NEW YORK, March 13 (Reuters) - TechStyle Fashion Group, owner of the Fabletics sportswear line that features celebrity actress Kate Hudson, is exploring a sale that could value it at more than $1.5 billion, including debt, people familiar with the matter said on Monday.
The sale process will test the worth of Hudson’s name recognition, as well as the value of so-called athleisure - workout apparel to be worn for both sport and everyday life.
TechStyle has hired investment bank JPMorgan Chase & Co to run an auction for the company, the people said, cautioning that it was possible that no deal would be reached.
The sources asked not to be identified because the deliberations are confidential. TechStyle did not respond to a request for comment, while JPMorgan declined to comment.
El Segundo, California-based TechStyle’s venture capital investors include Rho Capital Partners, KEC Ventures and Trinity Capital Investment.
Founded in 2010, TechStyle made its name inviting consumers to “subscribe” to its various businesses, and then offer them a curated selection of merchandise.
Its businesses include shoe store ShoeDazzle, apparel and accessories store JustFab, and Fabletics, which it launched with Hudson in 2013.
Fabletics remains the marquee brand, with more than 1 million members and more than 4 million social media followers. It has taken advantage of Hudson’s celebrity following as well as the growing wellness industry that has boomed as consumers have grown more focused on health and aging.
Like many online retailers, Fabletics, which also allows non-subscribing “guests” to buy the products, has been expanding its physical retail footprint, as costs and competition to market a brand online have risen. Fabletics is looking to open 12 new retail locations this year, bringing its store count to 30.
Competition from other celebrity-endorsed brands has grown as the industry has attracted more famous names looking to dip their toes in the space, including R&B singer Rihanna, recording star Beyoncé and country singer, Carrie Underwood.
J. Crew Group Inc, traditionally known for its preppy clothing but which has struggled with brand identity, has been leaning on its own athleisure offerings.
The reach of subscription businesses has attracted corporate acquirers in the past. Subscription shave business Dollar Shave Club agreed last year to be sold to consumer giant Unilever Plc for $1 billion, as the owner of Dove soap sought to improve its online marketing reach. (Editing by David Gregorio)