Retail

Lululemon Looks Beyond Athleisure

Whether one wears the brand or not, everyone knowns what Lululemon is and probably knows at least one person who seems to live in it.

And now, it seems, Lulu is coming for those who are not yet living in their "technical fabrics" with a new line of sedate, muted and classically cut clothes that are more or less not meant to be worn as workout wear.

The home of the new Lulu is 50 Bond Street in NYC, the location of the new  Lululemon lab (itself a shoutout to 1.0 version that opened in Vancouver in 2009). On display are the sort of mixed uses that the brand envisions for its patented clothing materials, such as pants that work just as well for a crosstown bike commute as they do for dinner out.

“It’s trying to create a new language and a new way of dressing that’s easy and useful,” said head designer Marcus LeBlanc, a John Varvatos vet who spent two years as a men’s designer at Theory before becoming a founding designer of its active lifestyle collection, Theory+.

The refocusing has meant a shift in the look of what is on display. The crazy patterns and bright colors of the core line are barely on display at the Lab — a departure that was intentional according to LeBlanc.

“We like colors that are slightly off, so even some of our blacks will have an ashy touch, kind of a washed feeling, or they’re slightly blue. It really creates a nice tonality.”

As is always the case with Lululemon, the new looks will not come cheap. It's $60 for a drapey muscle T and $350 for a swing coat, but one gets not only the clothing item for that purchase price, but also the ineffable feeling of being special, since all this clothing is limited edition.

“The lab is meant to be an influencer of the bigger brand, so if we come up with a new amazing pant shape or original detailing, that has the opportunity to be adopted by the core line,” LeBlanc says. That’s how the brand’s popular mesh leggings came to be, and mesh insets are still everywhere.

For gym buffs, there is good news here, too: the brand is also featuring athletic workout clothes.

“We have a long-line sports bra and a tight that are made for sweating, and you can wear it to a class, you can wear it out for a run, but we made the lines and the color simple and clean enough that these could really be underpinnings for your full day,” says LeBlanc, himself a runner and a native New Yorker.

Lulumelon may have been the progenitor of the athleisure movement in many ways, but it enters the upmarket competition with some very powerful competitors with labs of their own already, including Nike and Adidas. But LeBlanc says the brand's focus on everyday, as opposed to pure workout cases, will continue to set the brand apart.

“We have a whole range of product and some of it is not meant for sweat at all,” he says. “We’re really addressing your whole day.”

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