By  on May 4, 1994

NEW YORK -- Activewear is mixing it up more and more with fashion, blurring definitions and crossing departmental lines in stores.

Wherever it lands, though, activewear -- or anything that looks like it -- has become one of the hottest categories in several top stores this spring, according to retailers and vendors.

Executives noted that the concept of outerwear has evolved into multipurpose lifestyle dressing suited for a variety of different activities -- in and out of the gym.

The multipurpose uses of items such as bike shorts, T-shirts, unitards, and two-piece jogging sets are what consumers find appealing at a time when discretionary income continues to be at a premium, say executives.

They point out that the growing interest in active looks -- including those being appropriated by fashion lines -- has also been fueled by the popularity of fitness and health, as well as by the growing acceptance of stretch apparel, especially high-tech blends of performance fabrics such as Supplex nylon and Lycra spandex, and Lycra with Micromattique and CoolMax.

With that idea in mind, Neiman Marcus is expanding its active looks this summer, primarily with fashion lines, while Bloomingdale's is mixing fashion and activewear in a promotion with several new vendors.

The promotion will be built around a new department -- called Exercist -- to open in the flagship store Friday. A spokeswoman for Bloomingdale's said Tuesday that plans to advertise the promotion were not yet complete, but noted that an ad for Adidas will run May 12 in the New York Times.

"We have a very broad-based definition of activewear at the moment," said Kal Ruttenstein, senior vice president for fashion direction at Bloomingdale's. "This spring, we began making several statements about armchair athlete clothes in both newspapers and in our windows. These clothes are perfect for weekends or casual wear, but not for performance."

Ruttenstein said activewear-inspired items by DKNY will be the "centerpiece" of the flagship's Lexington Avenue windows during this month's promotion.

Meanwhile, the Exercist shop will be installed on the second floor next to contemporary juniors. It will also be near a separate Adidas shop. Ruttenstein noted that business with active looks and activewear began taking off in January, while reorders grew in February and March.

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