at not being to create the exact look and functionality she wanted. She taught herself Java online, then took the Code Academy tests before enrolling at Founders and Coders, where she now teaches alongside Claire. It’s a part of giving back to the NFP organisation that empowered them with their new careers.

It’s with a massive burst of energy and enthusiasm we part ways (we have an experiment in the works) and Michelle heads off to sort some code at WonderLuk while I head back to my studio to write. The final pitch happens on October 19th in Poland. Vote 1, ModeForMe!

Images courtesy of Lu Li at Blooming Founders

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