Kit & Ace Re­born as Brand for Ur­ban Com­muters

Un­der new lead­er­ship, the brand piv­ots.

WWD Digital Daily - - News - BY SHARON EDELSON

Kit & Ace is back with a new owner, and a new di­rec­tion that has reded­i­cated the brand to com­muters, es­pe­cially bi­cy­clists who travel 10 kilo­me­ters or less to work.

Van­cou­ver-based Kit & Ace said that mem­bers of its lead­er­ship team, led by chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Ge­orge Tso­gas, have pur­chased the com­pany, which logged its first months of prof­itabil­ity since be­ing founded in 2014. “We be­came prof­itable in July and we’ve seen that prof­itabil­ity con­tinue for the next three months,” said Tso­gas, who be­came ceo about a year ago and bought the brand with his col­leagues in Septem­ber.

Kit & Ace, the ac­tivewear, yoga and med­i­ta­tion brand started by JJ Wil­son and his step­mother Shan­non, was owned by Lululemon founder Chip Wil­son and his fam­ily. The com­pany in May 2017 closed all the Kit & Ace stores out­side of Canada. Out of a to­tal of 45 lo­ca­tions, 36 stores were shut­tered.

Tso­gas, who spent 13 years at Lululemon work­ing in lo­gis­tics and dis­tri­bu­tion, joined Kit & Ace af­ter he “plateaued in my ca­reer jour­ney. A year and a half ago I was given the op­por­tu­nity to take over Kit & Ace and high­light the new vi­sion fo­cused on the mod­ern commuter who lives in an ur­ban area and rides a bike to work,” he said. “With the world’s ur­ban pop­u­la­tion surg­ing, we’re see­ing a new seg­ment of com­muters that are rid­ing their bikes to work and want to be of­fice-ready, but don’t have the ap­parel op­tions.”

The ceo said the commuter way of life is tech­ni­cal and func­tional, yet it al­lows com­muters to show up at the of­fice look­ing pro­fes­sional and put-to­gether with­out the need for chang­ing into some­thing else.”

Kit & Ace in April cre­ated the Nav­i­ga­tor col­lec­tion, its first tech­ni­cal commuter range for men with trousers, jog­gers, blaz­ers, jack­ets and shorts. A women’s ver­sion of the Nav­i­ga­tor trouser bowed in Au­gust. The line fea­tures vent­ing, se­cure pock­ets, re­flec­tiv­ity, and is made from tech­ni­cal fab­rics with wa­ter-re­pelling qual­i­ties and durable and easy care.

“We’ve sold more Nav­i­ga­tor pants than when we did in our past when we had 60 stores,” Tso­gas said, adding that two pop-up shops are open­ing. “This is an op­por­tu­nity that doesn’t ex­ist to­day. E- com­merce is a way for us to pen­e­trate dif­fer­ent mar­kets. We just pen­e­trated the Nether­lands, which has a big commuter pop­u­la­tion. We see a big per­cent­age of our guests are from the U.S. and we’re able to ser­vice our loyal guests through e- com­merce.”

Kit & Ace op­er­ates six stores in Canada. Tso­gas said half of the stores have tran­si­tioned to the commuter con­cept and by next year the commuter col­lec­tion will be rep­re­sented at all stores, along with ac­ces­sories such as re­flec­tive items and light­ing safety-fo­cused prod­ucts. Tso­gas plans to build out the Nav­i­ga­tor col­lec­tion for women, which ac­counts for just 10 per­cent of the over­all as­sort­ment.

One crit­i­cism of the orig­i­nal Kit & Ace brand was its pric­ing. “We’ve piv­oted away from techno-cash­mere and 100 per­cent cash­mere,” Tso­gas said. “It’s too ex­pen­sive. We’re look­ing for fab­rics and search­ing the world to find stretchy fab­rics. The pric­ing has come down from the days of tech­ni­cal cash­mere. Our price range is now $68 for a T-shirt to $398 for out­er­wear, with the av­er­age price for the col­lec­tion, $120.”

Tsongas said he hopes to pro­vide eq­uity to em­ploy­ees “be­cause then they have some skin in the game. We’re tran­si­tion­ing and will con­tinue to run the com­pany in­de­pen­dently. We have ex­perts in var­i­ous fields that are com­ing to­gether un­der one vi­sion. I’ve been see­ing this sig­nif­i­cant surge in bike com­mut­ing. Cy­clists come in to stores and thank me for do­ing what we’re do­ing for com­muters.”

Kit & Ace’s home­page.

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