Clmbr is aiming to be the new home fitness craze and June Ambrose is investing and now advising the company to give it a lift in the lifestyle department.
This isn’t the first investment in a company by Ambrose, a longtime stylist and costume designer of many classic music videos, including those for Missy Elliott, Mariah Carey and Beyoncé and Jay Z, but it is her first in the fitness space. With other investors in the company in her professional and social circle, like Jay Z, Ambrose first heard about Clmbr through word of mouth. So she tried it, loved it and wanted in.
“You always try to keep your ear to the wall, but I looked at this [investment] from so many different angles,” Ambrose said. “There’s the fact that female investors are not really well-represented in this space and the messaging behind the brand aligned with my philosophy on fitness.”
Ambrose, who last year became creative director of Puma, shifted to a plant-based diet a few years ago. And she pointed to some physical strains, notably from high heels: “You know what those heels have done to us over the years.” She said Clmbr, a $2,500 vertical machine that essentially simulates wall climbing but is meant to be cardio intensive and offers instructor-led classes through an attached screen, is one of the few things she’s found that keeps her spine aligned and is low impact.
But when Ambrose first started talking last year with the brand, founded by chief executive officer Avrum Elmakis and chief design officer Nat Carruthers, she made it clear her interest was not in merely attaching her name or likeness to someone else’s venture.
“I wanted skin in the game,” she said. “This space is going to revolutionize fitness and lifestyle. Being in the room and having a seat at the table and having a voice is something we learned was very important during the pandemic.”
Ambrose would not disclose the size of her investment, but it did come through a more recent round of funding, and her role as adviser will focus on fashion and lifestyle partnerships and collaborations for the Clmbr. The company would not specify whether this round of investment was a formal Series A, but Clmbr last fall raised a seed round of $3.4 million. Other notable investors in the company, in addition to Jay Z, include TV personality Ryan Seacrest, tennis player Novak Djokovic, founder of YouTube Chad Hurley and fitness and diet author Marco Borges.
The coronavirus pandemic quickly accelerated the trend of high-end, at-home fitness goods and machines. Other popular products like Mirror, which counts stylist Karla Welch as fashion director, and Peloton, which has been back-ordered for months, have surged in popularity. And both companies have also pushed the lifestyle quotient to consumers, with ambassadors, influencers and celebrity partnerships. Peloton, too, has produced several apparel lines, most recently one with Adidas.
Clmbr is clearly looking to get in on the lifestyle trend. As Ambrose put it, “Fitness should be a lifestyle, I want it to go hand in hand.”
She compared the task of melding fitness and fashion to what she did early in her career, when she styled ’90s hip-hop stars and rappers in luxury brands, like Gucci, which had not been done before. Many luxury brands even refused to lend for photo and video shoots dealing in hip-hop or magazines for Black audiences.
“I look at this space as lifestyle, not, ‘Oh, it’s just fitness,’” Ambrose said. “Fitness and fashion need to start to communicate more.”
She’ll be on the lookout for not only brand partnerships, possibly including Puma, but also a range of celebrity and influencer endorsements, from macro to micro.
“We want to create more of a like-minded space,” Ambrose said. “I am every woman, I’m always under construction and I think seeing real women in that kind of conversation is super key. It’s not just about celebrity influence.”