The rise of leggings, and the tidal wave of athleisure clothing unleashed upon the market over the last five years, has not been universally beloved. For every booster who happily declaims about how comfortable they are at all times — at work or at play — there is a decrier declaring that the cost of comfort has been the death of style in America.
“If you want to dress as though you never got out of bed, don't!” style expert Tim Gunn notably said of the unending enthusiasm for athleisure wear among American consumers. Wearing leggings in public is “vulgar,” he told Bloomberg, “Unless you’re Robin Hood.”
The problem for most consumers is that while there are overlapping points between clothing that is sleekly stylish and comfortable, they are often few and far between. But Rachel Rodin, a former New York City stylist, simply rejects the bifurcation. For years, she said, when working with her clients, there was a recurring need for clothing that was “chic but soft” and that the options were limited.
The solution, she said, is not to simply buckle to the trend of informality everywhere that has gone hand-in-hand with the athleisure craze. The clients she worked with, she noted, were still urbanites and most of the offering saturating the market should not be worn, well, anywhere.
“Most of what is being sold are either glorified pajamas or quasi-athleisure, neither of which I believe women should wear when they aren’t sleeping or exercising,” Rodin noted in an interview.
What she discovered is that putting together a solid wardrobe of stylish loungewear is actually much easier said than done. In her closet clean-out and styling business, she said, she saw a lot of unusual and exotic things in her clients' closets, but a dearth of casual, comfortable staples. These were not consumers who lacked for clothes or the will to shop — they had closets so large they needed to hire a professional to clean and refill them.
The problem, she determined, was one of specialization. There are dedicated activewear brands, formal wear brands, business wear brands, sleepwear brands and so on. Loungewear, though, is an unusual category that is divided among sleepwear, activewear and casual collections. Putting together a wardrobe of staples to downshift into doesn’t have the same kind of easy one-stop-shopping experience other clothing categories do, according to Rodin, which means lounge wardrobes are often a collection of one-offs.
The solution she is now offering is Royl, a high-design loungewear brand built to offer women flattering and luxurious options for what Rodin calls life’s “in between” moments.
“Between your workdays, your events, your destinations. With Royl, I wanted to create a wardrobe for those moments that followed the same principles I use when dressing and styling: soft, chic, effortless.”
The line is not flashy — the color palette is navy blue, black and gray, and the fashion items on offer are similarly basic by design: tanks, shirts, trousers, leggings and sweaters. Where Royl seeks to think outside the box is in terms of textiles — which are a mix of high-grade cashmere, silks and cottons — and a series of distinctive silhouettes.
“I know how to translate luxury into each of my pieces by the quality of the fabrics I choose, the tailoring and finishing of each design, and the talent of the team I have constructing the collection” Rodin said. “No detail is overlooked to save time or money. I truly believe in shop smarter, buy less, wear often.”
The price of being chic and comfortable, however, is not low. The least one will pay for a Royl piece is $85, while the top of the pricing chain scrapes $1,200. Rodin asserts that in fashion, as is the case almost everywhere, we get what we pay for. There are a lot of ways to create the appearance of luxury and quality — using cashmere in everything without regard to what grade cashmere the garment is made from, she noted, is popular among so-called luxury loungewear makers.
Those pseudo luxury materials tend to run down fast, lose their shape easily and have a shorter shelf life than their buyers often expect. Royl, she said, is premised on the idea that less is more for customers sometimes — and that buying quality pieces of genuine materials is the correct investment to make in themselves.
Because, she said, the choice for customers shouldn’t be whether they want to look stylish or enjoy what they are wearing. It is about finding ways to deliver up both in a way that adds value to either experience. There is no reason to end the age of comfortably dressed customers, she said. The time has just come to raise the level of comfortable clothing’s style game.
“I am hoping to further change the current notion of loungewear toward mindful luxuries rooted in self-confidence and self-care. Over time, I believe this will be an entirely new category,” Rodin told Forbes.