US-Made Kitsbow MTB Apparel Shuttered, Citing Challenges Raising Capital

US-made cycling apparel brand Kitsbow will stop their sewing machines on April 7.
Photo courtesy of Kitsbow

Kitsbow Cycling Apparel, the high-end bike apparel brand based out of Old Fort, North Carolina, known for its US-made threads announced today it is closing up shop. In a post on by CEO David Bilstrom, the brand cited challenges raising capital to grow and operate.

“Specifically, our recent Community Round of Financing (via WeFunder) raised about 50% of the $1m target,” said Bilstrom in the post. “While we used what we raised to launch new marketing programs and cover some operating expenses, we really needed the full $1m to survive and grow.

We are deeply grateful for the immediate and intense support of our investors – nearly all customers. But sadly and inevitably: it wasn’t enough.”

Bilstrom said they kept optimism high raising capital and that they had “higher margins than ever before in our 11 year history – but we simply have to accept the current economic environment that smothers raising capital.” Kitsbow said they spoke with new investors, explored partnerships with other brands, including selling the Kitsbow brand, but the challenges couldn’t be overcome with the current economy.

Kitsbow operated in Old Fort, North Carolina, and was on a mission to pump life into the old industrial town. In the past three years, Kitsbow “injected an annual payroll of approximately $2 million dollars into a rural town previously in economic decline for 30 years,” according to their statement.

The brand maintained a space in the premium apparel category, with a casual look. Though the pieces were anything but cheap, unlike other apparel brands, Kitsbow’s clothing was made-to-order in their North Carolina headquarters, using the one-piece-flow apparel/lean manufacturing model. The brand prided itself on US manufacturing and providing a living wage to employees. Their apparel manufacturing model was distinct from large brands, which usually place huge orders for overseas production in the beginning of every season, resulting in big sales at the end of a season with a clothing brands’ unsold items.

In a Singletracks podcast in 2021, Bilstrom said there weren’t any cost differences for them manufacturing domestically.

“We can make our Icon shirts and our technical tees for the same price as if we hired somebody else to make it overseas,” he said.

Kitsbow will lay-off 41 employees and encourages other businesses to seek out departing staff members’ marketing, customer service and retail expertise.

Kitsbow plans to remain open for the next two weeks and their final production day will be around April 7. They are having a sale on the 7,000 items in inventory, with pieces marked down 20%. Bilstrom notes it will likely be the last pieces ever made by the brand.