After the fashion designer secured approximately $1.3 million in investments a little over a year ago and set up shop in Los Angeles, she went from a “one-woman show” to a team of four, increased revenues by 400 percent and attracted the attention of celebrity fans — such as Mindy Kaling, Gwyneth Paltrow, Selma Blair, Kerry Washington and poet Amanda Gorman — while quadrupling her Instagram following (currently at 21,000). She is about to launch her collections at Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus and was asked to join the Council of Fashion Designers of America.
“It’s been an intense year, for sure,” Adeigbo told WWD. “But it’s been exciting. And it’s been a steep learning curve.”
All the buzz — created in the middle of a global pandemic, no less, when consumers were on lockdown, events at a standstill and things like creating look books and hiring in-person produced new challenges — didn’t go unnoticed by investors, either. The designer, who is known for eye-catching dresses in bright colors and headbands, recently secured additional funds of nearly $3 million, led by venture capital firm Offline Ventures, bringing her total investments to more than $4 million.
“More than just creating chic, colorful clothing, Autumn is creating a movement tied to sustainability, design and culture,” said Brit Morin, general partner at Offline Ventures and founder of digital lifestyle platform Brit + Co. “Never before has the world seen a multibillion-dollar fashion label from a young Black woman, but we believe that Autumn Adeigbo has the x-factor to be the first. Investing in a fashion brand is controversial in the venture capital world, but it was never a question for me to invest in Autumn. She’s a true artist with a business that is on fire.”
With the added funds, Adeigbo hopes to hire more staff and set up a permanent office space in New York. She’s also open to expanding into other product categories (currently the brand offers women’s ready-to-wear, including jackets and other outerwear, accessories, home goods and now handbags) and even opening her own brick-and-mortar stores in the future. The brand is available at Intermix, ShopBop, Elyse Walker, Anthropologie, Nordstrom, Free People and Rent the Runway, among other retailers.
“I’m always talking to people about additional collaborations and additional realms of creativity. But I really do just want to focus on getting the operational side of the business up to speed,” Adeigbo said. “We grew so much faster than I thought. We met our revenue goals for this year in June . So, I don’t want to grow so fast that we can’t keep up. I don’t want to say we’re slowing down. But we are focusing on getting the brand operationally sound for the rest of the year with this new round of capital.
“And team culture is my focus at the moment,” she continued. “I’m passionate about building a work environment that people love coming to. That was why I started my own brand. Because I wanted to work in fashion, but fashion didn’t have the reputation as the healthiest work environment. I experienced that myself in my trajectory. And I wanted to create a place for people who wanted to experience fashion, but experience it in a holistic way. Building a team is an art. And it’s one I haven’t perfected yet. I’m still learning.”
It helps that she’s had seasoned fashion mentors to aid her in her journey along the way. These include Tory Burch, whom she met after being named a Tory Burch fellow in 2019, as well as partnerships with Rent the Runway and Stitch Fix. (Katrina Lake, founder of Stitch Fix, was one of Adeigbo’s earliest investors.)
“When I do engage in a conversation with [Burch], or Katrina, and I ask them very intense questions about building businesses, and they give me very simple answers,” Adeigbo said. “It’s taught me to not look at the whole journey and get so overwhelmed with everything that has to be done. It’s more about dedication and persistence and patience and hard work and coming back to [something] if it doesn’t work, day after day. That’s kind of more important, the humility of how you approach things. Instead of thinking, I’m a genius and I’m going to figure out how to tackle this monstrosity of building an organization.
“For every successful entrepreneur, that’s the most challenging aspect of a business,” she continued. “I love fashion. But if we were talking 50-50, I’m like 51 percent more interested in the business side of things. I’m more of an entrepreneur, humbly pursuing this lifelong dream of mine, which was to become a fashion designer, which morphed into understanding entrepreneurship at the same time. Because there’s so much that goes into building a business that the design is just a by-product. And that’s why so many fashion brands come and go, I think. Because it is more of a business than it is an art form. The art has to meet the commerce.”
Leah Solivan, General Partner at Fuel Capital, who participated in both investment rounds, agreed.
“The progress Autumn has made over the past year has been truly inspiring and we couldn’t be more excited to support her as she continues to be a force in fashion and beyond,” Solivan said. “We are so excited to continue to partner with Autumn as she scales her brand.”
Of course her business acumen doesn’t mean she’s slacking on her designs, which manage to be colorful yet glam, playful yet feminine, all at once, and have been spotted on numerous celebrities over the last year.
“I’ve really invested in creating a product that stands out and celebrities are people who stand out, for their talent, whatever that talent might be. So it’s a natural synergy of a standout product attracting a standout person,” Adeigbo said.
“And I found myself designing a lot sexier,” the designer continued, referring to taking up residence on the West Coast, as well as the general trend of the moment. “People are dressing really sexy right now. All the Met dresses, or the award show dresses, are sheer and you can see the underwear. I feel like the trend is showing more skin. The pendulum swings. Like, oh, you’re in sweats. Before that it was work attire. And now it’s like, let’s go the other way and do the opposite of that. That conversation is changing.
“I’m just so proud visually of what we’ve created in terms of our product and our overall brand and our footprint,” Adeigbo said. “I knew how difficult it would be to create something that was truly different, something that truly stood out. I do think that we have room for improvement. I always still think that. But I would say, I am very proud of what we’ve built so far. And we’re just getting started.”