By  on October 18, 2007

Contemporary luxury designer brand Kooba has a new equity partner via Swander Pace Capital.

The private equity firm, which made an undisclosed investment in the women's handbags, accessories and apparel brand, is the majority stakeholder in the company. Kooba co-presidents Abbe Held and Lynn Pincus, together with company founder Bonnie Held, will continue with the company and they still retain stakes in the luxury brand.

"We wanted to bring in a partner to grow the company. We need an infrastructure, additional capital and expertise to help us get to the next level," said Pincus in a telephone interview.

Paul Altman, a managing director at the investment banking firm The Sage Group, which helped Kooba find its new partner, said the company was selectively shopped at both potential strategic and financial buyers, and that Kooba executives felt Swander best understood the brand and its potential points of distribution.

Founded in 1998, Kooba began as a handbag firm. Earlier this year, the company expanded into apparel. According to industry sources, Kooba's sales volume, still primarily based on its handbag collections, is expected to exceed $220 million this year. Sources described the company's growth rate in the last four years as "extraordinary," with the business quadrupling in volume. It also launched a men's accessories line earlier in the year.

As for the product extensions, Held said the company started its women's apparel line with leather jackets because the "company was already working with leather, so it was a natural because it was something we could do in-house."

In addition to apparel, the company would like to expand into footwear and even open its own retail stores, according to Held.

Pincus said the product is sold in major department stores and in 500 specialty stores, totaling 750 doors. The company also is eyeing international distribution down the road.

Swander is a San Francisco-based private equity buyout firm. It declined comment, citing company policy. In addition to Kooba, its specialty apparel and accessories investments include swimwear firm Raj Manufacturing, surf sandals company Reef Holdings and cold- and wet-weather gear maker Totes-Isotoner Corp., according to the firm.

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