ENCINITAS —When lifelong athlete Joe Kudla went from playing football and lacrosse to more low-impact activities like hiking, yoga, running and mountain biking, he had a hard time finding anything suitable to wear while working out.
“All of the men’s yoga products were made by women’s brands and the traditional athletic brands didn’t feel fresh or modern,” Kudla said. “Out of 17 million people doing yoga, 6 million were men, the fastest-growing demographic, yet there was not one brand targeting these consumers.”
Kudla said this compelled him to start his own men’s athletic apparel brand, Vuori, based in Encinitas, four years ago. Last month, the fast-growing company received a $45 million investment to expand.
“In 2015, we launched Vuori’s first collection of men’s athletic apparel that was designed to move and sweat in, but styled for everyday life,” he said. “Fast forward a short four years later and we have resonated with some of the best athletes across multiple disciplines, partnered with some of the best retailers in the nation, launched a women’s collection and have three retail stores deeply committed to creating community events that bring people together.”
Along with a fruitful ecommerce business, Vuori has stores in Encinitas, Manhattan Beach, and San Francisco, and an assortment of Vuori’s men’s and women’s apparel is sold in select Nordstrom, Fred Segal, REI, and Equinox fitness clubs.
Kudla said there are plans to open a store in Del Mar this November and they also plan to expand beyond California and open more standalone Vuori stores in other states.
Vuori launched a woman’s collection in 2018, Kudla said, after receiving requests from women who wanted Vuori’s fresh approach to activewear for themselves.
He describes the brand as: from studio to street, from beach to bar, from land to sea.
“Vuori products are functionally designed to transcend traditional boundaries and blur the lines between fitness and life,” Kudla said. “Given the diversity of the product and end use, Vuori appeals to everyone who lives an active life.”
Vuori’s $45 million investment comes from Northwest Venture Partners, which will secure a minority stake in the company as part of the deal.
“As devoted customers, it was apparent to us that Vuori had built versatile products with tremendous energy and soul,” said Jon Kossow, managing partner at Norwest. “This is exactly the type of positive brand experience we search for in our consumer investments, and we look forward to supporting Joe and the team as they continue to bring new products to market and delight their customers.”
Kudla said a good portion of the investment is going back to shareholders who supported the business in its very early days. The remainder, he said, will support the evolution and continued expansion of their product line, including investing in additional inventory to meet consumer demand, and hiring more workers.
Kudla says Vuori has a unique retail store strategy — allowing them to connect directly with their customers and their communities.
“We are an extension of the community that we live in,” he said. “Vuori’s thriving active community in Encinitas served as a source of inspiration for the brand.”
Tawny McCray is a native San Diegan and graduate of San Diego State University. She has known she wanted to be a journalist since writing for her Jr. High School newspaper in 1991. She has worked at The Star News in Chula Vista, The San Diego Union Tribune and ABC 10News San Diego. She has recently freelanced for Scripps Ranch News and The Poway Eagle and is a longtime freelancer with creators.com. She is working on authoring books with her twin sister, Nyla. She and her husband have two kids and live in South Park.