By  on July 26, 2011

NEW YORK — Kellwood Co.’s acquisition spree continued Tuesday with its purchase of yoga and fitness apparel and accessories brand Zobha, its third transaction of the year.

Terms of the deal, signed Tuesday, were not disclosed. The Mill Valley, Calif.-based firm is the first activewear company to join Kellwood’s portfolio of brands.

Zobha was launched in 2008 by Jamie Hanna, founder and chief executive officer. Hanna and her team will remain with the company.

The Zobha deal follows on the heels of the purchase earlier this month of Amsterdam-based fashion brand Scotch & Soda, which is expected to close next month. Both Zobha and Scotch & Soda offer collections for men and women. In January, the company acquired contemporary sportswear brand Rebecca Taylor.

All three deals are structured similarly. They are made with the funding assistance of Sun Capital Partners, which owns Kellwood, but the deal and paydown of any debt is on Kellwood’s books.

There are more acquisitions on the way. According to financial sources, discussions are still under way regarding Kellwood’s possible acquisition of Catherine Malandrino.

Michael Kramer, Kellwood’s president and ceo, declined to comment on the Malandrino matter but did promise that more deals are ahead.

“Our portfolio is really changing. This is all very exciting stuff,” he said.

He also noted that the company is in discussions with several more contemporary brands, as well as with firms in the accessories market.

Kramer has been focused on deal-making but doesn’t expect to remain that way indefinitely.

“Right now, I’m out there looking at white space, trying to understand a particular category and who the dominant player is. In activewear, it’s Lululemon; then there’s nobody else other than some small firms,” said Kramer. “Zobha is an authentic brand coupled with a fashion element. Women are wearing it everyday, not just to go to yoga or Pilates.

“We’re looking at great brands to partner with in retail and e-commerce,” he added. “If we could partner with the right talent, there are areas where we can really flourish in.

“We’re clearly looking at another handful of companies, but we’re not going to be acquiring brands forever. We’ll always be looking for brands, but with the larger deals such Scotch & Soda, Adam, Rebecca Taylor, Zobha and a couple more, we’re going to need to focus on executing and growing them,” Kramer said.

To make sure Kellwood has the resources to back its acquisitions and for future growth, the company recently made three executive hires to build its management team.

Luciana Marsicano is senior vice president for production, and will work on sourcing and production work for Adam as well as Rebecca Taylor and Vince. She has worked at Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and Giorgio Armani.

Giuliano Sartori is senior vice president for international sales, and is responsible for growing existing accounts and building operational platforms overseas. He was formerly with VF’s Contemporary Brand businesses.

Aaron Battista is senior vice president for retail, and hails from Seven For All Mankind.

Meanwhile, Kellwood will be busy assimilating Zobha.

According to Hanna, “I felt it was the right time to find an outside partner, both for financial resources and the know-how in terms of retail experience.”

She said that Kellwood approached her, and that both she and Kramer share the same vision for the activewear brand.

Currently 30 percent of the business is from e-commerce, with the wholesale channel in specialty stores and yoga studios accounting for the balance, Hanna said.

“We want to have our own stores one day. The stores could be as early as 2012. We plan to get a prototype and then do a rollout. We’re located just outside of San Francisco, so it makes sense for us to focus on the urban market to start. New York would be great, as well as Los Angeles,” Hanna said.

The collection is available in 350 retail doors in 27 countries and at its e-commerce site, zobha.com, in addition to yoga studios and fitness clubs.

Zobha is the Sanskrit word for “grace, beauty and brilliance,” elements in the form, fit and function styling of the apparel line. Zobha also offers loungewear such as T-shirts, tunics and hoodies, and sells accessories for yoga, such as mats and mat carriers, as well as a maternity line.

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