BOSTON — Two years ago, when activewear buyer Roger Taylor joined J.C. Penney Co., the small section looked perpetually "like a clearance sale," he recalled. Some 15 brands fought for space on eight racks, causing a jumble of fits, styles and...
BOSTON — Two years ago, when activewear buyer Roger Taylor joined J.C. Penney Co., the small section looked perpetually "like a clearance sale," he recalled. Some 15 brands fought for space on eight racks, causing a jumble of fits, styles and colors. It was turning in the worst performance in the women’s department, but Penney’s management had an inkling the category was due for a resurgence.
"We knew elsewhere it was starting to be a hot-trending area and we needed to cover it in a better way," Taylor said. "We hired design teams and a sourcing team to focus on activewear and to go after a younger customer. At the same time, we cut back from 15 brands to four."
The Plano, Tex.-based retailer’s timing was ideal, catching the active-casual trend on the upswing and meeting its customer with a clean, focused assortment. The presentation now consists of Adidas, New York Laundry and St. John’s Bay, a private label that is about 70 percent of the volume, according to Taylor. The department soared ahead of sales plan and the average of 12 fixtures per store will double to 20 to 25 for fall.
As Penney’s case illustrates, laid-back wardrobing has become a hustling, bustling business.
Mass retailers have developed new private label programs for active-oriented casual looks, adding groupings to long-standing house brands and, in Target’s case, recruiting major vendors to design exclusive collections. According to STS Market Research of Cambridge, Mass., discount stores and national chains account for 32 percent of the $26 billion casual sportswear market.
While terry hoodies and drawstring pants are a dime a dozen these days, mass retailers aren’t planning to back off. They contend the trend fits with the national yen for ease, that it is perfect for a mass audience because it flatters a wide range of figures and ages and that it has enough fashion momentum to stay fresh.
Mass retailers are paying attention to the look’s fashionable side: cargo pockets, satin trims, raw edges, snaps and motocross-style "kissing zippers" crops. Textured fabric like waffle and looped terry are among the updates expected in stores in coming months.The Freestyle by Danskin bodywear collection hit Target stores 12 months ago. Dispensing with its usual test strategy, the retailer opened all doors immediately and has boosted the stockkeeping unit count since, according to Danskin chief executive officer Carol Hochman. The collection, produced by New York-based Jacques Moret under license, is fashion-forward, with Asian-inspired embroidery and colors like rust, cognac and harvest gold.
Spurred by strong sales of the cover-ups, Freestyle will expand to loungewear in April. This collection will push more sportswear-influenced styles, using fabrics such as corded velour, poodle sherpa and baby waffle.
Activewear is "huge" for Kmart, said Kathy Douglas, who oversees women’s trend and product development for the Troy, Mich.-based retailer. "Active looks and influences can be seen in all of our brands — from Joe Boxer to Jaclyn Smith."
Although finances remain tight for the bankrupt retailer, the company believes enough in the category to invest heavily in promoting Joe Boxer lifestyle loungewear. Vibrant, high-energy TV commercials underscore that casualwear can have personality, not just be something mundane in which to sweat or snooze.
Active-casual is "a segment Mervyn’s is looking to grow," said a spokeswoman for the Hayward, Calif.-based chain. Pursuing its "big brands, small prices" strategy, Mervyn’s stocks Nike, Reebok, Adidas, Jockey, Essential Gear by Vital, yoga-inspired line Lotus and Cheetah, its private label. The retailer will add to this brand buffet for fall with Russell Athletic and Gloria Vanderbilt.
One of the reasons active-casual is so appealing is "it’s no longer so masculine as it was five years ago, when we were all wearing basic sweatpants," the Mervyn’s spokeswoman said. "It’s about fun and casual, but at the same time, looking pulled together."
Sears, like most mass retailers, moved back into activewear in 2001. The store carries Reebok, Avia, Everlast and Classic Elements, and has begun carrying Lands’ End yoga pants and French terry separates, which were catalog bestsellers. Drawstring shorts and Reebok’s side-stripe Raccula pants are flying out, the spokeswoman said.
They’ll add active-casual pieces to the Covington house brand, a mid-priced product range, in the fall.The trend is "very positive," said a spokeswoman. "It’s about apparel that you can lounge in, run errands in or work out in comfortably because it moves with you."
Kohl’s Department Stores, which opened 28 stores in California on March 7, is using active-casual merchandise as one of its main draws. The retailer added 50 percent more styles in California doors and racked the goods at store entrances.
Breaking News: @louisvuitton's men's artistic director @mrkimjones is leaving the French fashion house after nearly 7 years. Jones joined Louis Vuitton in 2011, following a three year tenure as creative director of British luxury goods brand Alfred Dunhill. Jones is to exit Louis Vuitton after showing his fall 2018 collection for the brand in Paris on Thursday. Read the full exclusive story on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews #wwdfashion
For men’s fall 2018, @giuseppezanotti drew on elements from streetwear, sport, biker, combat and rock ‘n’ roll. Pictured here are a pair of shoes from the collection, featuring zippers, rhinestones, and silver hardware. Head to WWD.com to see a roundup of the accessories from Milan’s men’s fall 2018 shows. #wwdfashion (📷: Andrea Delb)
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of @ralphlauren’s snowboarding collection, the brand is mining its archives. The iconic brand is reintroducing vintage styles and dropping new designs for a color capsule that will be available in Ralph Lauren stores and @openingceremony on January 25. The capsule will consist of 10 pieces, including the Snow Beach Pullover, pictured here, which is a collector’s item that rapper Raekwon wore in Wu-Tang Clan’s “Can It Be All So Simple” video. #wwdfashion (📷: Tom Gould)
For @rochasofficial’s pre-fall 2018 collection, creative director Alessandro Dell’Acqua channeled the sophisticated and intriguing Catherine Denevue in the film “Belle de Jour.” Polished collarless coats, midi skirts, suits and ’60s graphic motifs were all featured in the collection, adding a sense of discreet luxury. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdfashion
“We tried to produce clothing of that couture quality, but the most daunting part was that we only had a matter of days [to do it],” said costume designer Lou Eyrich, who recreated Gianni Versace’s iconic looks for @americancrimestoryfx. Eyrich searched online retailers and vintage shops for original pieces from the design house and for @penelopecruzoficial, who plays Donatella Versace. Head to WWD.com to read how she created the Versace world. #wwdfashion
Only three months after her stellar debut catwalk season, @kaiagerber has inked her first big design collaboration –– with @karllagerfeld. The collection blends Lagerfeld’s Parisian chic aesthetic and the model’s signature West Coast casual style via RTW, accessories, footwear and more. The #KarlLagerfeldxKaia collection will launch in September with a series of events. Get all the details on WWD.com. #wwdnews #wwdfashion
Harrods plans to remove the famous statue of Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed from the bottom of the Egyptian escalators and hand it back to Mohamed Al-Fayed. “We are very proud to have played our role in celebrating the lives of Diana, Princess of Wales and Dodi Al Fayed at Harrods and to have welcomed people from around the world to visit the memorial for the past 20 years,” said Michael Ward, Harrods managing director. “With the announcement of the new official memorial statue to Diana, Princess of Wales at Kensington Palace, we feel that the time is right to return this memorial to Mr. Al Fayed and for the public to be invited to pay their respects at the palace.” More on the news, with reporting by @loreleimarfil, at WWD.com. #wwdnews