Has Sequoia China Found Its Next Big Fashion Investment?

The Jing takes: On January 13, Sequoia Capital China announced the acquisition of a majority stake in the South Korean design brand WE11DONE. Alongside Sequoia China, Mirabaud Lifestyle Impact & Innovation, a French fund founded by Chanel’s fifth-generation heir, David Wertheimer, will join the company as a minority shareholder.

WE11DONE, based in Seoul, is a unisex, designer-meets-streetwear fashion brand founded in 2015 by Jessica Jung and Dami Kwon (the latter is also the sister of popular Korean idol G-DRAGON). The partnership will leverage Sequoia China’s technology assets and innovative retail experiences to accelerate the brand’s expansion in key global markets such as China, the United States and Europe. The two founders of the brand will continue to have significant stakes in the company and will lead the creative direction of the brand after the acquisition. The chief operating officer, Sang Mo Kim, will also remain in charge of the overall business.

This latest move follows the venture capital firm’s investment in French designer brand AMI and Canadian luxury e-commerce site SSENSE during the previous year. Needless to say, since Angelica Cheung, former editor-in-chief of Vogue China, joined Sequoia China’s board of directors, quickly expanded to claim a position in the global fashion industry.

The Jing takes: At the beginning of its journey, WE11DONE was based in Rare Market, a Korean concept buyer, but soon became popular thanks to the collaboration with several European and American celebrities. While in the Chinese market, the brand was seen on beloved national stars such as Yang Mi, Ouyang Nana, and Cai Xukun, who quickly grew its popularity.

However, during a time when the influence of Chinese consumers on the international fashion market is increasing in the face of rapidly changing global consumer trends, WE11DONE may have missed its best opportunity to tap into the Chinese market. In the early years of its popularity, the clothing company, which is not far from China, served local consumers only by partnering with multi-brand or pop-up stores.

Without establishing long-term partnerships with domestic celebrities or throwing a social media presence on local platforms, the brand quickly fell off the map for Chinese consumers. Meanwhile, its main Korean rival, Ader Error, has surpassed WE11DONE’s popularity on the Xiaohongshu lifestyle platform. In addition, the brand suffers a lot from counterfeits. WE11DONE has not established any presence on local e-commerce platforms. But, when you search for the brand on Taobao, many fake versions of its products appear for a third of its retail price. And most surprisingly, the monthly sales of these items exceed 300 pieces.

However, the brand enjoys considerable awareness in China and beyond. His collaboration with Sequoia China could fuel new hopes for the label given the venture capital firm’s experience and track record of success. For example, its first international M&A project, AMI, has already established a social presence on Chinese platforms and is gaining significant prominence in the local market. Maybe WE11DONE will be Sequoia China’s next big hit?

The Jing Take reports prominent news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the main implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we break down everything from product launches and mergers to the heated debate on Chinese social media.

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