California lifestyle brand Chip & Pepper is poised to make a comeback with a new global wholesale strategy.
Lyft Brands Group LLC and California Lake Capital have inked a deal to globally launch and revitalize the premium denim brand.
Under the agreement, Lyft Brands acquired the exclusive rights to lead and manage the Chip & Pepper relaunch, in partnership with California Lake Capital and Domac LLC, which jointly acquired the Chip & Pepper brand from its cofounders in 2010. Chip & Pepper was founded in 1985 by identical twins Chip and Pepper Foster, who hail from Winnipeg, Canada. The brothers still maintain a minority stake in the brand but are no longer involved.
During the most recent management, Chip & Pepper had an exclusive denim deal with Belk, which just ended its three-year deal.
The Fosters launched their first line in 1985, selling T-shirts out of their truck in Venice Beach, Calif. Focused on skate and surf lifestyle apparel, the brand pioneered the premium denim market in the late Nineties and grew into an operation generating more than $200 million in sales. Chip & Pepper was inspired by the Foster brothers’ summers on California’s trendy beaches.
Sara Fernstrom, chief executive officer of Lyft Brands, said she was attracted to the brand for several reasons. “Chip & Pepper represents an inspirational, yet affordable and highly relevant brand for the modern consumer with high expectations of style and quality.” She believes the brand has “deep consumer roots” and untapped potential. Lyft Brands and California Lake Capital plan to expand the brand into more than 25 retail chains in Europe, Australia, Canada and Asia. Lyft Brands will manage the Chip & Pepper business from its New York headquarters and also plans to open a design studio in Sweden to support the brand’s anticipated European growth.
“When we looked at licensing and where the white space is today, we started to reimagine the brand around California lifestyle and all the different extensions which the skate-and-surf culture offers. When we did our homework, we saw tremendous potential for Chip & Pepper to grow way beyond apparel,” Fernstrom said.
In the fashion category, she said they’re looking to launch onesies/overalls, which she believes will be a staple product for Chip & Pepper. “We are also looking to relaunch denim, T-shirts/tops, bottoms, footwear and eyewear for adults, teens and tweens,” she said.
The company also plans to develop Chip & Pepper Wetwear, which is geared to active lifestyles in surf and skate-related products such as surfboards, wetsuits, rash guards, longboards and skateboards, among other products. Fernstrom said she will offer casualwear, board shorts, swim and cover-ups, as well as beach umbrellas and beach chairs, she said.
Chip & Pepper merchandise will be available at mid-tier department stores, online and specialty stores. The hard goods, such as the surfboards and wetsuits, will be sold in sporting goods.
The first collections will be introduced for spring 2018. Fernstrom said she is interviewing designers.
Drew Craig, president of California Lake Capital, anticipates that licensing will take Chip & Pepper into new markets where it has been unable to penetrate in the past.
At the height of the Foster brothers’ popularity, they were featured on a Canadian TV station singing, “Chip and Pepper: Get hip or get out.” The footage landed in the hands of NBC’s head of entertainment Brandon Tartikoff, who decided to give the pair a Saturday morning cartoon show, “Chip and Pepper’s Cartoon Madness,” in 1991, which lasted one season.
Most recently, Fernstrom, in partnership with Neuberger Berman/Marquee Brands, restructured the business models of Ben Sherman and Bruno Magli to a licensed model and successfully turned them around. Earlier, she was an agent at CAA and UTA for 10 years, where she worked in corporate development, digital ventures, licensing and endorsements.
Lyft Brands, a brand management company, was advised by Jeff Weingart of the law firm Meister Seelig & Fein LLP in New York.