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Done Deals: Vibram Enters Partnership With Brooklyn Boulders to Develop Products for Climbers + More

Catch all the latest news about footwear industry acquisitions, and licensing and distribution agreements here. Got a deal in the works? Tell us at web@footwearnews.com.

Sept. 9, 2021: Industry-leading outsole manufacturer Vibram announced it has entered into a 12-month partnership with climbing gym company Brooklyn Boulders, which will begin at an unspecified date this year. According to Vibram, the two companies will work together on product development, innovations and previews, which will allow for the sole company “to delve deeper into the product needs of the climbing community.” What’s more, Vibram and Brooklyn Boulders will deliver on co-hosted events throughout the year.

“Today’s announcement reinforces our continued commitment to serving consumers, athletes and passionate climbers through authentic relationships and the delivery of innovative products. It is this commitment that delivers confidence in every step,” Vibram Corporation global chief brand officer and president Fabrizio Gamberini said in a statement. “We have spent a great deal of time focusing our product design processes on the end user and really getting to understand what they need from their Vibram soles, whatever the use may be. This partnership with Brooklyn Boulders will be instrumental in Vibram building even stronger relationships with the climbing community and understanding their footwear needs.”

August 25, 2021: Trove, the company that powers resale for Lululemon, Patagonia, REI, Nordstrom and more, has closed a $77.5 million Series D funding round. The round, led by G2 Venture Partners, brings the company’s total funding to $122.5 million. The funding will be used to expand Trove’s brand partner roster, improve infrastructure and technology, and help the company enter the luxury resale market.

July 22, 2021: Sequential Brands Group revealed that it divested its 65% interest in DVS Footwear International LLC to Elan Polo International Inc. for $2 million. Sequential — which is evaluating strategic alternatives and could be considering bankruptcy — sold the Heely’s brand to BBC International in April for $11 million. 

July 16, 2021: Aerosoles has launched a distribution partnership with American Exchange Group. Together the two companies will collaborate on the design, branding and strategy for a new Aerosoles collection targeted to the mass and off-price channels. The line is slated to launch for spring ’22. “This partnership marks an exciting new chapter in the evolution of Aerosoles as we harmonize a modern, elevated core with broader commercial opportunities in distribution,” said Aerosoles CEO Alison Bergen in a statement. “We do so with a continued unwillingness to compromise on brand vision and quality control.” This partnership is the first of its kind for Aerosoles. AX Group has in the past created footwear for other labels including Adrienne Vittadini, Alexis Bendel, Marc Ecko and Mudd.

July 1, 2021: JD Sports Fashion Plc announced that it has completed the sale of Netherlands-based Sports Unlimited Retail BV, which operates under the Aktiesport and Perry Sport retail banners, to its Spain-based subsidiary Iberian Sports Retail Group SL. The terms of the transaction, according to JD, remain as outlined in the announcement made on June 3, which stated consideration of €16.5m (approximately $19.6 million) is expected to be payable on completion that ISRG will fund from existing cash balances and resources.

June 24, 2021: To further solidify its commitment to trail running, Saucony has signed ultrarunner Katie Asmuth to its ambassador roster. The athlete, who is a mother of two and a nurse practitioner, most recently won the 2021 Bandera 100K in Texas. With the win, she earned a spot to run in the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run, which starts June 26 in California.

“Katie has been an ultrarunning legend in the making and we’re excited and honored that she is joining the Saucony family,” Saucony president Anne Cavassa said in a statement. “She didn’t let a hard fall and a broken nose stop her from winning the rugged Bandera 100K, showing her natural true grit. She’s now set her sights on Western States, the world’s premier ultrarunning event. Besides the endurance needed to run the distance, Western States takes patience, planning and perspective; as a mom and healthcare worker, she brings it all to the challenge. Katie surely embodies Saucony’s ‘Dirt Power’ goodness, running with joy and gratitude and sharing her uplifting spirit with the entire trail community.”

Saucony ultrarunner Katie Asmuth
Saucony-sponsored ultrarunner Katie Asmuth.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Saucony

June 22, 2021: Puma has signed hockey star Leon Draisaitl to a long-term agreement, making him the first NHL player to join the brand as an ambassador. The German-born athlete and member of the Edmonton Oilers, according to Puma, will support its training and lifestyle product efforts, which includes wearing the brand’s Fuse training shoes and Cloudspun apparel. “Leon is a is a global star in one of the fastest and toughest sports,” Puma CEO Bjørn Gulden said in a statement. “His performance, attitude and personality make him a perfect fit for Puma.”

Puma NHL Leon Draisaitl
Puma-sponsored NHL star Leon Draisaitl.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Puma

June 21, 2021: Community-based sneaker startup SoleSavy announced it has raised $12.5 million in Series A funding, led by Bedrock Capital. Other investors of note include Jason Calacanis’ startup investment firm Launch, Origin Ventures, Panache Ventures, Bessemer Ventures, venture capital firm Banana Capital, Dapper Labs CEO Roham Gharegozlou, Shopify president Harley Finkelstein and Diplo.

Looking ahead, SoleSavy stated it will expand its offerings in the fall, which will include a peer-to-peer member marketplace created to change how members interact and purchase sneakers, and further invest in community-led content and experiences such as the SoleSavy podcast network, editorial features, original video and more. Also, the company will expand its footprint into new markets including Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Singapore, Japan, Mexico and Europe.

“SoleSavy aims to solve the current challenges of the sneaker industry — one that has evolved from people enjoying their passion to being exploited for profit,” said SoleSavy CEO and co-founder Dejan Pralica said in a statement. “With explosive member growth that has translated into a highly engaged community, we’re clear on the problems that must be solved, and how we can help make sneakers better for all types of enthusiasts. This new round of investment will help accelerate our mission, as we invest more into technology, hire the best talent, and launch new products and services.”

With this round, SoleSavy confirmed that total funding to date is $14.5 million after an initial seed round of $2 million less than six months ago.

June 17, 2021: Muk Luks, owned by Reliable of Milwaukee, has inked a five-year licensing deal with Kathy Ireland Worldwide to make a collection of slippers, socks, headwear, shoes and accessories, which will be sold under the label Kathy Ireland for Muk Luks. Larry Childers, VP of team operations for kiWW, said in a statement, “Many companies were vying for this license, but after speaking with [CEO Mark Blutstein] and meeting the Reliable of Milwaukee team, we knew that this was the right partnership for our brand. Not only did the designs and design philosophy of the brand speak to us, but the entire Reliable team’s outlook on individual responsibility in bringing change to the human condition was moving and truly spoke volumes to us about the company.” As part of the deal, Ireland and her creative team will design the collection in partnership with Reliant of Milwaukee, which also will serve as the exclusive sales agent. The line is expected to be available for fall ’21.

Kathy Ireland
Kathy Ireland at The Daily Front Row’s 7th annual Fashion Media Awards in 2019.
CREDIT: ME

June 17, 2021: San Antonio Shoemakers beat out two other bidders to secure a two-year, $25.4 million contract with the U.S. Department of Defense to produce men’s and women’s athletic footwear for new recruits in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. This follows a previous contract in 2017, through which SAS produced roughly 398,000 pairs of athletic shoes. Per the Berry Amendment, passed in 1941, the U.S. military is required to purchase domestically-produced and -sourced goods, but it wasn’t until 2017 that Congress closed a loophole that allowed sneaker manufacturers to land these lucrative assignments.

June 11, 2021: Iconix Brand Group has inked a deal to go private. The company, which has been trading under ICON on the Nasdaq, said it entered into an agreement to be acquired by Iconix Acquisition Corp., an affiliate of Lancer Capital LLC, in an all-cash transaction that values Iconix at approximately $585 million, including net debt. “Today’s announcement represents the culmination of a year-long examination by our Board of Directors of strategic alternatives for the Company,” said CEO Bob Galvin. “After a thorough and deliberative examination of all potential strategic alternatives, the board of directors determined that the transaction with Lancer provides the best value for our stockholders. We expect that Iconix will continue developing its brands and supporting its partners as a private company.”

June 9, 2021: North Carolina-based sock manufacturer Renfro Brands is now under new ownership. The company, which produces legwear for Fruit of the Loom, Dr. Scholl’s, Merrell, Smartwool, Hotsox and K.Bell, has entered a deal with The Renco Group Inc., a New York-based private holding company. “We actively pursued Renfro Brands as they are the clear leader within their category and are poised for continued growth,” said Ari Rennert, president of The Renco Group, which has indicated it aims to build value over time by retaining earnings and reinvesting in the business. For their part, the existing Renfro leadership team has been tasked with focusing on consumer connectivity, operational agility and brand management going forward.

June 3, 2021: CVC has announced the completion of an investment in A Bathing Ape. According to a statement from the private equity firm, the move has allowed it to acquire co-control of the streetwear brand, which recently became an independent company following its split from I.T Limited. It did not disclose the financial terms of the deal but shared that it plans to support the label’s expansion both online and in international regions, such as China, Europe and the United States. “BAPE is an iconic brand with a loyal fan base that has defined the fashion industry with its premium streetwear design,” CVC director Yann Jiang said in a statement. “We are looking forward to bringing this exciting brand to more markets and new customers around the world.”

May 19, 2021: Soccer star Raheem Sterling, who plays for both the England national team and the Premier League club Manchester City, is now a New Balance athlete. The new relationship, according to New Balance, will extend beyond the pitch, as Sterling will work with the brand across both performance and lifestyle products. Additionally, the brand confirmed that it will help support Sterling’s philanthropic efforts. He is also the face of the brand’s “Done Just Talking” campaign, which was created with the help of mentoring charity ReachOut UK and shot by a production crew made up predominately of local teenagers. The spot is part of New Balance’s “We Got Now” global brand statement.

Raheem Sterling New Balance
Soccer star Raheem Sterling is now a New Balance athlete.
CREDIT: Courtesy of New Balance

May 13, 2021: Miami Heat baller Jimmy Butler has signed a multiyear partnership with Rhone. The performance and lifestyle apparel company confirmed that Butler will help it launch a new vertical, develop forward-thinking product collaborations and appear in its summer ’21 campaign. Rhone said the NBA star will also help with the brand’s “Forever Forward” mission by leading community outreach programs, which will include a summer basketball clinic for underprivileged youth. Butler’s ability to build a strong sense of community will also play out by helping shape the voice of Rhone’s social channels and “The Pursuit” content platform.

Jimmy Butler Rhone
NBA star Jimmy Butler for Rhone.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Rhone

May 13, 2021: Ralph Lauren has sold the Club Monaco brand to private equity firm Regent LP. The transaction, whose financial details were not disclosed, is expected to close by the end of June. The sale is part of the strategic realignment plan announced last year by Ralph Lauren, which also transitioned the Chaps brand to a fully licensed business model. “As we increase our focus on our core namesake brands, we want to ensure the Club Monaco brand is also well positioned for long-term success,” president and CEO Patrice Louvet said in a statement. “We are confident that Regent is the right home for Club Monaco to realize its full potential.”

May 10, 2021: Ralph Lauren has inked a deal with Major League Baseball to create a series of collections inspired by the league’s most iconic teams. The first capsules, which go on sale today at Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and MLB and Ralph Lauren stores, pay homage to the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals. Later collections for fall and holiday will incorporate more teams, including the Boston Red Sox. In addition to creating lifestyle apparel and accessories products that honor America’s favorite pastime, Ralph Lauren also will launch a marketing campaign that nods to classic baseball trading cards, and the brand’s Airstream trailer will go on a cross-country tour to select cities, offering baseball-themed food and beverages. Ralph Lauren already has an extensive roster of licensing partnerships with Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and Australian Open, the PGA Championships and more. He also has outfitted the U.S. Olympic team since 2008.

Ralph Lauren Yankees Jacket
Ralph Lauren Yankees jacket.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Ralph Lauren

May 7, 2021: Authentic Brands Group LLC and SPARC Group LLC announced that it would acquire Eddie Bauer from the Golden Gate Capital-owned PSEB Group. ABG will own the outdoor brand’s intellectual property, and its core operating business will become part of the SPARC portfolio. The transaction is expected to close by June 1. “The addition of Eddie Bauer introduces a new and highly differentiated expertise to the SPARC organization,” SPARC CEO Marc Miller said in a statement. “The brand pushes the boundaries of technical innovation and performance with award-winning outdoor product offerings, bringing an entirely new component to our fashion and lifestyle brand portfolio.” International growth will be an important part of Eddie Bauer’s new brand strategy, with near-term launches in China and Korea as well as opportunities in the Latin America, Europe and Asia-Pacific regions.

April 28, 2021: VF Corp. said it is selling the occupational portion of its Work segment to a subsidiary of Redwood Capital Investments, LLC, a diversified holding company. The group of brands includes Red Kap, VF Solutions, Bulwark, Workrite, Walls, Terra, Kodiak, Work Authority and Horace Small. (The sale does not involve the Dickies and Timberland Pro brands.) “The sale of our occupational work brands reflects our continued focus on transforming VF into a more consumer-minded and retail-centric enterprise while further simplifying our portfolio and operating model. We are pleased to have reached this agreement with Redwood Capital Investments. They are an ideal owner to guide these brands and businesses into their next phase of growth,” said Steve Rendle, VF’s president and CEO. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

April 15, 2021: Nobull has secured an equity partner. Exeter Capital, a consumer-focused private equity firm based in Boston, announced that it has partnered with the athletic brand. In a statement, the firm said the transaction will support Nobull’s global growth strategy. “Exeter proactively pursued an investment in Nobull because of its authentic and differentiated brand,” Exeter Capital founding team member and managing director Steven Collins said in a statement. “We are excited to partner with [Nobull co-founders] Marcus [Wilson] and Michael [Schaeffer] to help them further accelerate Nobull’s growth as the brand continues to expand beyond footwear and push into additional sports.” Additionally, Exeter Capital stated Collins will join the Nobull board of directors and Julia Adam, founding team member and principal at the firm, will become a board observer.

March 18, 2021: Paul Stuart is now available at Nordstrom. The footwear brand has expanded its retail footprint with a full-range collection of shoes that are made in Italy. Several spring ’21 styles are available to purchase both in-store and at Nordstrom.com. Starting at $250, you can shop a range of shoe styles at the department store retailer, with more silhouettes expected to come later in the week. Additionally, you can find Paul Stuart’s latest collection at the brand’s various store locations as well as at Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue.

March 12, 2021: JD Sports Fashion Plc has entered into a conditional agreement to acquire 60% of Poland-based Marketing Investment Group S.A. The company, according to a statement, operates 410 retail stores and websites that sell sports fashion footwear, apparel and accessories in nine countries in Central and Eastern Europe. In the year January 31, 2020, JD said MIG generated roughly 200 million pounds in revenues (approximately $278 million).

JD said the completion of the acquisition is subject to customary closing conditions, including approval by the competition authorities in Poland, and the completion of the acquisition is anticipated to be completed before the end of May 2021. Also, JD confirmed that put and call options have been agreed to, which could allow for future exit opportunities for MIG, with whom JD will work in partnership.

“This is an exciting acquisition for JD that will further build on the success of our international development strategy, expanding our operations into Central and Eastern Europe. We have observed and admired the development of MIG over a number of years and we are confident that the combination of their highly experienced and knowledgeable management team, together with the expertise of the JD leadership team, will provide the Group with strong foundations from which to successfully optimize the opportunities in the region,” JD Sports Fashion Plc executive chairman Peter Cowgill said in a statement.

March 4, 2021: CrossFit announced today that it has entered a multiyear partnership with digital fitness company Whoop, which will become the official wearable of the organization. According to CrossFit, this partnership will help athletes benefit from the training, sleep and recovery data that Whoop provides, and the organization will share the data of its top performers via broadcast programming and other digital and on-site channels. Additionally, there will be several health and fitness co-branded events over the course of the partnership, and CrossFit will integrate Whoop insights into the educational component of the sport, such as sleep and recovery content for new members as well as top trainers.

March 1, 2021: New Balance has added yet another beloved athlete to its ambassador in tennis star Eugenie “Genie” Bouchard, who signed a multiyear sponsorship deal. “Having Genie join the New Balance Family will help us to further accelerate our presence in the global tennis category. Additionally, her off-court interests will allow us to build on the significant momentum that the New Balance brand has in the lifestyle space,” New Balance global director of consumer brand marketing and athlete activation Pat Cassidy said in a statement. “We look forward to working closely with Genie in the coming years to support her efforts on and off the tennis court.”

Eugenie Bouchard New Balance
Tennis star Eugenie Bouchard, the newest New Balance ambassador.
CREDIT: Courtesy of New Balance

Feb. 22, 2021: Puma has made another key addition to its ambassador roster. The German athletic giant announced today that it has partnered with fitness and lifestyle entrepreneur Bethany Meyers, who is also a renowned LGBTQIA+ advocate. The brand stated Meyers will be featured in its studio collection campaigns and activations to help share its body positive and self-love messaging. Additionally, Puma said Meyers will involved in its Reform platform, specifically focusing on the LGBTQIA+ Rights pillar, focusing on the removal of barriers that keep people from participating in sports and the culture of sport.

Puma Bethany Meyers
Puma’s newest ambassador, LGBTQIA+ advocate Bethany Meyers.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Puma

Feb. 16, 2021: New Balance announced that it will become the kit supplier for soccer club AS Roma starting with the 2021-22 season. According to the athletic brand, the club is the first in Serie A to wear New Balance apparel. Aside from a company statement, both New Balance and AS Roma confirmed the deal through an augmented reality filter game for Instagram that allowed fans to virtually experience the streets of Rome, at the same time discovering the New Balance sponsorship.

Feb. 16, 2021: The Professional Pickleball Association announced today that it has entered retail partnership with both Fila Pickleball and Fromuth Racquet Sports, with both becoming exclusive providers for the Pro Tour in 2021. Fila Pickleball, according to a statement, will become the official athletic apparel and footwear supplier of the tour, and Fromuth will launch a new web store for the Professional Pickleball Association (Thedinkpickleball.com).

“The PPA and Fromuth Racquet Sports share our commitment to growing the sport of pickleball,” Fila North America president Jennifer Estabrook said in a statement. “Through this partnership, we see an incredible opportunity to expand our footprint in the sport, and bring our specially-designed product offerings to pickleball players of all ages, levels, and abilities across the country.”

Feb. 4, 2021: California-based textile and tech company FutureStitch Inc. has signed a multiyear licensing and manufacturing deal with Toms. As part of the agreement, the two firms will design, develop, manufacture, market and distribute a state-of-the-art line of socks. “Our partnership demonstrates FutureStitch’s commitment to working with brands that share our values and guide today’s ideas into tomorrow’s technologies with scalable solutions at every stage of the product development cycle,” said FutureStitch co-founder and CEO Taylor Shupe. Toms CEO Magnus Wedhammar added that the partnership “enables us to leverage the power of FutureStitch’s product design capabilities and highest level of advanced manufacturing to build highly customized products to complement our unique shoe collection.”

Feb. 4, 2021: Camden Media Inc. has agreed to terms with SCL Footwear Group to produce men’s, women’s and children’s footwear for its Outdoor Life subsidiary. As part of the deal, SCL will create shoes across multiple categories, including hiking and trail boots as well as casual footwear and slippers, which are expected to launch in the U.S. and Canada — with distribution to mass, specialty, off-price and e-commerce channels — in the fall. “SCL Footwear Group is a premier manufacturer who appreciates the appeal and trust of the Outdoor Life brand,” said Camden Media head of licensing Richard Oren. “We’re excited to have found a partner who can help us continue to expand the brand and leverage the growing enthusiasm toward outdoor activities.”

Feb. 2, 2021: European comfort brand Tamaris, owned by German footwear company Wortmann Group, has partnered with Waltham, Mass.-based Earth Inc. to reintroduce the line in North America, starting with the fall ’21 collection. “Tamaris should be an instant win in the North American marketplace offering incredible value, design and built-in comfort with a fashion twist,” said SVP Lance DeShazo, who will lead the North American team. The brand debuted to buyers this week as part of the Micam Americas Digital event and will show by appointment at the Magic Orlando pop-up and Atlanta Shoe Market. It is targeting independent retailers, better department stores and full-price websites. Tamaris will also launch a dedicated U.S. e-commerce site in August.

Tamaris Red Leather Bootie
Tamaris red leather booties featuring its comfort technology.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Tamaris

Feb. 1, 2021: Wolverine World Wide Inc. announced that it has signed a new deal making Gardiners Footwear Specialists the sole distributor for Sperry products in the U.K. This follows a three-year partnership with Zone Two Limited. Andy Hewat, senior brand director for the Sperry and Keds labels, said the move is part of Wolverine’s effort to accelerate digital growth across its portfolio. “Gardiners’ market expertise and knowledge paired with their strong independent salesforce will allow us to amplify the Sperry brand in an important international market and increase traffic to our Sperry UK eCommerce channel.” In addition to Sperry, Gardiners distributes dozens of other footwear brands, with a particular expertise in workwear.

Jan. 25, 2021: Rocky Brands Inc., best known for its rugged work and military boots, has added a new portfolio of labels to its roster. The Nelsonville, Ohio-based company — parent to Rocky, Georgia Boot and Durango —  announced it will acquire the performance and lifestyle footwear business from Honeywell International Inc. for $230 million in cash and debt. The purchase includes The Original Muck Boot Company, as well as the Xtratuf, Servus, Neos and Ranger boot brands.

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