LONDON, United Kingdom — Wool and the Gang is set to announce a $2.8 million seed round led by Index Ventures and Wellington Partners, with the participation of MMC Ventures and a number of other investors from the technology and retail space. The valuation of the company was not disclosed.
Wool and the Gang is a knitwear brand which sells both ready-to-wear pieces — designed by creative directors and co-founders Aurelie Popper and Jade Harwood, who trained at London’s Central Saint Martins and, collectively, spent time at Alexander McQueen and Balmain — and do-it-yourself “knit kits” that enable hobbyists to make the designs themselves.
Importantly, the raise coincides with the launch of The Gang Collection, a special collection of knitwear designed by Popper and Harwood, but produced by members of the global community of expert knitters that has grown up around the brand. Comprised of two handbag styles, the collection represents a small, but important step towards realising Wool and the Gang’s long-term vision.
Armed with new funding, the company aims to unite the design-driven aesthetics of a fashion brand, the favourable economics of an online marketplace — which connects buyers and sellers, while eliminating the risk of actually buying and holding inventory — and the collective production power of the company’s community of knitters, or “makers,” a term that refers to a new class of web-connected, small-scale creators that make and market products, often from their proverbial kitchen tables.
Essentially, the plan is that Wool and the Gang creates and sells knitwear designs, along with the materials required to produce them, to the community of “makers” who, in turn, handle production, then sell the finished goods to end consumers via the company’s online marketplace. Wool and the Gang takes a percentage of each sale.
“Over the past four years, a Wool and the Gang community of makers formed, who had learned and perfected how to make Wool and the Gang clothes. We wanted to push our concept further by leveraging our community to make and sell Wool and the Gang clothes for our customers by providing an online platform for that to happen,” Popper told BoF. “It was already happening offline, so we saw the opportunity to connect these expert makers and buyers online. Our first step towards our vision is to launch the Gang Collection, beginning first with just two products and a limited number of makers with a view to expanding quickly over the coming months.”
“The knitwear apparel industry is massive and growing. Currently, it’s worth over $20 billion. We see Wool and the Gang positioned as a major player in this space with an ability to launch new designs on a weekly basis, uniquely made by our network of Gang makers from around the world and sold directly at woolandthegang.com,” said Lisa Rodwell, Wool and the Gang’s CEO, who joined the company in March after serving, most recently, as chief revenue officer at Moo.com.
Over time, Rodwell expects crowdsourced production from “thousands of makers” to account for 80 percent of the company’s total business, with ready-to-wear produced by traditional artisans comprising the remaining 20 percent. Starting later this year, the company also plans to offer customised knitwear, produced by its network of makers.
Specifically, the new funding will allow Wool and the Gang to build the technology platform required to realise the company’s vision of “rebooting traditional home manufacturing” and make key hires, including a chief technology officer.
“Lisa and the team have the vision and ability to build a game-changing fashion business, connecting people all over the globe in a way that has never been done before. In a matter of a few years, they have created a powerful brand with influential fans — and that’s down to the imagination and talent of the design team,” said Index Ventures co-founder Neil Rimer.
Read more about the maker movement: The Long View | Chris Anderson Says the ‘Maker’ Movement is the Next Industrial Revolution
Disclosure: Index Ventures is part of a consortium of investors which has a minority stake in The Business of Fashion.