SAN FRANCISCO — California Cowboy, a new apparel brand that created the concept of ‘social-technical apparel,’ has closed a $2 million seed funding round led by venn growth partners.
California Cowboy has created a new line of clothing designed to inspire after-sport social interaction, with the belief that neither fashion nor technology are doing for us what they should. By adding intentional product features that demand conversation, the California-based creator and innovator of Après-Surf wear designs its products to bring out the extrovert in everyone. The company is based in San Francisco and has a retail store at 1841 Polk St. in the city. The investment will be used to hire talent, launching new products and new categories, and investing in systems and processes that will enable the brand to scale at pace.
The company has also added several members to its Board of Directors. Appointed to the Board include: Joelle Maher, Former EVP and President of Global Multi-Channel Retail at Levi Strauss, Sarah Choi, Former Global Manager of Digital and E-Commerce at Marc Jacobs, as well as Chris Reynolds, Founder and Managing Partner of venn. Chris is a former leader of McKinsey & Company’s retail operations practice and Head of Strategy at Hudson’s Bay. California Cowboyis also backed by Ravi Thakran, Former Group Chairman LVMH Asia and Founder of L Catterton Asia, and Tim McGuire, a former Senior Partner and North American Retail Practice Leader at McKinsey & Company.
Drew Clark, CEO and Founder of California Cowboy, started the brand in 2016 to celebrate California’s rebellious and free-thinking “Cowboy” culture. With an end-user-focused approach historically only seen in athletic brands, California Cowboy designs premium apparel whose purpose is to create real-life connections, without your phone. Signature features are aimed at encouraging digital wellness and sparking serendipitous social interactions with the belief that your shirt can be a Trojan Horse into a conversation. Features include a signature dry pocket for safe tech storage, champagne and beer-friendly bottle pockets, sunglasses secure loops, and proprietary terry cloth towel linings on summer products. All prints and patterns are custom or vintage art pieces. Additional design elements reflect the brand’s social purpose: each flagship product includes a pack of provocative “Conversation Cards,” a credit-card sized alloy “Golden State” bottle opener, and a branded koozie.
California Cowboy’s design concepts are inspired by the love of the Golden State’s lifestyle – leisurely, outdoor, and active. Furthermore, the product design concretely reflects the brand’s belief that appropriately holstering your screen will enable the wearer to be more present in real life, rather than glued to a smartphone. The vision is that the right product design will lead to more meaningful experiences with loved ones, and more serendipitous encounters with those you’ve just met – or might meet – when you’ve pocketed your tech. The brand has calculated that the average American will spend more than 9 years of their life staring at the screen on their phone. This jarring statistic is evidence that technology can be addictive and invasive despite its benefits. Being social, active, and optimistic is the core of California Cowboy‘s mission. The gear is designed to help you get out of your inbox and into the ocean, with the recognition that while we may live in a digital world, life still happens in analog.
“Partnering with venn has been a critical step in our path toward owning the after-sport apparel market, as their team has truly leaned into supporting my team and growing the business. It’s been a thrill to work with investors who see the potential in the category we’ve created, and who are just as passionate about our brand as we are,” said Clark. “With this investment, California Cowboy will both grow and become more accessible, which in turn will bring more people closer together. We are all craving togetherness after a year of limited interaction, and we want our product to facilitate the clinking of glasses, a surf, or that backyard bar-b-que. I am grateful for this partnership with venn and the opportunities that lie ahead.”
“We are excited to be partnering with Drew and the exceptional team he’s built at California Cowboy, ” said Reynolds. “We were immediately attracted to the opportunity to partner with them as they have done something unique by creating the category of après-surf wear with feature rich social-technical apparel. When we tried on the product we were unbelievably impressed with the quality, comfort and thoughtfulness of the design and felt it was completely differentiated from competitor brands. Our investment in Drew and team is in line with our strategy to partner with Distinctive Founder CEOs that are delivering industry leading outcomes for customers.”