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.

GQ (Australia) - - INSIDE - WORDS MIKE CHRISTENSEN

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.”

INNOVATE

“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.”

SAVVY BRAND­ING

“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

LEE HOL­MAN, LU­L­ULE­MON ATH­LET­ICA'S CREATIVE DI­REC­TOR.

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