THE FOREMOST 50 | 2018

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 BY Awais Khan | Chief Analyst | The Lead

In partnership with

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We are pleased to present the 2018 Foremost 50 List, a group of break-out digital native brands and retailers that are reinventing and redefining the future of fashion and retail. Creating this list of 50 companies was not done lightly, and there were more than a few heated debates as we narrowed it down to the final selections.

At The Lead we are specifically focused on innovation across the apparel, footwear, accessories, beauty and home markets. So while it was hard to resist outstanding drug, grocery and health companies, we made it a point to stay within our sweet-spot.

These 50 companies were chosen less for their products and more for their business execution. Our goal was to build a list that not only recognizes break-out companies, but also acknowledges the collective trends and best-practices that signal where the fashion and retail industry is headed. The products are not to be overlooked, but our predominant focus is on marketing and customer acquisition, customer experience, technology implementation, channel diversity and capital efficiency. We wanted to highlight companies that not only represent the future of the industry, but are also taking risks while creating investor value — Not an easy lift.

Researching The Foremost 50 was a process of several months. We began by broadly reviewing the nominations of more than 300 companies, then defining a short-list, and ultimately conducting interviews with the companies’ CEOs. Our process employed the same seven criteria we use for The Leading 100 list, only weighed for a different business model. This analysis focused on private companies and their execution across innovation, commercialization, media buzz, competition, team, market opportunity and investor value creation.

Our partners in this process, Rosenthal & Rosenthal, helped us maneuver the back-of-the-house analysis. With decades of helping brands navigate their own growth, financing and cash management, our technology oriented team was well balanced by their financial know-how and experience.

These 50 companies, taken together, are a bellwether, a leading indicator of the fashion and retail industry’s future. By understanding this group of rising stars, leaders across the industry can extract best practices, apply new business models and anticipate consumer expectation. Below are some of the findings we have discovered from our research.

Trends and Insights

DNVBs (digital native vertical brands) are already capturing nearly 2% of the total $453 billion U.S. e-commerce market, and are growing nearly three times as fast as the average e-commerce retailer.

Brands of the 20th century took nearly a decade to open multiple stores and reach $100M in revenues. Those brands relied on cash flow and profitability to keep their businesses going and livelihoods afloat, and were profitable almost immediately. In contrast, digital native brands, took four years on average to achieve $100M, but many are yet to be profitable, even after being in business for six or seven years.

There are some digital native brands that built very successful businesses without taking any (or minimal) VC funding. However, they are not profiled in the Foremost 50 list as they had recent exits. Examples – Purple (Mattress brand) had a $1.1B merger (two founders made close to $850M) and MVMT (watch brand) was bought by Movado Group for $100M.

Customer acquisition cost – with the exception of perhaps inventory – is the highest and most variable cost for a digital native business.

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As they mature, DNVBs commonly expand via third-party retail partnerships, or by opening their own physical stores. However, these retail outposts are deeply integrated with the overarching brand experience, and their openings are heavily marketed with influencers and promotions.

DNVBs continue to gather immense data on their customers; they will have to be increasingly wary of the European (and, potentially, the upcoming domestic) data privacy legislation.

Allbirds 200 x 200

Eco-friendly shoes made with natural materials.
Founders:Joseph Zwillinger & Tim Brown
CEOs:Joseph Zwillinger & Tim Brown
Capital Raised: $27.5 M


Apparel brand focused on offering exceptional US-made clothing at a fair price.
Founder: Bayard Winthrop
CEO: Bayard Winthrop
Capital Raised: $5.6M

Away is a purveyor of thoughtful, high quality luggage for modern travel.
Founders: Jen Rubio, Steph Korey
CEO: Steph Korey
Capital Raised: $81M

BaubleBar is a leader in affordable, on-trend fashion jewelry & accessories.
Founders: Amy Jain, Daniella Yacobovsky
CEOs: Amy Jain, Daniella Yacobovsky
Capital Raised: $48.6M

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Comfortable athletic socks for men, women, & kids with a mission to help those in need.
Founders: David Heath, Randy Goldberg
CEO: David Heath
Capital Raised: Undisclosed

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Men's apparel retailer offering curated product & styling services based on the client's fit & taste.
Founders: Bernard Yoo, Sarah Lee, Jason Kim
Capital Raised: $8.2M

Premium bedding & bath linens with a lifetime guarantee.
Founders: Rich Fulop, Vicki Fulop
CEO: Rich Fulop
Capital Raised: $10M


Luxury activewear company with a focus on meeting the needs of the modern American woman.
Founders: Caroline Gogolak, Katie Warner Johnson
CEO: Katie Warner Johnson
Capital Raised: $16M

Carbon 38 200 x 200

A global sleep company that manufactures & sells mattresses with a 100 night trial guarantee.
Founders: Constantin Eis, Gabriel Flateman, Jeff Chapin, Neil Parikh, Philip Krim, T. Luke Sherwin
CEO: Philip Krim
Capital Raised: $239.7M

chubbies 216 x 216

Customer centric clothing company dedicated to men's short shorts.
Founders: Kyle Hency, Preston Rutherford, Rainer Castillo, Tom Montgomery
Capital Raised: $16M

Adventure gear & apparel focused on quality, design, storytelling & social responsibility.
Founders: CJ Whittaker, Davis Smith, Stephan Jacob
CEO: Davis Smit
Capital Raised: $22.1M


Personalized, professionally guided skin care that's affordable & accessible.
Founders: David Lortscher, Kris Fredrickson, Nancy Satur
CEO: David Lortscher
Capital Raised: $18.8M


Plus size clothing & personal styling services for women.
Founders: Lydia Gilbert, Nadia Boujarwah
CEO: Nadia Boujarwah
Capital Raised: $20M

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Draper James
Apparel & home accessories emphasizing southern roots & personal style.
Founder: Reese Witherspoon
CEO: Taylor Rettig
Capital Raised: $10M

Drunk Elephant
High quality, non-toxic skin care at an affordable price with proven results.
Founder: Tiffany Masterson
CEO: Tim Warner
Capital Raised: $8.3M

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Trend driven fashion brand for women sizes 14 to 28.
Founders: Jodi Arnold, John Auerbach, Julie Carnevale, Steve Zawada
CEO: Mariah Chase
Capital Raised: $21M


Ethically made, quality apparel without the traditional retail markup.
Founders: Jesse Farmer, Michael Preysman
CEO: Michael Preysman
Capital Raised: $18M*

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Fashion Nova
Fast fashion brand that gained popularity largely through social media influencers.
Founder: Richard Saghian
CEO: Richard Saghian
Capital Raised: Undisclosed

Frank And Oak
A lifestyle brand for men & women combining sustainability, style, purposeful design, and technology while upholding the values of equity, diversity, and inclusion.
Founders: Ethan Song, Hicham Ratnani
CEO: Ethan Song
Capital Raised: $39.8M

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Function of Beauty
Personalized hair care products tailored to its customers' specific hair profile & goals.
Founders: Hien Nguyen, Joshua Maciejewski, Zahir Dossa
CEO: Zahir Dossa
Capital Raised: $12.2M

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Beauty company leveraging content & community to power the shopping experience.
Founder: Emily Weiss
CEO: Emily Weiss
Capital Raised: $86.4M

Greats 600 x 600

Men’s footwear brand offering a wide range of classically-inspired sneakers.
Founders: Jon Buscemi, Ryan Babenzien
CEO: Ryan Babenzien
Capital Raised: $13M

Marketplace for rare & limited edition sneakers.
Founders: Daishin Sugano, Eddy Lu
CEO: Eddy Lu
Capital Raised: $97.6M


Quality razors, razor blades & personal care products for men.
Founders: Andy Katz-Mayfield, Jeffrey Raider
CEOs: Andy Katz-Mayfield, Jeffrey Raider
Capital Raised: $474.6M

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Knot Standard
Custom clothing brand aiming to revolutionize the way men shop.
Founders: John Ballay, Matthew Mueller
CEO: John Ballay
Capital Raised: $23.4M

kopari blie

Beauty products embrace & enhance the natural, made with 100% pure organic coconut oil.
Founders: Kiana Cabell, Gigi Goldman, Bryce Goldman, James Brennan
CEO: Bryce Goldman
Capital Raised: $15M

High performance, lightweight hunting gear & apparel designed for harsh conditions.
Founder: Jason Hairston
Capital Raised: $50M

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M. Gemi
Quality shoes handcrafted in Italy & sold at an affordable price point.
Founders: Ben Fischman, Cheryl Kaplan, Maria Gangemi
CEO: Ben Fischman
Capital Raised: $47.2M

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Madison Reed
Affordable, salon-quality hair color made with ingredients you can feel good about.
Founders: Amy Errett, Eric Hutchinson, Sabrina Riddle
CEO: Amy Errett
Capital Raised: $70.1M

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Memebox Corporation
K-Beauty community & a collection of innovative in-house skin care & cosmetics brands.
Founders: Doin Kim, Hyungseok Ha
CEO: Hyungseok Ha
Capital Raised: $156.7M

Milk Makeup
Beauty essentials made with natural, eco-streamlined ingredients for the girl on the go.
Founders: Zanna Roberts Rassi, Mazdack Rassi, Georgie Greville
Capital Raised: Undisclosed


Ministry of Supply
Creating a new category of clothing, performance professional, engineered dress clothes for the work day.
Founders: Aman Advani, Kevin Rustagi, Kit Hickey, Gihan Amarasiriwardena
CEO: Aman Advani
Capital Raised: $9.2M

Moda Operandi 400 x 400

Moda Operandi
Luxury fashion retailer allowing members to pre-order ready-to-wear accessories & jewelry.
Founders: Aslaug Magnusdottir, Lauren Santo Domingo
CEO: Deborah Nicodemus
Capital Raised: $293.7M


Socially-conscious, luxury knitwear brand that sources cashmere directly from local herders in Mongolia.
Founders: Diederik Rijsemus, Hadas Saar, Matthew Scanlan
CEO: Matthew Scanlan
Capital Raised: $16M

Outdoor Voices
Active lifestyle brand that designs & sells women’s & men’s technical apparel for recreation.
Founders: Tyler Haney
CEO: Tyler Haney
Capital Raised: $57M

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Parachute Home
Parachute designs, manufactures & sells quality, non-toxic bedding & bath essentials.
Founder: Ariel Kaye
CEO: Ariel Kaye
Capital Raised: $44.8M

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Quality clothing & essentials for kids & babies in vibrant colors.
Founders: Galyn Bernard, Christina Carbonell
CEO: Galyn Bernard
Capital Raised: $27.8M


Comfortable & safe silicone jewelry made for the active lifestyle.
Founders: Ted Baker, KC Holiday
CEO: Ted Baker
Capital Raised: Undisclosed

Online authority & marketplace for luxury handbags.
Founders: Charles-Albert Gorra, Erwan Delacroix
CEO: Charles-Albert Gorra
Capital Raised: $31.8M

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Rockets of Awesome
Reinventing the way parents shop for kids by leveraging data & personalization.
Founder: Rachel Blumenthal
CEO: Rachel Blumenthal
Capital Raised: $19.5M

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Stadium Goods
An online marketplace for sought after sneakers & streetwear.
Founders: Jed Stiller, John McPheters
CEO: John McPheters
Capital Raised: $5.6M

stance 400 x 400

Premium sock brand dedicated to the spirit of individuality.
Founders: Aaron Hennings, Jeff Kearl, Rick Alden, Ryan Kingman, Taylor Shupe
CEOs: Jeff Kearl
Capital Raised:$116M

Reinventing fashion through innovative technology, personalization & a data driven platform.
Founders: Adam Goldenberg, Don Ressler
Adam Goldenberg, Don Ressler
Capital Raised: $259.7M


The Black Tux
Premium tuxedo & suit rental service for the modern man.
Founders: Andrew Blackmon, Mike Gammarino, Patrick Coyne
CEOs: Andrew Blackmon, Patrick Coyne
Capital Raised: $62.6M

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The RealReal
The leader in authenticated luxury fashion consignment.
Founder: Julie Wainwright
CEO: Julie Wainwright
Capital Raised: $288M


Innovative bra & underwear brand that believes fit should come first.
Founders: David Spector, Heidi Zak
CEOs: David Spector, Heidi Zak
Capital Raised: $13.6M

True Botanicals
Non-toxic, quality skincare products made with natural & organic ingredients.
Founder: Hillary Peterson
CEO: Christina Mace-Turner
Capital Raised: $14.1M


Apparel brand built on perfecting comfortable men's shirting, meant to be worn untucked.
Founders: Aaron Sanandres, Chris Riccobono
CEO: Aaron Sanandres
Capital Raised: $30M


Warby Parker
Designer eyewear featuring at home try-on & a socially conscious business model.
Founders: Andrew Hunt, David Gilboa, Jeffrey Raider, Neil Blumenthal
CEOs: Neil Blumenthal, David Gilboa
Capital Raised: $290.5M

zenni blue

Zenni Optical
Zenni was founded by 2 scientists with the mission to make high quality eyewear that is both attractive & affordable.
Founders: Tibor Laczay, Julia Zhen
CEO: Tibor Laczay,
Capital Raised: Self-funded