GET FIT AND BE FASHIONABLE
LAST YEAR ‘ACTIVEWEAR’ TOOK ANOTHER LEAP AND BECAME THE UNOFFICIAL DRESS CODE FOR CELEBDOM’S LEADING MEN. WE EXPLORE ITS INSATIABLE GROWTH – AND BILLION-DOLLAR RETAIL SECTOR – TO PINPOINT WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2017.
Activewear – what brand are you exercising in?
David and Brooklyn Beckham, Chris Hemsworth, Zac Efron, Colin Farrell, Tom Hiddleston and Joe Manganiello all share something in common beyond being ripped and famous – they’re often photographed in gym kit. And a simple game of ‘copy the celeb’ isn’t the sole reason for this fast-adopting trend – Australian men are now less afraid of outing their sartorial eye than they used to be. Asking ‘who are you wearing’ is a modern catch cry that started out at the races or in the workplace and now pops up at various forms of exercise – from sweating it out in the gym to an intense F45 class or while turning yourself into a downward dog. Researchers claim some science here – ‘enclothed cognition’ a theory that clothes affect a wearer’s psychological processes. Dr Adam Galinsky, one of the men behind the idea, told The New York Times: “We think not just with our brains but with our bodies, and our thought processes are based on physical experiences that set off associated abstract concepts. Now it appears that those experiences include the clothes we wear, and it would make sense that when you wear athletic clothing, you become more active and more likely to go and work out.” Enter Canadian label Lululemon Athletica, which is challenging sportswear giants Nike, Under Armour and Adidas, and has in the past 18 months really turned its attention to the men’s market. Creative director, Lee Holman – whose eclectic CV includes stints in luxury (Burberry, Paul Smith), sportswear (Nike) and high street (Levi’s, Abercrombie & Fitch) – tells GQ about the ongoing rise of “athleisure” and the tools that drive his label’s success in an already noisy market.
LOOK TO THE BEST
“Paul Smith is a maverick in how he thinks about his consumer and the stores,” offers Holman. “At Abercrombie, [CEO] Mike Jeffries curated what A&F was about in the sense of going into the store to see what the clothes felt and smelt like. And I set up the Burberry Brit line with [then creative director] Christopher Bailey to help elevate and change a more heritage brand. To witness how Burberry helped fashion and digital come together was amazing.”
MAKE AN IMPACT
“I used my experiences, from the fashion elements of Burberry to the technical aspects at Nike, to help define what Lululemon stands for. One thing that attracted me to the role was how active and luxury are merging and how Lululemon builds products – how it looks at high-end, how it finishes and how it brings craftsmanship into the product is something I was so excited about and missed from working at Burberry.”
“Lululemon is a real originator and paved the way for activewear. It’s brought the notion of functionality first and the notion of beauty and fashion. And it’s set a precedent for how people are moving in their lifestyle. A lot of the things we do at Lululemon start from the yarn upwards, including handling all our fabrics [specifically its Nulux technical fabric], working with our venders and pushing innovation and new machinery.”
TEST, TEST AND TEST SOME MORE
“We test on athletes and did so on our Olympic products. Beach volleyball players came in and got into a climate chamber to mimic Rio’s conditions. We adjusted products as they reacted to motion, environment and performance. This way we have so much more opportunity to bring the fashion and the function together, and to be overt with that. That’s where our unique point of view is and that’s exciting.”
KNOW THE MARKET
“Culturally, people are changing their lifestyles, so they’re more aware of wellness and nutrition and being active. There’s a lot of different avenues and people are trying different things. Runners aren’t just running 24/7 – they’re doing yoga, TRX or boxing.”
KNOW THE CUSTOMER
“The design team was inspired by the new wave of hybrid workouts, which combine fast and fluid movements into one sweaty session. We’re more about how your body moves rather than the actual sport, which highlights how we approach designing products. We look at two parameters: fast activities, such as running and swimming, then more fluid activities such as yoga and TRX. We try and cater for that sweet spot in the middle, so we’re really looking at the training zone of how people are working out from fast to fluid, which complements the technical fabrics we use.”
LOOK DOWN UNDER
“Being active is in the blood of Australians and that goes so well with Lululemon. That’s big in the market – how people are living their lives, being active and transitioning throughout their day, especially how much time is spent out in the open air. It’s great intel for our innovators.”
KEEP THINGS REAL
“We’re much more authentic and sell the journey and the athlete. We approach it very much through grass roots, so we bring the brand to communities and have local ambassadors [rather than pay famous sportsmen millions of dollars]. We highlight them by telling a story around a yoga or running community.”
“At Lululemon we don’t build products around a logo – we build it around functionality. A lot of our products even downplay the logo. When you get into the clothes and start to wear them, they speak for themselves, rather than needing to be showcased. Marketing has moved on and consumers are savvier.”
EMBRACE THE FUTURE
“We’re exploring the notion of ‘Sweatlife’ – from having a gym membership to caring about nutrition, people work differently than they did 10 years ago. Look at how the retail and digital landscapes have changed. People want different things from their mobile and shopping in-store. ‘Sweatlife’ touches every aspect of how you’re living and Lululemon could touch all those parts of your life. If you went to the gym, we could give you an outfit for the class you’re doing. Imagine testing the products and giving feedback from the class you were sweating in. The product could just be innovated around that. Starting a brand to touch all those points, so that you can have the whole 360 ‘sweat life’, would be amazing. People want that holistic point of view.” Lululemon Athletica’s first local concept store outside of North America recently opened in Bondi, Sydney; lululemon.com.au