Kit and Ace is back with a new owner, and a new direction that has rededicated the brand to commuters, especially bicyclists who travel 10 kilometers or less to work.
Vancouver-based Kit and Ace said that members of its leadership team, led by chief executive officer George Tsogas, have purchased the company, which logged its first months of profitability since being founded in 2014. “We became profitable in July and we’ve seen that profitability continue for the next three months,” said Tsogas, who became ceo about a year ago and bought the brand with his colleagues in September.
Kit and Ace, the activewear, yoga and meditation brand started by JJ Wilson and his stepmother Shannon, was owned by Lululemon founder Chip Wilson and his family. The company in May 2017 closed all the Kit and Ace stores outside of Canada. Out of a total of 45 locations, 36 stores were shuttered.
Tsogas, who spent 13 years at Lululemon working in logistics and distribution, joined Kit and Ace after he “plateaued in my career journey. A year and a half ago I was given the opportunity to take over Kit and Ace and highlight the new vision focused on the modern commuter who lives in an urban area and rides a bike to work,” he said. “With the world’s urban population surging, we’re seeing a new segment of commuters that are riding their bikes to work and want to be office-ready, but don’t have the apparel options.”
The ceo said the commuter way of life is technical and functional, yet it allows commuters to show up at the office looking professional and put-together without the need for changing into something else.”
Kit and Ace in April created the Navigator collection, its first technical commuter range for men with trousers, joggers, blazers, jackets and shorts. A women’s version of the Navigator trouser bowed in August. The line features venting, secure pockets, reflectivity, and is made from technical fabrics with water-repelling qualities and durable and easy care.
“We’ve sold more Navigator pants than when we did in our past when we had 60 stores,” Tsogas said, adding that two pop-up shops are opening. “This is an opportunity that doesn’t exist today. E-commerce is a way for us to penetrate different markets. We just penetrated the Netherlands, which has a big commuter population. We see a big percentage of our guests are from the U.S. and we’re able to service our loyal guests through e-commerce.”
Kit and Ace operates six stores in Canada. Tsogas said 50 percent of the product in stores has transitioned to be in line with the technical apparel for the modern commuter. By next year, 100 percent of the product in stores will reflect the new concept, and accessories such as reflective items and lighting safety-focused products will be introduced. Tsogas plans to build out the Navigator collection for women, which accounts for just 10 percent of the overall assortment.
One criticism of the original Kit and Ace brand was its pricing. “We’ve pivoted away from techno-cashmere and 100 percent cashmere,” Tsogas said. “It’s too expensive. We’re looking for fabrics and searching the world to find stretchy fabrics. The pricing has come down from the days of technical cashmere. Our price range is now $68 for a T-shirt to $398 for outerwear, with the average price for the collection, $120.”
Tsogas said he hopes to provide equity to employees “because then they’ll have some skin in the game. We’re transitioning and will continue to run the company independently. We have experts in various fields that are coming together under one vision. I’ve been seeing this significant surge in bike commuting. Cyclists come in to stores and thank me for doing what we’re doing for commuters.”