A favored supplier of DTC darlings like Stitch Fix and Everlane, Lever Style this week announced that it acquired technical outerwear maker Liwaco Overseas Marketing Limited. The company is known for making men’s and women’s high-performance gear for brands like Mammut, Mountain Equipment Co-op, Helly Hansen and Black Diamond.
The development represents Lever Style’s first step into the world of technical apparel, as the company is hoping to leverage Liwaco’s fashion and performance expertise to support its athleisure clients. While the category has become a consumer mainstay over the course of the past decade, the pandemic continues to drive up sales on leggings and casual, work-from-home staples. Lever Style executive chairman Stanley Szeto told Sourcing Journal he expects the news to be well received by clients interested in delivering fashionable wares with “technical attributes.”
“Imagine Burberry making a trench coat that looks fashionable, yet is seam-sealed using Goretex fabric for complete water-proofing,” he added.
Earlier this month, Szeto highlighted the uptick in interest in casual fashion styles throughout the Covid crisis. He said he was closely monitoring consumer sentiment to gauge if the trend toward athleisure would endure even after consumers grow more comfortable returning to work and taking part in social outings.
Szeto described the Liwaco deal as a “beachhead” offering further expansion into the desirable sportswear market. “Sportswear and athleisure are the only apparel categories that have shown strong growth over the past 15 years, and we expect that to continue as workplaces get increasingly casual,” he told Sourcing Journal Friday. “Even though we make suits, I myself have not worn a suit in years. An unconstructed blazer paired with jeans is probably as formal as I look nowadays. Even when I attended a funeral and had to look formal, I was just wearing a black blazer with stretchy black golf pants.” It should come as little surprise, he added, that “our tailoring business has absolutely plummeted.”
The acquisition will ensure Lever Style is prepared to support whatever future growth the market for athleisure delivers. “With both fashion and technical apparel expertise, the company is well-placed to support its customers in the growing athleisure segment—at the intersection of sportswear and fashion,” the company said of Liwaco’s core competency.
Since its IPO last November, Lever Style has made good on its promise to augment its capabilities through acquisitions of suppliers with varied expertise. In late July, the garment maker acquired Vista Apparels, a Dongguan, China-based manufacturer that specializes in knitwear, like sweaters, and counts James Perse, Ministry of Supply and Paul Smith among its clients.
“We will enhance Liwaco’s operations for efficiency, speed and flexibility and integrate them into Lever Style,” Szeto said of the latest acquisition. “The ability to offer our expanded customer base technical outwear in addition to our existing wide product range provides cross-selling opportunities as well as economies of scale.”
Lever Style has agreed to purchase certain assets from Liwaco for around $4.4 million, and will take on the company’s employees.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to lay waste to economies around the world, businesses with well-padded bottom lines are pouncing on opportunities to augment their assets. While the retail sector is expected to witness considerable M&A activity in the pandemic’s aftermath, sourcing could see similar synergistic deals, too.