Castanea Partners has taken a majority stake in Aurora Brands, the owner of Jay Strongwater and MacKenzie-Childs.Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.This investment marks the first for Ron Frasch, who, in February, became chief operating officer of Castanea and now will join Aurora Brands’ board. The former president and chief merchandising officer at Saks Fifth Avenue was hired to assist Brian Knez and Rob Smith, the founders of Castanea, in identifying new investment opportunities. Frasch’s focus is on the luxury space, which includes apparel, accessories, footwear and jewelry.Castanea will partner with the Aurora Brands management team, led by Lee Feldman and Howard Cohen. As partners in Twin Lakes Capital, they led the acquisition of MacKenzie-Childs, a home furnishings and personal accessories brand, in 2008, and Jay Strongwater, a home and personal accessories brand, in 2011; they have driven significant growth in both brands.“The principals [of Castanea] have a long history of building great brands,” said Feldman. “We’ve experienced very dramatic growth [since acquiring both brands], and we really feel there’s a lot of growth ahead of us.” He noted that, in order to reach their goals, Castanea was the right partner. He declined to reveal both brands’ current sales volume, although MacKenzie-Childs is the larger of the two.“Howard and Lee are these amazing guys,” said Frasch. “They’re supersmart and have done a fantastic job with a beautiful brand that had been damaged. They reorganized and restrategized MacKenzie-Childs,” said Frasch. He sees his involvement on the board “as an engaged role.” He will work with both MacKenzie-Childs and Strongwater in developing a strategy for future growth and investment, including branding components and commercial strategy. “I will help them with the big decisions they have to make,” said Frasch.He noted that, when he was doing his due diligence and visited MacKenzie-Childs’ headquarters this summer in Aurora, N.Y., he witnessed 1,000 people camping out, waiting in line for the company’s annual four-day barn sale. He was impressed by the customer loyalty for the MacKenzie-Childs products.Steve Berg, partner at Castanea, told WWD he was attracted to “how distinctive the brands are and how loyal the customer following they both enjoy.” He said both brands are doing very well and “are growing nicely.” He saw an opportunity to expand internationally and increase the U.S. business. “We don’t want to lose what’s made them special,” he said.Known for its picture frames, boxes, pins, ornaments, compacts, figurines and American craftsmanship, Strongwater’s products are made of pewter, enamel, metal and crystal. Strongwater is distributed in luxury department stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus; independent retailers, and through its direct-to-consumer business. Feldman said he looks to international expansion and new product categories for Strongwater. “We’re just beginning to scratch the surface in home and personal products and have a long way to go,” he said.MacKenzie-Childs, which makes hand-painted ceramics, dinnerware, tableware, personal accessories, home decor and glassware, has a multichannel sales presence, including direct-to-consumer business, wholesale distribution in luxury department stores and independent home retailers, and three branded retail stores. Feldman noted that MacKenzie-Childs was first acquired as a tabletop business and has evolved into a “real lifestyle business.” He noted strong business in holiday decor, kids and babies, personal accessories, jewelry and bags. Feldman said Frasch’s involvement “will be invaluable.”“He’s had a lot of experience growing brands, and he’s a great merchant who understands assortments,” he said. Castanea is a private equity firm that invests between $15 million and $75 million of equity in consumer brands and marketing services companies. Its current portfolio includes Drybar, Donald J. Pliner and Ippolita. Castanea is currently investing from its third fund, a $500 million fund that targets companies with enterprise values of up to $250 million.Financo served as the exclusive financial adviser to Aurora Brands.
To celebrate Pride 2018, @themarcjacobs released the #GratefulNotHateful campaign, a social media initiative aimed at extending Pride beyond the parade. Inspired by Jacobs’ everyday outlook, the campaign features Jacobs along with a group of models and social media stars who are members and supporters of the LGBT community, all seen wearing @marcbeauty’s Highliner Gel Eye Crayons in colors of the rainbow. Head to our Instagram stories to see close-ups of the liner. #wwdbeauty
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About last night: @marycharteris and @adwoaaboah hit up Hyde Park for the Serpentine Galleries’ annual summer party held in partnership with @chanelofficial. Head to WWD.com to see more photos. #wwdfashion
“This is Paris, my first show. I’m all about democracy. If some kid shows up, flew from New Jersey to just be around, let’s get him a seat.” — @virgilabloh tells WWD’s @jdiderich ahead of his first show for @louisvuitton men’s. (📸: @alfredo_piola ) #wwdmens #virgilabloh #louisvuitton
“Kate Spade was a true fashion icon who brought joy to the lives of women around the world, and inspired women to live life to the fullest. We are dedicated to carrying on her legacy,” said Anna Bakst, brand president and chief executive officer of @katespadeny. The Kate Spade Foundation announced that it will be donating $1 million to suicide prevention and mental health awareness in tribute to the recent death of Kate Spade. Read more on WWD.com. #wwdnews (📷: @chinseephoto)
A first look at @virgilabloh’s sneakers for @louisvuitton. Abloh spoke to WWD about his debut collection for Louis Vuitton, creating @kendalljenner’s #metgala outfit and redefining the heritage brand. Read the full story on WWD.com. #wwdfashion 📷: @alfredo_piola)
The world’s largest producer of denim @iskodenim is sharing the strategy behind its product development process. Read our full interview with ISKO’s product development manager Baris Ozden on the company’s extensive research practices, upcoming denim trends and the latest material innovations on WWD.com. #iskodenim