Meet the millennial cofounders of Apparis, the cult-favorite vegan coat brand that raised $3 million in funding this year and just launched a collaboration with Juicy Couture
- Amelie Brick, 37, and Lauren Nouchi, 29, are the cofounders of Apparis, an apparel company best known for its vegan coats.
- The brand just officially launched a collaboration to reinvent the famous Juicy Couture tracksuit.
- Earlier this year, it closed a $3 million round in funding, and counts Karlie Kloss and footballer Cam Newton as backers, as reported by Forbes.
- The brand has also expanded into homewear, as the pandemic continues to sweep through the world, and the cofounders say they anticipate people spending even more time at home.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Amelie Brick and Lauren Nouchi are the cofounders of Apparis, an apparel brand best known making vegan coats — fur that doesn't come from real animals.
They quit their jobs in luxury fashion to launch the company in 2016 after they saw a gap in the fur market, Nouchi told Business Insider, anticipating a decline in demand for real fur over the next few years, leaving space for an alternative.
Brick, 37, and Nouchi, 29, are both from the southern French city of Marseille. They knew of each other through mutual friends and family and teamed up to launch Apparis in, well, Paris.
Enter, their vegan cur coat line, Apparis, which began hosting pop-up shops in Williamsburg in 2017, showing off a few vegan coat designs created by Nouchi, and has since become known for its Goldie fur jacket, which retails for $230.
The coats ended up being so popular that they caught the attention of a buyer for Bloomingdale's, who asked them to present a collection. Nouchi said it was just in time.
"At the time, nobody was really doing what we were doing," Nouchi said. "I feel like if we had the same idea for vegan coats now, we would be too late."
Indeed, over the past two years, Nordstrom and Macy's announced they would ban the sell of real fur, with the latter banning all unethically sourced produced from its stores. Gucci, Burberry, Versace, and Coach have also opted for alternatives to real fur. Fur farming has also been banned by many countries, including Norway, Germany, and Belgium, as well as the state of California, as reported by The New York Times.
Today, the brand is sold in Bloomingdale's, Saks Fifth Avenue, Moda Operandi, and hundreds of other major retailers. As reported by Forbes, the brand made $7.3 million in revenue last year, with wholesale accounting for 60%.
To source its vegan fur, Brick says she tapped into the network of people she already knew, and connected with a man who owned a business that specializes in vegan fur production. He helped them produce their now-signature vegan fur, which they call PlucheTM faux fur.
"I explained to him that I and my business partner had big plans to expand into the US markets," Brick says. " And that we wanted to bring very amazing, yet affordable alternatives to real fur."
How Apparis raised $3 million in its latest funding round
At first, Brick says they bootstrapped the business, putting together their savings and investing every dollar made back into the company. They didn't have plans to raise funding at first, but eventually decided to seek investors.
One female investor, Brick said, really fell in love with their business plan and ended up helping them navigate the tricky field of VC funding, by introducing them to other VCs and angel investors that ended up investing in the business.
The result is that they were able to raise $3 million in funding this past year, despite the pandemic. It took them a year to raise funding, Brick told Business Insider, because they were very selective about who they decided to bring on. Current investors include Third Kind Venture Capital and Exor Seeds, model Karlie Kloss, and even Cam Newton, who discovered the brand at one of their pop-up shops in New York City.
"We were looking to bring in people who deeply believe in the long-term value of the brand," Brick says. "And we met really interesting people that gave us a perspective beyond our own industry."
As the pandemic continues, the brand pivots to home wear
Right now, about 15 people work full-time for the company, Brick said, including on their creative teams, product team, sales team, and on their supply chain. "Everyone is doing a lot more than what they are supposed to do, for sure," she said.
About 80% of Apparis products are made in one factory in China, and Brick said they are "conservative" with inventory. They typically try to buy in small batches rather than big productions, to help prevent waste.
Having only one factory in China helped them during the pandemic, Brick said, because they weren't too impacted by the manufacturing and production shutdowns that affected many retailers throughout the world.
This was because by the time COVID hit Europe and the Americas in March, China was already getting better. Luckily, March is usually when the company begins production, and they were able to (cautiously) continue manufacturing their coats, Nouchi said.
So they took this time instead to focus on rebranding the company. They focused heavily on the social media strategy and decided to use excess fabric that was left over in their factory to launch a home collection label, which was released this month.
Nouchi said they decided to launch this new collection because they were anticipating that people would continue to spend more time at home and would be looking to purchase items such as candles and pajamas.
Indeed, luxury retailers Moda Operandi, Olivela, and The RealReal both told Business Insider that they have seen an uptick in purchases for items such as home decor and casual wear such as sweatpants, as people have begun spending more time at home.
In the weeks after March 9, Moda Operandi said that searches for the word "sweats" rose 50% on their website, while The RealReal revealed in August that demand skyrocketed for items such as candles and pillows, increasing 90% and 216% from March to June, respectively.
"We did a test launch in April and decided to extend the category and launch a much bigger collection for home in the fall," Nouchi said, adding that their home collection includes pajamas, eye masks, candles, headbands, and slippers.
"We were able to reinvent ourselves," she continued. "And innovate and be online and follow what the consumers are currently purchasing."
The brand has also recently released a collaboration with Juicy Couture
Fresh off its $3 million funding round and the launch of its home collection, the duo still found time to land a collaboration with '90s staple Juicy Couture, which was released on October 29th.
The partnership, according to Nouchi, happened quite simply. They were looking to do an outside-of-the-box collaboration and liked Juicy Couture's big name and nostalgia appeal, so they made an approach, and the brand loved it.
"Basically what we decided to do was reinvent their tracksuits," Nouchi said. "We took their iconic shapes, and we developed exclusivity for this collaboration, a very thin fur that is very soft."
The collection, known as Faux Fur Fantasy, is made with Apparis' signature PlucheTM faux fur and vegan shearling fabric. It was modeled by Brenn and Jules Lorenzo, known as the Skate Kitchen Twins, part of an all-female skate crew called Skate Kitchen.
It's also the 25th anniversary of the Juicy tracksuit, an emblem of the '90s and early 2000s, which has been seen on everyone from Paris Hilton to Kim Kardashian.
Nouchi said the company, which previously collaborated with Diane von Furstenberg on jackets, plans to partner with more high-profile brands in the future. It would like to enter into more "out-of-the-box" kinds of partnerships that will continue to push the creativity of the brand.
"It's all about being bold, daring to be different, and really aligning again with what we are trying to say," she continued. "We want to make cruelty-free fashion, and we want to do it in a way that empowers women. That's just part of the DNA of Apparis."
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