Encinitas yoga brand founded by ex-Dolce & Gabbana model gets $45M to expand

Vuori was an early pioneer in designing yoga clothes for men, expanding “athleisure” to include a wider customer base


Encinitas-based clothing brand Vuori, which makes yoga clothes and other athleisure apparel, just got $45 million from investors to expand its retail business across the U.S.

The company, whose name is pronounced “vee-or-ee,” was founded in 2015 by San Diego-born Joe Kudla, a former Dolce & Gabbana model turned accountant. The brand started out targeting male customers who wanted comfortable, athletic clothes that looked more sophisticated than the baggy gym (and sometimes neon-colored) brands of the past. Posh athleisure styles have been sweeping sportswear for the past decade, selling clothes that can proudly be worn outside the gym. But the industry was slow to include male customers.

Lululemon, which makes luxury “yoga-inspired” sportswear, is one of the most recognizable brands in this space. While the company now makes clothing for men, the brand was originally for women only. It left some men feeling cold toward the brand.

“For guys like me, Lululemon always felt like my wife’s brand,” Kudla said in a 2017 interview.

Kudla — a yogi, surfer and rock climber — designed Vuori to appeal to men like him. The muted colors and high-quality fabric are signature looks for the brand. The company’s clothes sell between $32 for shirts and hats to $188 for its most expensive jacket. Although it first targeted men, the brand now carries a line for women.

The retailer has three stores in Encinitas, San Francisco, and Manhattan Beach, but also sells in mega-stores like REI and Nordstrom. The brand currently sells in over 1,100 stores in the U.S.

This new round of investment capital comes from Norwest Venture Partners, whose portfolio includes consumer startup brands such as Birdies, Casper Sleep and Kendra Scott. The money comes after a year of strong growth for Vuori. In a recent press release, the company stated it grew 179 percent in 2018. Vuori told the San Diego Business Journal that it brought in $10 million in 2017, which would peg its current annual revenue at around $28 million. The company would not confirm or comment on its revenue.

The investment capital will be used to hire more staff, buy more inventory, and open more stores around the U.S. A Vuori spokesperson told the Union-Tribune that two retail stores are expected to open before the end of 2019, including one in Del Mar Highlands Town Center.

The startup employs 73 people today and plans to double its workforce within the next year.