Lively, the direct-to-consumer lingerie and loungewear brand, is becoming part of Wacoal Industries. The 3-year-old brand founded by a former Victoria’s Secret merchant director, Michelle Cordeiro Grant, was acquired for $85 million.
Grant is expected to stay on as CEO and will continue to run Lively as an independent brand inside Wacoal. The company raised $15 million in funding, with a Series A of $6.5 million. To date, the company’s sold more than a million products and is on track to sell more than a million this year.
“From the Lively perspective, we’ve always believed that the market was right for diversification,” Grant said. “We’re inspiring women to buy bras beyond that one to two times a year.”
Bob Vitale, president and CEO of Wacoal America, said the two companies originally started the conversation earlier this year when Wacoal America was asked to expand its business beyond Japan. However, while Wacoal America was looking in the digitally native brand space, Vitale said it was Lively’s mission of inclusivity and building a community that drew the company to them.
“Obviously they’ve been very successful in getting new customers and growing the business rapidly,” Vitale said. “But when you look at the new method of getting there and where you think this long term growth is going to come from—developing a community of followers that really understand and appreciate the brand and are in it for them and not just to sell them for product—it was very valuable to us and we saw that as an opportunity for long-term growth.”
Lively, which currently has two stores in New York and Chicago, is looking to expand its retail presence with the acquisition, as well as looking at how and when to expand globally. For now, the company plans on recording a second season of its podcast, talking with its community about the acquisition and keeping its customers who come back four to five times a year, said Grant.
The acquisition comes at a time when Victoria’s Secret is reportedly canceling its fashion show, in addition to the news that Leslie Wexner, chairman and CEO of Victoria’s Secret parent company L Brands, was a close associate of Jeffery Epstein, a financier most recently arrested and charged with sex trafficking of underage girls. It also comes at a time when, like Lively, other upstarts including Third Love and American Eagle’s Aerie brand are pushing messages of inclusivity and acceptance of different body types.
Like most acquisitions, Vitale said Lively will operate independently and merely tap into the resources Wacoal has around distribution and manufacturing. Wacoal, on the other hand, wants to gain some of the “digital expertise” that Lively has—a move that every incumbent brand states when acquiring a competitor.
“What we want to do [is] let them run their business,” Vitale said. “[With acquisitions], people bring them inside and they lose their identity and that’s exactly what they don’t want to do. We think that Lively is a tremendous asset to us and for the entire Wacoal corporation. The main thing we don’t want to do is to stifle their creative capabilities and innovation and their ability to be Lively.”