Bandier, the community-building, experiential fitness retailer, has a new minority stake investor, thanks to the newly formed C Ventures.
The new hedge fund venture is led by Adrian Cheng and Clive Ng. Bandier connected with the pair through Ohana & Co., an adviser to Cheng, who is also executive director of New World Development and Chow Tai Fook Jewellery Group. The 37-year-old Hong Kong executive is heir apparent to his 70-year-old father Henry, who serves as chairman of the firms. In addition to being one of the largest developers in Hong Kong, the conglomerate runs the Carlyle hotel, the prized Hôtel de Crillon in Paris on the Place de la Concorde and an international chain of jewelry stores. The company also controls four listed companies and some private ones. Cheng’s sister, Sonia, heads up the hotel side of the business, which includes Rosewood, New World and Pentahotel properties.
C Ventures is investing in a series of fashion, media and lifestyle brands including Nowness, the online video channel cofounded by Jefferson Hack and LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.
The new fund has also taken a small minority stake in Hack’s creative and editorial agency Dazed Media with an eye to building up that business in China. Dazed Media publishes titles including Dazed, Dazed Fashion, AnOther Magazine and Hunger Magazine.
C Ventures has also been targeting Generation Z-focused brands in the media, tech, fashion and lifestyle arenas, taking stakes in the web sites Beautycon and Galore, and the comics and gaming company Skybound Entertainment, Cheng confirmed. Its other properties including Paddle8 and Flont, the fine jewelry membership business.
“I’ve known for Clive for a very long time. What we’re thinking of is a very big paradigm shift in the market, especially in the millennials and Gen Z. We are starting to build a global connected kind of ecosystem that surrounds millennials, not just them but younger millennials, the generation Z as well,” Cheng said.
With six stores and a burgeoning e-commerce business that accounts for half of total sales, Bandier has influenced the ath-leisure category since opening its first store in the Hamptons in the summer of 2014. From the start, husband-and-wife founders Jennifer Bandier and Neil Boyarsky offered stylish activewear from an assortment of global brands. To build a loyal customer following, the retailer hosts talks, special events and on-site fitness classes. Accessories, footwear and limited-run products are also part of the company’s assortment.
Through two rounds of investments, Bandier has amassed $10 million with this most recent infusion comprising $7 million. Bandier stepped into the fashion industry from the music industry where she managed bands like TLC. Boyarsky hailed from Wall Street working at IFTI, a family-run financial services business that his father Joel started in 1968 and continues to run. Bandier’s platform for health and wellness, its lifestyle brand stature, and digital and experiential elements were attractive to C Ventures, according to Boyarsky. “The hard work that went into building Bandier, and the new retail model of having the [fitness] studio was what ultimately really was the appeal for Cheng,” he said.
Having recently launched a pop-up shop at Holt Renfrew’s Bloor Street location in Toronto, Bandier has “big plans” for expansion in Asia through stores and e-commerce. Hong Kong and mainland China are priorities, followed by Japan and South Korea, Boyarsky said. “It’s not just a New York phenomenon or a U.S. one, even though that is the biggest activewear market right now. Other parts of the globe are developing very quickly. We want to be the multibranded offering that is global,” he said. “We still see a very exciting growth opportunity in the U.S. Also specifically as it relates to the women’s market and the boutique fitness market.”
Bandier could open 30 to 40 new stores in Asia in the next five years, though that is something that would only be considered with a partner, Boyarsky said. Leveraging its flagship Fifth Avenue model, which include a 3,000-square-foot fitness studio, Bandier plans to open locations in key cities like Los Angeles in the first quarter of 2018. Bandier is looking to open two to three stores next year, Boyarsky said.
“Adrian is definitely a cultural leader coming out of Asia. The brand and the platform they’ve built is on a global basis sort of unrivaled. They’re putting together an incredible collection of Millennial and Gen Z brands for the next generation from a fashion, culture and lifestyle perspective. We’re happy to be a part of that. We’re a very small part of his overall business, but just the thought of what the possibilities are for the future are what is so exciting,” Boyarsky said.
Combined, the Cheng family’s real estate and jewelry businesses are valued at an estimated $30 billion. Bandier counts 75 employees in its main office and stores. “We’re a great story in America of job creation and female entrepreneurship,” Boyarsky said.
When the Bandier site is relaunched in January, it will feature a new series called Fit Stories. Striving to bring to life multicultural, multisize fitness stories, the company will profile various shoppers’ journeys. “It’s not about everybody training for the Olympics but having a unique fit story is different for everybody. There is no start line and finish line. It’s this ongoing journey,” Boyarsky said.
Two of Cheng’s other siblings are involved with the family-run business, which is a rags-to-riches tale that was started by their grandfather Cheng Yu-tung, who built a $15 billion fortune.