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Reebok’s Fashion Push

NEW YORK -- More fashion -- especially streetwear-inspired looks of cotton and Lycra spandex -- is one way Reebok International Ltd. plans to build consumer awareness of its performance apparel.<BR><BR>Fitness videos also are playing a part in...

NEW YORK — More fashion — especially streetwear-inspired looks of cotton and Lycra spandex — is one way Reebok International Ltd. plans to build consumer awareness of its performance apparel.

Fitness videos also are playing a part in Reebok’s relatively new direction, a business the athletic footwear and apparel giant entered three years ago but seems to be promoting more heavily this year. The company will introduce two additional fitness videos this year, each in the style of MTV, said Ruth Finn, director of equipment and videos.

Reebok’s key groups for spring — updated, deconstructed looks and underwear-inspired styles that also will be worn in the two new videos — were conceived by Joanne Ciresi Barrett, designer of Reebok women’s fitness and warmup apparel.

Regarding Reebok’s streetwear-inspired looks, Jack Neff, senior vice president and general manager of apparel, said, “Consumers just don’t want performance wear to work out in any more. More performance wear is dual-purpose now — it’s the bottom line.”

“We want to create more brand awareness, just like The Gap,” said Barrett, who joined Reebok in October. “Before, the styling was strictly very mainstream, very technically oriented, and very brand-driven.”

She noted that the streetwear-inspired styles were added to attract a broader range of consumers, as well as cater to “serious athletes who now want streetwear looks, but items that blend in with a generic look.”

Barrett, who was designer of Danskin bodywear for six years, said she believes that blends of cotton and Lycra will “give a generic appeal that’s very identifiable and have worldwide appeal.”

The deconstructed group comes in cotton and Lycra ottoman rib, and features unfinished stitching and seams, soft, underwear-looking elastic trims, and unfinished waistbands. There also are lots of cut-out back treatments.

Styles include thong-back leotards, crop tops, unitards and two bike shorts — a looser fitting style inspired by men’s underwear, and a high-waisted style with exposed seaming.

Suggested retail prices for basic bodywear of cotton and Lycra start at $16 for a brief and go to $38 for a unitard with back treatment; fashion bodywear retails from $16 for a crop top of cotton jersey to $30 for ottoman rib boxers of cotton and Lycra. Activewear retails from $17 for crinkle nylon taffeta shorts to $95 for a peach-finish warmup suit of microfiber polyester. The company declined to give wholesale prices.

Colors are tobacco, off-white, black and royal purple.

Barrett explained that Reebok’s new direction really is a lifestyle approach.

“We are taking a fashion approach, which we really consider to be a lifestyle approach, or how people really dress or fashion themselves,” said Barrett. “We don’t mean Seventh Avenue fashion — it’s what people are wearing for a head-to-toe look.”

As for the videos, Finn noted, “We are rapidly expanding our video library, and we feel Reebok can make a difference in the video business.”

The newest releases will include a video in November that will feature top women sports stars: figure skater Nancy Kerrigan, hockey goalie Rheaume Manon and volleyball player Liz Masakayan; the second video will be introduced in the fourth quarter and will spotlight Gin Miller, creator of Step Reebok.

So far, Reebok has four fitness videos that are being distributed to sporting-goods outlets, department stores and specialty chains in the U.S. and in 40 countries. Each video retails for $19.99.

The top international markets for the videos are the U.K., France, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Australia, Singapore and Japan, she said.

“We feel videos are important tools for us in the fitness market, because consumers want options,” said Finn, noting that the target group is women in the 25-to-39 age range.

As for trends in Europe, Neff noted, “I was in France, Germany and the United Kingdom this spring, and stores were showing walls and walls of wind and warmup pants that are being sold as separates to be worn as streetwear.”

He further noted that stretch and streetwear looks “now seem to be accepted globally,” adding, “People want to look good, and be comfortable in crossover looks all over the world.”