Vancouver-based Kit and Ace, the luxury athleisure company launched by Lululemon founder Chip Wilson’s wife and son, is a victim of its own great expectations. The retailer has laid off around 35 of its corporate office employees, or about 10 percent of its headquarter staff.
“Like other tech start-ups, we are in a constant pursuit of learning, improving and adjusting our strategy,” Paul Wilson, interim chief executive officer (and no relation to the retailer’s founders), said in an e-mailed statement to Business in Vancouver.
News of the job cuts came less than a week after Fast Company named Kit and Ace one of 2016’s top 10 most innovative companies in retail, alongside the likes of Everlane, Shopify and Farfetch.
“When we launched 18 months ago we had big plans and set out audacious goals,” JJ Wilson, co-founder and brand director, said in a press release announcing Kit and Ace’s inclusion on the list.
But perhaps the brand was too ambitious. Known for selling elevated basics, like “technical cashmere” bras and T-shirts, the company opened its first store in July 2014 and quickly grew its base to 61 locations across North America, Australia, the U.K. and Japan, as well as e-commerce. It also designed and developed 150 proprietary fabrics over the course of a single year—50 of which were commercialized.
“We’ve had an incredible year, seen tremendous growth and established an international brand,” the CEO continued. “Many of the start-up initiatives are now complete and the initial positioning goals have been accomplished. In 2016 we’ll continue to build our business, bringing focus to specific areas, while now being able to reduce our focus in others.”
To that end, Kit and Ace plans to open just 10 new stores this year and will introduce “technical silk” this spring. The retailer employed around 600 people before the layoffs. Its previous CEO Darrell Kopke, former managing director of Lululemon Asia-Pacific, was dismissed last November for undisclosed reasons, while IT head Clay Haeber (another Lululemon alum) left late last month.