Is influencer marketing a bubble that’s set to burst? Not if you ask Silas Chou.
The billionaire, whose family founded South Ocean Knitters, a major producer of knitwear in Hong Kong, is investing in Arielle Charnas’ Something Navy brand. Chou is participating in a $10 million funding round with his Vanterra Capital fund, along with Jennifer Fleiss, a co-founder of Rent the Runway, as well as investment and venture funds Box Group, M3 Ventures, Silas Capital and Third Kind Ventures, according to Business of Fashion.
Charnas’ first venture with product came in the fall 2017, as a collaboration with Nordstrom’s in-house private label Treasure & Bond. After that collection was a runaway success, Charnas dropped her first Something Navy collection as part of a licensing deal with Nordstrom in 2018. That licensing deal expires at the end of this year, and Charnas is taking the opportunity to strike out on her own: She’ll be creating a new, independent lifestyle brand.
That brand will be led by Charnas and Matt Scanlan, the co-founder of direct-to-consumer cashmere company Naadam. It will start with apparel sold via ecommerce and eventually expand to accessories, home decor, children’s clothing and beauty, as well as open up brick-and-mortar locations.
Unlike with her Nordstrom deal, where the Seattle-based department store handled the nitty gritty of design, manufacturing and selling the product, Charnas and her team will be responsible for the logistics this time around. They will hire 12-20 employees in the next several months to staff up. Charnas remain the face of the brand, just as she was at Nordstrom, and her Instagram account (with 1.2 million followers) will be an important tool for connecting with customers; she plans to scale back on sponsored content because of that.
Chou’s investment speaks to a major vote of confidence. He has a history of making fashion investments that help catapult designers to stardom: Chou invested in Michael Kors and Tommy Hilfiger in the earlier days of both of their brands. Both shot to global success.
It’s Charnas’ history that has proved her to be a worthy investment. Last year, Nordstrom president Pete Nordstrom called Charnas’ line one of the “most successful launches for any brand” at the store. In fact, it racked up $4 million in sales in just one day, according to Business of Fashion.
However, the risks are also there: Charnas has neither design experience nor any experience handling the details of a clothing line rollout, as Nordstrom has dealt with that for her in the past.
But, for Chou, any potential risks are ones he’s willing to take.