By Vicki M. Young
with contributions from Lisa Lockwood
 on December 21, 2016
Rebecca Taylor's Miami store at the Aventura Mall.

Kellwood Co. is now under Asian ownership.

The apparel manufacturer has been acquired by a Hong Kong-based private equity firm for an undisclosed amount from U.S.-based private equity firm Sun Capital Partners.

Kellwood said in connection with the acquisition, David Falwell is returning to the company as chief executive officer. Falwell left Kellwood in 2013 after a 29-year career at the firm. At the time, Falwell was executive vice president of operations. He succeeds Joseph Lombardi, who was named ceo of Kellwood in January 2015. Lombardi is leaving the company to seek other opportunities, according to a Kellwood spokeswoman.

Caren Belair, a 33-year veteran of Kellwood, will continue as the firm’s president. Xiaopei Chin, a 10-year veteran of the firm, was named president of the western region.

Falwell said, “We believe there is tremendous growth potential for Kellwood’s businesses, and this acquisition will allow the company to leverage its existing relationships in Asia to grow its businesses and increase profitability.”

Falwell added “Together with a strong investor group that believes in the company’s growth potential, I believe that Kellwood has a bright future and is better positioned than ever to serve its retail partners and consumers.”

Kellwood’s apparel brands — My Michelle, Jolt, Rewind, Democracy, Sangria, JAX, Briggs New York and XOXO — target the women’s and juniors fashion segment.

Sun Capital acquired Kellwood in 2008 for $762 million. Since the acquisition, Sun has sold the yoga brand Zobha and spun off Vince in an initial public offering on November 22, 2013. Both were under the Kellwood umbrella. Vince was a part of the portfolio when Sun acquired the company. Rebecca Taylor, Parker and Zobha were acquired while Kellwood was under Sun’s ownership. Sam Edelman, which licensed its sportswear collection to Kellwood in February 2014, no longer has a deal with Kellwood.

Rebecca Taylor and Parker are not part of the transaction and will remain as affiliates of Sun Capital. Janice Sullivan, president of Rebecca Taylor, has been elevated to ceo of Rebecca Taylor and Parker.

Rebecca Taylor was acquired in 2011. The designer is still with the firm, although her business partner Beth Bugdaycay left the business in December 2014. Sullivan was tapped as president of the contemporary sportswear firm in August 2015. At that time, the business was generating $75 million in wholesale volume.

Parker, another contemporary brand, had volume of around $50 million at the time of its acquisition in 2014. Howard Highman, ceo at the time, has since left the company.

Kellwood was formed in 1961 by the merger of 15 independent suppliers of soft goods to Sears, Roebuck & Co. The merged entity at the time had 22 plants across 10 states and 7,000 employees. In its heyday, Kellwood’s sales surpassed $1 billion, and under the leadership of William John McKenna, Kellwood made several acquisitions, including Smart Shirts, Cape Cod Cricket Lane, Goodman Knitting Co. Inc., and Parsons Place Apparel, which was renamed Sag Harbor in 1994. The Sag Harbor IP was put up for sale in January 2015. Before that, in March 2012, Kellwood put up for sale its Koret apparel brand. Founded in 1938, the brand was known for coordinating tops and bottoms and was once a $200 million brand, but posted net sales of just $12 million in 2011, mostly from sales in catalogs and midtier retailers.

Kellwood’s main office is based in New York, although its St. Louis office houses the finance, accounting, legal and information technology teams. It also has a Western Region in City of Industry, near Los Angeles, now headed by Xiaopei Chin. The West Coast site houses a state-of-the-art pattern and sample making room, as well as West Coast showrooms, sales and design teams and product development. According to a spokeswoman for Kellwood, they also have a Hong Kong office.

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