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Carve Designs gets substantial investment from Black Diamond owner Warren Kanders

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Kanders invests in Carve Designs, expecting to double growth

Carve Designs expects to double in size
Carve Designs produces a full line of women’s clothing, focusing on performance swim, surf and paddling apparel and beach-inspired lifestyle clothes. // Courtesy of Carve Designs

Kanders & Company, owner of Black Diamond and other outdoor brands, has made a “significant” growth capital investment in women’s apparel brand Carve Designs, both companies confirmed in exclusive interviews with SNEWS.

The dollar amount of the investment has not been disclosed, but Kanders owner Warren Kanders will become chairman of the company.

Carve Designs focuses on women’s surf and paddle sport performance wear, as well as lifestyle clothing that matches the brand’s beach-inspired persona. Thayer Sylvester and Jennifer Hinton founded the brand in 2003, after a trip to Mexico where they discussed quitting their jobs to make better surf apparel for women.

“It wasn’t just the tequila talking,” Sylvester, who will remain CEO, said. “We actually went home and did that.”

Carve Designs founders Jen Hinton and Thayer Sylvester
Carve Designs Creative Director Jen Hinton, left, and CEO Thayer Sylvester, right, founded the brand together in 2003. // Courtesy of Carve Designs

Carve Designs has unique ethos

Kanders had been watching Carve Designs for some time because of its unique ethos, said Zach Michelson, director of corporate development for Kanders. The brand is authentic, inspired by California beach culture, and laces fun into everything it does. When they wanted to differentiate their newsletters among the countless other emails in their customers’ inboxes, for example, they started a recurring “Friday Distractions” feature on their blog, posting a new cocktail recipe with a drool-worthy photo each week.

Kanders believes its investment can help double the business by expanding wholesale into new territories. Currently, Carve Designs apparel is sold in about 300 stores, of which outdoor specialty shops are at the core of its business. The brand also sells direct to its consumers online.

Sylvester and Hinton began looking for an investment partner about a year ago to help take the company to the next level, and Kanders was an excellent cultural fit for the brand, Sylvester said.

Short-term growth strategies thanks to the investment include providing retailers with much-needed display fixtures, which had been a request for quite some time. Carve Designs will also be able to increase its number of deliveries each season, and keep a better stock of different sizes for its swimwear.

“We are a big swim provider to many of our retailers, and there’s constant demand there in-season that we’ve been struggling to fulfill,” Sylvester said. “Kanders is putting us in a position that we can manage inventory and ASAP orders.”

In the next few years, the brand will also expand its product line, including offering more technical fabrics for lifestyle applications. It also plans to use more sustainable fabrics, such as making all of its board shorts from recycled polyester starting in Spring 2018.

Long-term goals also include an expanded accessory line and a line of sun protection products.

Kanders was attracted to the brand because of its creativity and innovation, said Michelson.

At Outdoor Retailer, you see a lot of the same stuff walking the aisles, he said. But walking by Carve Designs, “it’s just this incredible, clean, white space, where everyone looked like they were having fun but also having meetings and working hard,” Michelson said. “There is a real energy and a level of creativity and innovation that is a breath of fresh air in the outdoor space. … Carve Designs is a really good cultural fit for Kanders.”

Warren Kanders called Sylvester and Hinton’s company “unbelievably unique” in a statement about the investment.

“We look forward to working closely with them as we provide strategic insight and capital to accelerate growth and brand awareness,” he said.

Likewise, Sylvester said that Kanders & Co. is “uniquely qualified” to provide the expertise and financial resources to help them take advantage of the opportunity to grow the brand tremendously.

“We want to become the go-to beach lifestyle brand for all our specialty retailers, and beyond that, we want to be that for our customer base through online sales,” Sylvester said.