Has Sequoia China Found Its Next Big Fashion Investment?

    Sequoia China just took a majority stake in the South Korean designer brand WE11DONE and will support the label’s expansion in major global markets.
    Sequoia China just took a majority stake in the South Korean designer brand WE11DONE and will support the label’s expansion in major global markets. Photo: WE11DONE Spring 2022 Collection
      Published   in Fashion

    The Jing Take

    On January 13, Sequoia Capital China announced its acquisition of a majority stake in the South Korean designer brand WE11DONE. Alongside Sequoia China, Mirabaud Lifestyle Impact & Innovation, a French fund founded by Chanel's fifth-generation heir, David Wertheimer, will join as a minority shareholder in the company.

    The Seoul-based WE11DONE is a unisex, designer-meets-streetwear fashion brand founded in 2015 by Jessica Jung and Dami Kwon (the latter is also the sister of popular Korean idol G-DRAGON.) The partnership will leverage Sequoia China’s resources, technological advances, and innovative retail experiences to accelerate the brand's expansion in major global markets like China, the US, and Europe. The two brand founders will continue to hold significant stakes in the company and lead the brand's creative direction after the acquisition. Chief operating officer, Sang Mo Kim, will also remain in charge of the overall business.

    This latest move follows the venture capital firm’s investment in the French designer brand AMI and the Canadian luxury e-commerce site SSENSE during the previous year. Needless to say, since Angelica Cheung, former editor in chief of Vogue China, joined the Sequoia China board, it has rapidly expanded while claiming a position in the global fashion industry.

    The Jing Take

    At the beginning of its journey, WE11DONE was based in Rare Market, a Korean concept buyer shop, but soon became popular by cooperating with several European and American celebrities. While in the Chinese market, the brand was seen on beloved domestic stars like Yang Mi, Ouyang Nana, and Cai Xukun, which quickly grew its popularity.

    However, during a period when the influence of Chinese consumers on the international fashion market is increasing in the face of fast-changing global consumption trends, WE11DONE might have missed its best opportunity to tap into the Chinese market. In the first few years of its popularity, the apparel company, which isn't far from China, only served local consumers by partnering with multibrand or pop-up stores.

    Without establishing long-term partnerships with domestic celebrities or launching a social media presence on local platforms, the brand quickly fell off the map for Chinese consumers. Meanwhile, its top Korean rival, Ader Error, has surpassed WE11DONE's popularity on the lifestyle platform Xiaohongshu. Additionally, the brand suffers greatly from counterfeits. WE11DONE has not established any presence on local e-commerce platforms. But, when searching the brand on Taobao, many fake versions of its products appear at one-third of its retail price. And, more surprisingly, the monthly sales of these items exceed 300 pieces.

    Still, the brand enjoys remarkable awareness in China and beyond. Its cooperation with Sequoia China might fuel new hopes for the label, given the venture capital firm's expertise and successful track record. For instance, its first international M&A project — AMI — has already established a social presence on Chinese platforms and is gaining substantial relevance in the local market. Perhaps WE11DONE will be Sequoia China's next big success story?

    The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.

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