As retail becomes more entrenched in digital shopping trends, modern apparel brands need to have a lot break right to stand out ahead of competitors. But while founders of digitally native brands often have the vision and savvy to make a mark on the new paradigm shift and attract a loyal, niche customer base, they may not have the immediate capabilities required to scale a brand to a broader swath of shoppers or new markets.
One such platform has popped up to maximize the branding efforts of these companies by offering its own operational expertise, relationships with retailers and seasoned e-commerce expertise. With the backing of investment firm Summit Partners, A.k.a. Brands, which until recently was known as Excelerate Brands, was founded in 2018 with the goal to become a global leader in direct-to-consumer fashion.
Today, the A.k.a. Brands portfolio is comprised of three high growth fashion brands, including Australian online sellers Princess Polly and Petal & Pup, as well as U.S.-based Rebdolls, all of which each cater to a unique customer with their curated assortments of on-trend, affordable fashion.
Princess Polly was founded in 2010 by Wez and Eirin Bryett and targets Gen Z women aged between 16 and 25. The brand expanded to the U.S. after joining the A.k.a. platform in 2018, aiming to inspire its shoppers via a constant stream of inspirational on social media.
Petal & Pup is a more millennial-focused brand, targeting consumers ranging from 24 and 40. It was founded in 2014 by Tiffany Henry and is currently led by CEO Philip Scarff.
New York-based Rebdolls was founded by CEO Grisel Paula and caters to a diverse range of plus-sized women, offering a full range of sizes up to size 32. The company fosters a “#sexyforall” size-inclusivity ethos, targeting the broadest age range of customers of A.k.a.’s three brands—from 18 and 44.
Until its recent rebranding, A.k.a. Brands had kept a low profile. But with the continued support of Summit Partners, the company is scoping new opportunities to acquire additional brands based on three conditions: holding strong growth potential, a proven track record in target markets and the ability to expand and perform in new markets.
“Today’s consumer gets fashion inspiration from social media and influencers. A new generation of social brands is emerging to cater to every style and audience. But, many of these founder-led brands struggle to scale. That’s where A.k.a. can help,” said Jill Ramsey, CEO of A.k.a. Brands in a statement. “With the power of our platform, brands leverage our retail partner relationships, access the expertise of our seasoned management team and proven playbook for growth. Founders also learn best practices and benchmarks from our other high growth brands, and scale their businesses more cost effectively. We believe our brands are better together, and that this is a winning formula for brands, customers and A.k.a.”
A.k.a. Brands says it provides brand clients with expertise in areas including: strategic planning for growth; customer acquisition and retention; merchandising, sourcing and production; inventory management and planning; digital innovation and tech infrastructure; fulfillment, logistics and customer care; finance, accounting and controls; human resources, legal, facilities; and channel and international expansion.
The expertise starts at the top with Ramsey, who has 20 years of experience in e-commerce focused on merchandising, multichannel retail and third-party marketplaces. Prior to joining A.k.a. Brands as CEO in May 2020, Ramsey served as chief product and digital revenue officer at Macy’s, where she led macys.com and the Macy’s mobile app. Prior to Macy’s, she served as a vice president at eBay, where she led all eBay vertical businesses (excluding automotive) and merchandising support functions. Ramsey also spent 15 years at Walmart in e-commerce, leading merchandising across various categories.
Ramsey and A.k.a. Brands prepped for the rebrand with two major executive hires from traditional backgrounds, fitting in with the company’s know-how of scaling a brand’s footprint. In January, former Tailored Brands chief financial officer and treasurer Jack Calandra took on the CFO role at A.k.a. And four months earlier, Michael Trembley joined the executive team as chief information and senior vice president of operations. Trembley has ties with Ramsey from Macy’s, where he served as vice president of product management. In that role, he led the evolution and scaling of merchant and vendor technology platforms and was the business and operations owner for the department store’s drop ship and marketplace businesses.
“2020 saw a step change in fashion further shifting online and that trend is here to stay. Fortunately, we are ideally positioned to capitalize on the increased digital demand,” said Ramsey. “We support our brands through their rapid expansion with access to increased fulfillment capacity, increased working capital, and tools to navigate impacted supply chains. Our unique, data-driven test and repeat sourcing approach enable us to be nimble and adjust to consumer changes in fashion.”