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Omar Bailey, the former head of the Yeezy-Adidas Innovation Lab, is gearing up to launch BIPOC-led, L.A.-based footwear prototyping lab and venture studio FCTRY LAb with an initial $6 million tranche round of financing.
According to the company, the funding comes from a diverse group of venture capital firms, top professional athletes and angel investors including the co-founder of Tinder via Time Zero Capital, the co-founder of WeWork, the West Coast Head of Warburg Pincus and a consortium of NBA and NFL stars via Chicago-based Aurelien Capital.
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Venture capital investment was led by the L.A.-based, Pay-Pal-backed, Slauson & Co, with additional investment from Relay Ventures, Elysian Park Ventures, Level One Fund and Fog City Capital among others, the company noted.
Courtesy of FCTRY Lab
In an interview with FN, Bailey said the company will use the investment to finish building out the company’s lab in Los Angeles, which is slated to be fully operational by the beginning of January. “Our lab is not like other factories,” Bailey noted. “Think of it as a lounge meets lab meets Apple store. I want it to be a cool space where we can hang out as well as work.”
Along with his co-founder former Wall Street and private equity executive Abhishek Som, Bailey is building a new business aimed at democratizing sneaker production and open-source innovation for emerging and established designers and brands of all sizes.
With over 20 years of global product development and manufacturing practice as a design engineer, Bailey’s other experiences include developing footwear for entertainers such as Jay-Z and Lady Gaga, athletes such as Karim Benzema and working alongside brands like Supreme, New Balance, K-Swiss and Timberland.
“I’ve spent a lot of time in shoe factories for major brands in India and China, and now is the time to bring my skills in development to my own company that operates domestically in the States,” Bailey said.
Courtesy of FCTRY Lab
“We offer full end-to-end footwear prototyping and development right here in Los Angeles, which is unheard of in the U.S.,” Bailey added. “That means we do everything from last development, 3D printing, pattern making, injection molding and more all in one place. From there, we also handle production of the designs and we’re adding sales and marketing teams in the new year.”
Bailey noted that what sets FCTRY LAb apart is its U.S.-based operations, which allow the company to avoid the risks of delays of overseas supply chains. This enables the company to shrink the traditional time frame for product development from 8 to 12 months down to 1 to 3 months.
In the eight months the company has been in business, Bailey told FN that FCTRY LAb has already completed a few projects and have signed on yet to be announced collaborations with a major footwear brand and a recent Super Bowl champion.
“One of the things that’s most important to me is that I want to show people of color that there are opportunities for us out there,” Bailed said. “Our initial goal was to raise $2 million to $3 million, but we were able to get some incredible investors involved in our company and we surpassed that goal. I think ultimately this company is more than just shoes and product, we are a piece of a much larger story.”
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