Fitness, wellness, beauty brand.
That appears to be the new trajectory being adopted by a fitness industry eager to intersect with the multitrillion-dollar wellness movement and multibillion-dollar beauty world. Trainers as well as studios and gyms ranging from boutique to big box are looking to extend their reach beyond the actual workouts they’re peddling, whether it’s creating protein powders to fuel the body from the inside out or segueing into beauty, from linking with Gen Z and Millennial favorite Glossier to formulating stand-alone skin-care brands.
“To say there’s a convergence of fitness, wellness and beauty is an understatement. They are all the same,” said Vimla Black Gupta, chief marketing officer at Equinox, who called the club’s motto, “It’s not fitness. It’s life,” a prescient metaphor for the current melding of the three sectors.
Before joining the fitness behemoth in December, Black Gupta spent nearly two decades in the beauty space, including 10 years at Procter & Gamble and nine years at the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc., where she most recently was the global senior vice president of marketing at Bobbi Brown.
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“At the end of the day, people want to look good, they want to feel good, they want to perform at their best, whether it’s beauty or their overall medical health or aesthetically how they look. That’s the holy grail — and it’s all the same,” Black Gupta continued.
To coincide with the launch of Equinox’s The Muse group fitness class that bowed in January, a series of events in partnership with Glossier took place in New York, San Francisco, Chicago and London. The brand’s Perfecting Skin Tint, Haloscope highlighter, Cloud Paint blush, Boy Brow and Soothing Facial Mist were among the products sampled at events. Additionally, influencer Rocky Barnes hosted an event to celebrate the new class with beauty content and e-commerce site Violet Grey at Equinox’s Miracle Mile club the same month.
For Equinox, the premise of fusing fitness and beauty started to take shape nearly a decade ago when the club partnered with L’Oréal-owned Kiehl’s in 2009 to offer its products in all locker rooms.
“We didn’t say it’s fitness or it’s beauty — it’s life. If you want the best fitness experience why wouldn’t you want the best beauty experience? That precipitated us launching Kiehl’s,” Black Gupta said.
Apparently Equinox was onto something.
Earlier this year at a wellness panel at the annual Financo Forum, Mindy Grossman, chief executive officer of Weight Watchers and former ceo of HSNi, said the wellness industry is approaching $4 trillion and growing at a rate of 15 percent.
But what’s changed since Equinox outfitted its locker rooms with prestige skin, body and hair care is a proliferation of digital that caused these categories to intersect even more. Because of social media and an onslaught of trainers and makeup brands and artists, the fitness and beauty worlds have become more accessible and democratic.
“It’s fueled both industries separately, but also jointly. Customers are hopping fluidly from fitness into beauty, beauty into wellness in general and there’s a convergence happening all day long. I don’t know that the consumer is separating them. They just want to be their best self,” said Black Gupta, who didn’t rule out an Equinox line of beauty products in the future.
Most notably, the social media boom, especially Instagram, has given birth to a new crop of “celebrity” trainers, the best known being Australia-based Kayla Itsines, whose Sweat With Kayla app has amassed a cult following globally. Concurrently, the digital age has bred a number of instructors who’ve skyrocketed to social media fame because of influencer clients. An influencer posting a photo — or even better, a video — of their workout can instantly result in said instructor’s future classes completely selling out instantaneously. And not surprisingly, this new guard of trainers — Megan Roup, Amanda Kloots and Nike master trainer Kirsty Godso among them — have launched or is in the midst of developing product. For Roup and Kloots, these are “sliders” and a jump rope that correspond with their signature workouts, respectively. For Godso, “Made Of,” a whey protein isolate powder, will come out later this spring.
“Trainers are no longer just asked for workout and nutrition tips, but their favorite beauty products, from skin care to supplementation to treatments such as infrared saunas, facials, acupuncture and more. There’s such a need for transparency in an industry that is cluttered with products and promises. I’m a big believer of ‘you are what you think,’” said Godso.
Roup called health the new wealth currency. For her, if fitness is a priority, so is one’s wellness and beauty routine. In addition to her sliders, which she designed so clients can do her workouts on the go via fitness live-streaming service Obé, she plans to introduce more equipment and hopefully link up with a beauty brand.
While Roup, Kloots and Godso are gaining steam, Tracy Anderson remains the gold standard of trainer-turned-lifestyle brand. Her signature Tracy Anderson Method — a mix of dance cardio and sculpt workouts — has become a household name, due largely to a celebrity clientele that spans Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Lopez to Victoria Beckham and Robert Downey Jr. Anderson maintains six studios across the country and a seventh is slated to open in Madrid this summer. Outside of her studios, Anderson broadened her reach even further when she started offering online streaming and DVDs, of which there are more than 170. In 2016, she introduced a line of bars and shakes in Target, and she’s said to be currently working on a beauty line that’s in the formulating stages, with plans for a release later this year.
A spokesperson for Anderson wasn’t able to provide any more details about the trainer’s entrée into beauty.
Anderson is just one trainer on the lifestyle brand track. Last week, Xponential Fitness — private equity firm TPG is an equity partner in Xponential — acquired New York-based boutique studio AKT, founded by Anna Kaiser.
“We now live in an Instagram world and so much of that is visual. When I opened the studio the most important thing was the product and having a great fitness experience and educated and passionate founder and filling a void in the marketplace,” Kaiser said of opening her first studio in 2013.
“Now it’s very much about the image. Back then we didn’t have social fitness influencers developing brands without an actual studio location or fitness methodology. It’s more about their look and opinion and their collaborations with others,” she continued, noting that the plan is to open 25 studios in the first 12 months.
Anthony Geisler, ceo of Xponential Fitness, said there are plans to open hundreds of franchised locations of AKT nationwide in the near future. Club Pilates, CycleBar, Stretch Lab and Row House comprise Xponential’s portfolio, but AKT is the first dance-based concept in the group.
“Look, I see them together,” Geisler said of fitness studios segueing into beauty product. “We’re going after the same customer.” He admitted that he has yet to see a fitness studio or club successfully venture into retail or beauty — yet.
And Kaiser could be among the first to do so.
She maintained that a beauty collaboration is in the works, but was mum on specifics other than that it is launching later this year. In the meantime, AKT will debut a brand refresh in May with visuals that focus more on wellness and a “360-degree lifestyle brand” that extends past fitness.
Alexandra Bonetti Perez, founder of Bari, a boutique fitness studio in TriBeCa, said rolling out digital streaming service Bari TV is the first step toward product. Starting April 2, Bari’s sculpt, bounce and dance classes will be available online, with plans to upload 10 to 15 videos per month.
“The biggest shift in beauty is that now it starts inside your body — how you treat it, how you nurture it and how you eat. I mean that from a very superficial and also from a deep-rooted, connection level,” Bonetti Perez said. “What that does intrinsically is put value on your health because you can’t look, play or feel that part. When people start treating their bodies better and eating better and working out it doesn’t matter if you started doing it because of a superficial reason. You eventually feel so much better. That’s the power of health.”
Bonetti Perez would one day like to get into supplements and body and skin care that falls into the natural category.
“Wellness is booming. It includes the purchasing of athletic apparel, footwear, gym membership, healthy food, and organic and clean cosmetics. The umbrella is wellness,” said Jane Hali, ceo of Jane Hali & Associates, a retail investment research firm.
Hali said a desire to not only look good but “feel good” has spawned a demand for transparency, especially with respect to ingredients found in skin care and cosmetics.
But how far can these founders and fitness brands extend?
While some consider the industries so intertwined that they’re one and the same, Marc Magliacano, a managing partner at private equity firm L Catterton, still thinks brands should proceed with caution.
Today, a rush to establish a “lifestyle brand” has sent founders in the fitness and beauty spaces scrambling to try to encapsulate everything they offer in health and/or wellness under one brand. But despite this, he believes brands should tread lightly when expanding into additional categories because people only have that much room in their lives for any one brand.
“If you want fitness you may go to Equinox, if you want skin care you may use Elemis, if you want body care you may use Bliss, if you want meditation you may use Headspace. People want to have the option to go curate and edit their own wellbeing, and we know Millennials do,” Magliacano said, citing a handful of L Catterton’s investments. The firm’s portfolio has cornered the market when it comes to a cross-section of fitness and beauty brands, which in addition to the above include Pure Barre, Peloton, Sweaty Betty, Cover FX and Tula.
To him, building a true lifestyle brand means creating “something with meaning to the consumer that’s relevant in the life of a consumer”; it doesn’t mean that one lives their entire life around a brand, but merely that a brand is meaningful in one’s life.
It might sound nuanced, but this differentiation could be where companies are missing the mark when trying to quickly branch out into other — yet related — categories.
But most importantly: the market still has to figure out if consumers want their boutique fitness studios to also create their protein powder or moisturizer.