Women’s activewear brand Varley intends to grows its team and enter new markets, thanks to new investment. Founder Lara Mead tells Drapers about its plans.
Last month, premium women’s activewear brand Varley secured $5m (£3.9m) from Lavendo Investments, which is owned by H&M’s largest shareholder, Ron Dennis, and Brightfolk, the investment vehicle of Anders Holch Povlsen, owner of brand house Bestseller.
Varley was founded in 2015 by wife and husband Lara and Ben Mead, making it an early entrant into the market for perfomance-focused premium activewear. Retail prices for the autumn 19 collection range from £30 for a top £156 for a jacket. It does not disclose wholesale prices.
The brand sells through its own transactional website, and has 800 wholesale stockists, including premium gyms, and retailers such as Net-a-Porter and Selfridges, and Neiman Marcus in the US. Sales for the year to September 2019 hit $8m (£6.2m). So far in 2019, 80% of sales are wholesale and 20% own ecommerce. The brand reports that over the past year omnichannel distribution and ecommerce sales have had triple-digit growth.
Drapers spoke to co-founder Lara Mead to find out more about the brand and its future plans.
Tell us a little about the brand Varley was born in 2015, when Ben and I saw the gap in the market for performance-led fashion.
We had started spending a lot of time in LA, and we were seeing the wellness movement grow. We were taken aback by the power of the movement and the limited range of the brands available.
We describe ourselves as a performance fashion brand – we aim at those very busy women who go from the gym to the school run. Women’s lives have changed, and we’re busier than we ever have been. Varley provides that practical, fashionable wardrobe for all women.
Our bestselling products are the performance leggings (retail price from £72). We use high-quality fabric that’s suited to intense exercise, but they are also designed for everyday activities such as the school run or meeting friends.
Where is your production based, and how do you maintain quality? Most of our manufacturing hubs are in Asia, and a few sites are in Europe.
The performance element of the brand sets us apart. We will always prioritise working with fabrics that are of the highest quality.
Ben and I are both really active – I started running when I was nine years old and haven’t really stopped since. We really understand what women need from their performancewear and the importance of high technical quality – that is why all of our fabrics are designed and developed specifically for Varley.
Varley is not a fast fashion brand, and we put a lot of thought into our impact on the planet. For example, we use Bluesign-certified factories – a certification that supports sustainable, responsible and transparent production processes.
How do you plan to develop your range of stockists? In addition to the Varley website, our products are currently stocked by more than 800 online retailers. The US and UK are our biggest markets, and we have headquarters in both Los Angeles and London.
We are really focused on growing across new markets in Asia, both online and wholesale, as well as strengthening relationships with existing markets and Varley customers.
What are your plans for the new investment? We are committed to delivering best-in-class performance fashion, and for that you need innovation, expertise and product development.
We’re planning to use the capital for strategic hires to strengthen our management team: we will be hiring a chief financial officer, as well as marketing and ecommerce directors. Ron Dennis will also be joining the board: it’s great to have the support of such an experienced business leader.
We plan to develop our ecommerce offering and create new ranges, such as ski and travelwear collections. We also want to ensure that we can continue to expand into new markets, develop new product ranges and, ultimately, support the performancewear needs of women everywhere.
It’s been amazing to see Varley grow so rapidly since we launched in 2015.