Comfort clothing and athleisure aren’t going anywhere, even post-pandemic (whenever that may be), and Feat Clothing is ready to capitalize on a growing market.
Founded in 2015 by Taylor Offer and Parker Burr, Feat last year did just under $10 million in sales, the founders said. This year, Offer and Burr expect to at least double sales and, in a few years’ time, see the brand competitive with Lululemon, which counted 2019 revenue of $4 billion.
“With the growing athleisure market, our team and our product, we’re pretty confident we can get to that size in five years,” Offer said, sounding as though roughly 40,000 percent growth is something easy. “The next two to three years we’ll be in hyper-growth mode, then it’s about becoming a household name, then on from there.”
Despite a “great bump” last year related to the coronavirus pandemic and stay-at-home orders putting an end to office dress, Feat’s sales actually came in a range of plan, albeit on the high end. Offer and Burr see their growth as “sustainable” and said the company is profitable and entirely self-funded.
Eyes on becoming the next major athleisure brand is not all youthful enthusiasm (Offer is 27 and Burr a “just-turned” 28). The duo cite ample market research finding that global sales of athleisure, already estimated in 2020 at $350 billion, will double in the next seven years or so. But getting to the size of Lululemon will take some doing.
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Burr sees the apparel business in general as one with “unlimited upside” and he and Offer have already spent almost a decade working in apparel production, albeit on a smaller scale. The duo met in an entrepreneurship class at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, having both started particularly collegiate businesses on their own. Offer was producing custom lacrosse uniforms and Burr was making custom T-shirts for campus fraternities and sororities, doing close to $1 million in sales, he said. They joined forces to make graphic socks, selling 20,000 pairs in their first year. That led Burr to factories in China, where he developed a proprietary “blanket blend” fabric and a hoodie was made about two years ago, launching Feat Clothing as it is today.
“Everyone wears hoodies, but when we asked, ‘What’s your favorite brand?’ the only name people could come up with was maybe Champion,” Burr said. “So we saw the opportunity to tackle the hoodie.”
Feat started out using influencer marketing to drum up sales, in part because it was all Offer and Burr could afford, and it’s become core to the brand’s paid marketing efforts and one of its biggest expenses. But the duo get their network of influencer partners to test out products and instead of just offering them a series of paid posts, Feat allows them to fully design product capsules, if they like. Offer, who has close to 160,000 followers on Instagram, says simply of Feat’s use of influencers: “We speak the same language.”
Still, neither Offer nor Burr is willing to credit the strength of Feat’s sales to influencer marketing alone.
“I wish there was a silver bullet to becoming the next biggest athleisure brand,” Burr said. “There’s no one key, we’re working all of them at once.”
“We’ve had points where an influencer would help us sell hundreds of thousands of dollars in product, but the biggest growth has come from people,” Offer added. “When people get the product, they touch and feel it and tell their friends, who buy more.”
Feat currently ships between 10,000 and 20,000 orders a month out of Los Angeles. In total, the brand has about 20 employees, a majority women, with a core team of five, in disparate locations, along with a manufacturing partner in China and a logistics partner in the U.S.
“We’ve got our operations extremely efficient,” Offer said.
The brand has slowly expanded beyond the hoodie, adding only a pullover and a jogger for both men and women, and recently a short for men. But more styles are coming this year, as more product in the hands of more people is required to “dominate athleisure as a whole,” as Burr defined Feat’s ambition. And the brand is planning to get more sustainable. It’s set to be using 70 percent recycled polyester by the end of 2021, with other sustainable fabric developments in the works, along with a partnership with Carbonfund to offset at least a portion of the pollution Feat creates by manufacturing products in China, which are then shipped to L.A.
Feat’s current direct-to-consumer model is going to remain core to the brand’s operations, at least for now, despite Offer and Burr saying they’ve been approached in the past year “by every major retailer,” all of which have increased offerings of athleisure during the pandemic. They’re also hesitant to get into owned physical retail, which a number of online-only brands, like Everlane and Glossier, turned to a few years ago in order to amplify growth efforts, only to be undone by the pandemic.
“We’re not really into opening random stores,” Burr said. “Our primary focus is on d-to-c and there’s so much room to grow there.”
Raising outside capital is something else many other d-to-c brands have done but Feat is not very interested in. Offer admitted to “being approached” by certain venture capital and growth equity firms, but he didn’t seem too keen on the idea of taking outside investment. Not yet, anyway.
“We like being able to control our own destiny,” Offer said.
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