Kit and Ace is shuttering its stores in the U.S., Australia and the U.K., limiting sales to its e-commerce site and nine stores in Canada, according to a press release from Hold It All, Inc., the holding company that owns the brand.
The apparel startup, founded in 2014 by Lululemon Athletica founder Chip Wilson’s wife and son, last year suffered two rounds of layoffs at its Vancouver headquarters, in February and again in September.
The performance cashmere apparel brand had been expanding swiftly, but it pared down its store count from 61 to about 40 over the last year.
Chip Wilson, who is listed as the founder of the Hold It All holding company, joined the Kit and Ace team in 2015, when he finally took leave of Lululemon after clashing with its board. At that point, he predicted the apparel company would reach a billion dollars in sales within five years.
Reality, however, hasn’t matched Wilson’s optimism. Kit and Ace apparel, which includes Lululemon-like workout wear as well as casual clothing featured in muted tones like black and taupe, are made of a “technical cashmere” developed by Shannon Wilson, formerly Lululemon’s head designer. The fabric had been rejected by Lululemon years ago, but Shannon, with Chip Wilson’s son J.J. Wilson, went forward with garment production via Kit and Ace.
Chip Wilson arguably invented the athleisure trend that boosted Lululemon to popularity, but his touch hasn’t been able to turn things around for Kit and Ace. In his statement on Wednesday, he indicated that the company is changing gears because retail has evolved away from physical stores — not because of flaws with technical cashmere or Kit and Ace.
"We recognize the traditional world of bricks and mortar retailing is changing, which is why we're shifting strategies," he said. "We believe in the business model for Kit and Ace. Going forward, we will be a stronger company.”