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IPO Returns Show Fashion Startups Were Not Runway Ready

Illustration of Jacket with $100 bill lining.

Venture capitalists are not known for their fashion sense. Turns out, they haven’t been doing well lately with fashion-related IPOs either.

A Crunchbase survey of six venture-backed companies in the clothing and accessories industry that went public last year shows an average post-IPO decline of 74%.

The worst performer—subscription and rental outfit provider Rent the Runway—has seen its valuation slip 93% since making its market debut last October. Shares tanked a few weeks ago, after the company lowered revenue forecasts and announced a 24% cut in corporate staff.

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The New York fashion industry disruptor is hardly the only venture-backed company in the space to face troubles lately. For perspective, below we lay out six that went public last year, and how they’re faring now:

Of course, the major market indices have seen steep declines since last year, with tech leading the way down. So newly public fashion players aren’t the only ones that headed lower.

Still, several on our list have had issues of their own beyond general market malaise. Examples include:

  • ThredUp, which sells secondhand clothes online, missed earnings expectations for the past three reported quarters, and shares are currently trading near their all-time low. This summer, the Oakland-based company reportedly laid off 15% of corporate staff and announced the shuttering of a processing facility.
  • Eyeglasses purveyor Warby Parker cut 15% of its corporate staff this summer and lowered its sales outlook amid expectations of softening consumer demand.
  • Allbirds, a maker of comfy footwear sourced from merino wool and sustainable materials, also cut revenue guidance this summer, pushing shares down even after a better-than-expected quarter.

Additionally, one of last year’s better-known fashion debuts is already going private. Secondhand fashion and accessories marketplace Poshmark, announced earlier this month that it has agreed to a $1.2 billion acquisition by South Korea’s Naver.

Yes, VCs are still doing fashion, but not so much

Meanwhile, in startup land, fashion-focused founders are still managing to raise some funding. However, investment has dropped off, particularly in the last few months.

Per Crunchbase data, investors put approximately $1.5 billion into seed through growth-stage rounds for fashion-related startups so far this year. That’s on track to come in well below the $3.4 billion invested in 2021.

However, it should be noted that the biggest 2022 rounds were largely at the beginning of the year. The three largest funding rounds—Skims ($240 million Series B), Harry’s ($140 million Series F) and Savage X Fenty ($125 million Series C)—all closed in January.

In the last three months, fashion funding totaled just $184 million, indicating investment activity in the space is slowing down.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

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