NEW YORK — Kellwood Co. is exploring new ownership and investment options for its yoga and fitness apparel brand Zobha.The decision to separate was mutual, according to Kellwood.Zobha was founded in 2008, and Kellwood acquired the Mill Valley, Calif.-based firm in 2011.Since the acquisition, Kellwood has changed its strategic direction to focus its resources on its larger contemporary and juniors brands.Jill Granoff, chief executive officer of Kellwood and Vince, said, “While the brand is not a strategic fit for Kellwood given our focus in our larger apparel businesses, we believe Zobha is poised for growth in a highly attractive market segment with the right investment partner.”Jamie Hanna, Zobha’s founder and creative director, said that Kellwood has helped the company develop its retail prototype and grow the brand, but “with the new strategy in place we are in agreement that it is time to explore strategic alternatives for the brand.”Zobha offers collections for both men and women. The 2011 transaction was completed with the funding assistance of Boca Raton, Fla.-based private equity firm Sun Capital Partners Inc., Kellwood’s parent, but the deal and paydown of any debt is on Kellwood’s books. Sun Capital acquired Kellwood in 2008 for $762 million. The Zobha transaction was completed when Kellwood was under the leadership of Michael Kramer, its former ceo and Granoff’s predecessor, and represented Kellwood’s first foray into the activewear space.Zobha is sold in the wholesale channel in specialty stores and yoga studios, and it has an e-commerce presence as well. It also offers loungewear such as T-shirts, tunics and hoodies, and sells accessories for yoga, such as mats and mat carriers. The collection is currently carried in 425 retail locations across 27 countries. Although yoga and fitness apparel has been in the hot category for years, Zobha is nowhere near the size of the industry leader, Lululemon Athletica Inc. Zobha’s estimated annual volume is less than $5 million, financial and market sources said.
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