Carbon38 activewear

Athletic retailer Foot Locker Inc. has made a $15 million strategic investment in Carbon38.

The Series A round brings the aggregate raise by Carbon38 to $26 million since 2013. The women’s luxury lifestyle brand has its roots in the active apparel space, and last year entered the ready-to-wear market. Katie Warner Johnson and Caroline Gogolak cofounded the Los Angeles-based firm in 2012. Johnson is its chief executive officer. Gogolak left the company last year, but she and Johnson remain the firm’s two largest shareholders.

Lauren B. Peters, Foot Locker’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, said of the retailer’s minority investment: “We have admired the Carbon38 story and mission since we met three years ago.”

Peters will join Carbon38’s board. She added that Johnson and her team have “done an amazing job creating a brand with an extremely loyal following in the fitness and fashion worlds. In addition to the support of Carbon38’s exceptional growth potential that our investment provides, we expect to leverage the team’s keen industry insights and focus in order to elevate our own SIX:02 banner’s performance.”

Johnson said, “This funding enables us to accelerate our path of rapid growth and achieve our mission of defining a new category of luxury active ready-to-wear for women.” Johnson said the investment comes as the company continues to “scale our business and expand our omnichannel strategy, both in the U.S. and internationally.”

Matthew McClintock, analyst at Barclays, said, “We believe that today’s investment in Carbon38 could signal a change in strategy at Foot Locker regarding its athletic apparel business,” a category he said has “historically underperformed expectations.” He noted that apparel was once more than 30 percent of company revenues in the early 2000s, but fell to 18 percent in 2016. Adding that apparel margins can be greater than that for footwear, McClintock concluded that any meaningful improvement in the business “could drive higher levels of incremental margins at the company.”

While Foot Locker took steps to improve its apparel business in the last several years, particularly with its opening of SIX:02 format, the analyst believes the investment could expand the retailer’s “access to additional third-party athletic partners not currently sold at SIX:02.”

McClintock described Carbon38 as an “online retailer of luxury activewear from a curated list of global designers, such as Alaïa and Alo Yoga, as well as it own private-label brand.” Private-label products include bras at $52 to $95, leggings at $85 to $145, and tanks at $42 to $55.

According to the analyst, other investors in Carbon38 from seed rounds include Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, Montage Ventures and Christine Beauchamp, president of Amazon Fashion.

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