Outdoor Voices has found its next leader.
On Thursday, the activewear brand named Gabrielle Conforti to be its new chief executive officer. Her appointment is effective immediately.
The company said she will focus on new product introductions, enhancing the brand’s community focus and “architecturing the future vision for Outdoor Voices.”
Conforti has more than 15 years of retail and apparel industry experience and spent the past six years at Urban Outfitters, where her roles included chief merchandising officer and president. Only last month Conforti was elevated to president of Urban Outfitters after spending six years in merchandising. While at Urban Outfitters, she is credited with launching new categories such as home, beauty, wellness and active. Prior to Urban Outfitters, Conforti was an associate buyer for J. Crew, where she oversaw the merchandising and buying across multiple categories.
Ashley Merrill, chairwoman of the board and acting CEO of Outdoor Voices, said: “We are very excited about her and bullish on the future of OV with her at the helm.”
Conforti said: “I have always connected with the brand and believe in the strength of the company mission: to be happy, enjoy life and get moving. I look forward to building on this solid foundation with focus on our community, the product and the journey of the brand.”
Neither Merrill nor Conforti would comment further on the appointment, with Merrill saying the focus for the time being is for the new CEO to “get oriented and…meet the team.”
Outdoor Voices has been on a roller-coaster ride since its founding by Ty Haney in 2014. Initially, the brand was a darling of the industry, but the glow wore off amid mounting losses and led to the resignation of Haney in February 2020, although she remains on the board.
Outdoor Voices was losing up to $2 million a month, according to media reports, and its valuation had dropped to $40 million in 2020, from $110 million in 2018. The New York Times uncovered a prospectus that showed the business lost $19 million on an adjusted basis in 2018 when sales were $38 million and a projection that losses would continue through 2021. The company expanded too quickly and was forced to terminate employees, close its New York office and delay its store-opening plans as it sought additional financing. Since its founding, it has raised more than $64 million in funding from General Catalyst, Forerunner Ventures, GV and Drexler Ventures, the family investment firm of Mickey Drexler.
Last March, Merrill, founder and CEO of the high-end sleepwear brand Lunya, joined Outdoor Voices as chairwoman of the board, and her investment fund, NaHCO3, offered up a round of funding. Since that time, she has focused on the back end of the business, improving operations and the supply chain. Last month she said the company is now back in the black as it enjoys the pandemic-fueled demand for comfortable, casual apparel, and it was close to naming a new CEO who could be 100 percent devoted to Outdoor Voices.
Merrill has continued to run Lunya at the same time, and said in January: “My opportunity was to leverage what I know and set the company up for someone who can be absolutely invested in OV. We just needed to set the company up for success and get things cleaned up to ride the wave.”