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‘Launch Your Own Fashion Brand’ Platform Nabs $3 Million

Cala, which bills itself as a “fashion house technology” marketplace for creators to design and launch digital fashion brands regardless of their level of formal design training, has closed a $3 million investment round.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the platform has thrived, with Cala signing over 20 new partnerships in the past three months. Since January 2019, Cala creators have produced more than 75,000 garments across 500 unique apparel styles.

The technology is designed to assist new fashion creators through an entire apparel lifecycle from initial ideation to production and fulfillment that can be set up and scaled in as little as six weeks. The platform provides access to a built-in network of technical designers, pattern makers, sample sewers and global manufacturers, and includes assistance on design, material sourcing and sampling among other fulfillment services. It also shows how a project’s price changes according to the complexity of the designs and the numbers of units to be manufactured.

Cala’s collaboration platform facilitates communication among users during the design phase with a comments feature so users can leave feedback on their project. The startup’s network of vendors offers fabrics ranging from Lycra and Lurex to silk charmeuse.

The platform even offers brand and marketing resources to help designers in creative direction, brand strategy, event production, marketing and public relations. Additionally, it includes financing options that enable designers to produce and sell their products without a large up-front investment.

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Aspiring designers can sign up to the platform for a $500 per month fee (as part of the annual subscription) plus 20 percent of revenue.

“For years, the fashion industry has been fumbling to figure out how to become fully digital, focusing largely on consumer facing technologies and ignoring the back-end, business-to-business side of the equation. Meanwhile, the next generation of tastemakers have been busy growing multi-million person audiences on Instagram, YouTube and TikTok,” said Andrew Wyatt, CEO of Cala. “We’re in the midst of an evolution in commerce that is centered around these niche digital audiences and Cala provides the easiest, most efficient way to conceptualize, launch and scale a digital-first brand.”

The round was co-led by Maersk Growth, the venture arm of shipping integrated container logistics company A.P. Moller-Maersk, as well as early-stage venture capital firm Real Ventures. Real Ventures led the first seed round in 2018, which totaled $4 million.

The Cala platform works by bidding out each designer’s project to the best fit vendor in its network of global manufacturing partners. For example, in January or February, a project might be bid out to a factory in another region instead of China to avoid any production delays associated with Chinese New Year or a brand doing a small minimum order quantity would be bid out to a partner that specializes in small-batch production.

Over the next six months, Cala will cultivate a network of contractors to which it can continuously send out projects, enabling them to work on both small and large brands wherever their expertise best fits.

Cala has been trying to branch out beyond just building a brand’s infrastructure by giving its users access to experts and educational materials. In June, Cala launched 1MOQ, a weekly newsletter and content archive providing tactical resources and industry commentary on how to build a successful fashion brand.