Athleta, in a deal brokered by Gap Inc.’s Strategic Growth Office, joined specialist consumer fund IRIS in leading an $8 million series A funding round into Olympian track and field star Allyson Felix’s Saysh lifestyle and apparel brand.
As part of the investment, Gap Inc. has acquired an equity stake in Saysh, and Athleta will showcase the brand's footwear on Athleta.com, according to a press release.
Felix and her brother and business partner Wes Felix founded Saysh a year ago, debuting the Saysh One sneaker designed specifically for the female foot. In 2019 Athleta signed Allyson Felix as its first sponsored athlete.
Saysh may be a newcomer to athletic apparel and footwear market, which is massive and dominated by longstanding players, but the brand is already a leader in designing shoes to meet the unique needs of women.
Among the brands just getting to that this year are Lululemon, Puma and Under Armour. Saysh doesn’t have nearly their scale, and will use its new funding to grow its e-commerce operations, wholesale distribution, retail footprint and product portfolio, per the release.
"When we signed Allyson Felix as our first-ever sponsored athlete in 2019, we knew we wanted to do things differently by supporting her as a mom, athlete and advocate," Athleta CEO Mary Beth Laughton said in a statement. "Today we are proud to continue supporting Allyson as an entrepreneur while fueling growth to the Athleta brand with our investment in Saysh.”
Gap Inc.’s investment into Saysh reflects its commitment to Athleta itself. The Lululemon rival is the company’s best performing brand these days, with namesake Gap and Banana Republic continuing to struggle and even Old Navy faltering recently. Despite some headwinds in the recent quarter, the activewear banner is growing fast, well on its way to next year’s $2 billion target.
Athleta’s standout performance has led some analysts to speculate about a spinoff, though Gap Inc. CEO Sonia Syngal has dismissed that notion.