Influencer Arielle Charnas has landed $10 million in funding in a deal that allegedly values her Something Navy brand at nearly $45 million. According to BoF, Silas Chou, one of the early investor partners of Tommy Hilfiger and Michael Kors, is joined by Box Group, M3 Ventures, Third Kind Ventures and Rent the Runway co-founder Jennifer Fleiss in what is “one of the biggest [funding rounds] secured by an influencer to date.” Charnas, whose ongoing partnership with Nordstrom comes to a close at the end of the year, will use the funds to build a direct-to-consumer “lifestyle brand.”
32-year old Charnas – who launched her Something Navy blog 10 years ago and who boasts 1.2 million followers on Instagram – will expand her burgeoning empire alongside Matt Scanlan, co-founder and chief executive of the cashmere brand Naadam. Charnas hired Scanlan to take on the CEO role for the venture, which will have an initial focus, per BoF, being on apparel with “10 to 20 ‘core styles’ dropping every 30 to 40 days at the brand’s online shop and, eventually, a network of her own brick-and-mortar stores.” The company will, “over the next few years, roll out accessories, home decor, childrenswear and beauty.”
The announcement comes on the heels of Charnas making headlines when her Nordstrom collection debut in September 2018 drummed up a reported $4 million in sales, and in the process, cause the retailer’s e-commerce site to crash thanks to a rush in traffic. It also comes as no small number of big-name influencers are looking to expand beyond their initial endeavors and the traditional core revenue stream of promoting third-party brands. The new iterations are seeing influencers ink formal licensing deals with manufacturing partners for apparel, swimwear, skincare, and beauty goods, among other things, or in some cases, such as Charnas’, launch independent brands of their own.
Despite the risks that stand to plague influencers in light of reports of looming fatigue amongst consumers, the potential for this approach to work, and actually embody what is being pegged as the “future of fashion” in the digital era might not be entirely without merit. Charnas’ own “evolution into proprietor of a lifestyle brand has potential to succeed,” Lauren Goodsitt, an analyst at Mintel told BoF. “[Fans are] looking at [influencers] as more than just, ‘Oh, these are the women who post pretty pictures on social media. They’re really becoming brands in and of themselves.”