NEW YORK — Splits59, the active line of Jonathan Schwartz and Keith Peterson, isn’t just culling inspiration from an athletic attitude — it’s also looking to inspire one.
The collection, a first-time exhibitor at the Fashion Coterie this week, aims to bring a new spin to activewear without forsaking the garments’ functions for triathletes and endurance athletes or their fashion.
Schwartz came up with the concept in 2003 when he traveled to Kona, Hawaii, to watch a friend compete in the Ironman championship, one of the most challenging single-day endurance events in the world. The spirit and energy of Kona, and the event, inspired him. “I realized that I wanted to incorporate this experience into my life as a business,” said Schwartz, who himself later competed in the Ironman. “I started recognizing what these athletes are wearing in the days leading up to the race, during the race and after the race, and I came back and started to conduct informal focus groups while I was out training.”
Schwartz was surprised by the results. “What I kept hearing from the women was a dissatisfaction, this feeling of being marginalized,” he said. “They were dissatisfied with the product that was available to them in many ways — in how it fit, in how it felt, in how it looked. From that, the seed was planted.”
Together with Peterson, a former Dolce & Gabbana executive, he launched Splits59 in 2008 as a women’s-only brand. The idea for its name originated from Neal Bascomb’s book “The Perfect Mile” about man’s quest to break the four-minute mile. “Four minutes was considered failure,” Schwartz said. “Three-fifty-nine fifty-nine was considered a success. It was a physical barrier as much as a mental barrier.”
The label offers two collections a year with about 30 pieces in each one, with inspirations ranging from sports silhouettes, particularly boxing ones, to geometric shapes.
The line ranges from support jog-bras and T-shirts with detachable arm-warmers to harem pants, hooded boxer jackets and layering tank tops. As avid athletes, Schwartz and Peterson made sure to include user-friendly details, from thumb holes to “zipper garages” that holds the zipper tab in a small pocket to avoid cutting into the skin.
The collection is developed and manufactured in Los Angeles, which Schwartz said allows a quick product turn. “I can get it to the female athletes that I train with, and have them test the product,” he said.
In addition to splits59.com, the line is available in over 50 locations, includingBacara Resort & Spa in Santa Barbara, Calif.; the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami; Equinox gyms, and Theory in East Hampton and in Malibu. Wholesale prices range from about $16.50 for a sports bra to $65.25 for a body suit. Schwartz declined to disclose sales volume or projections for the line.
Schwartz is no stranger to the fashion industry. His father, Barry, was Calvin Klein’s business partner and was instrumental in building the iconic American brand. The duo has lined up a list of advisers that includes Barry Schwartz and Theory’s Andrew Rosen.
“I am so fortunate to have such a sounding board for advice,” said Schwartz, who is based in Santa Monica. “I speak to my father multiple times a day, but that was very commonplace for us. Business was always spoken around the dinner table at home at some level, and you look back and realize there were always lessons.
“I think people will make up their own minds,” he added. “I would be foolish not to turn to the people I have for advice, but I will say that in athletics, you can’t fake it. This is my passion, and you can see it in the product, the dedication and the diligence.”
Peterson and Schwartz are looking to build on their Web site with several social media initiatives. This fall, they are introducing a stable of athletes they dub “Firestarters,” ranging from nutritionists to trainers, and instructors who test the product and talk about their experiences. “It’s about the wider circle that is beyond just product,” Schwartz said. “It’s the lifestyle. We want to tap into this knowledge base of experts who can share their experiences, their knowledge, and their information with a wider audience.”
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