Threadless, which launched in 2000 and makes artist-designed t-shirts, will use Bucketfeet to begin producing on-demand footwear, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Threadless said it will roll Bucketfeet into its e-commerce offerings next year, according to the Tribune. Bucketfeet will also reportedly close its three brick-and-mortar stores, including two in Chicago. A request for comment from Bucketfeet was not immediacy returned Monday morning.
In an email to customers, Bucketfeet said that the Bucketfeet brand will remain intact, and “effectively power Threadless’ new footwear category going forward.”
“The good news for all of you is that there will be more artist-designed products to discover and shop than ever before,” the email continued, “and more opportunity to sign-up as an artist, design your own products, and earn cash!”
Bucketfeet launched in 2011 and raised more than $28 million in funding from investors like Jumpstart Ventures, Listen Ventures and Trunk Club co-founder Brian Spaly. The company set out to give artists a platform to create unique, one-of-a-kind footwear, and it has a network of over 40,000 artists from more than 120 countries. The startup has sold more than 600,000 shoes to date.
Bucketfeet hasn’t been immune to the woes the retail industry has felt in recent years. The company told Chicago Inno in August it had just 11 full-time employees—down from 40 in 2015. At the time, CEO Raaja Nemani said Bucketfeet wasn’t profitable, but said the company expected to be profitable by the end of the year.
To help cut costs and move away from an inventory heavy model, Bucketfeet pivoted to an on-demand strategy where 100% of the company’s supply chain and production moved to a made-to-order model. Customers select the shoe they want, a factory in China makes the product, and it’s delivered to the customer in 10 days or less.
“Inventory is fundamentally the reason that 2017 is the worst year in retail history in the United States,” Nemani said at the time. “I believe the next three to five years are going to be a complete bloodbath in retail.”
Threadless and Bucketfeet worked on a partnership earlier this year where Bucketfeet sold shoes designed by Threadless artists. The two companies also work out of the same building at 406 N. Sangamon St. in the West Loop.
This story is developing.