P.E. Nation is running through the fitness test for how global and multifaceted an activewear brand can quickly become.
Launched earlier this month in Australia by Pip Edwards and Claire Tregoning, two designers who struck a rapport and found a common aesthetic while working together at Sass & Bide, the retro-inspired activewear line is readying to make its debut stateside at Urban Outfitters in May. While the Millennial-geared specialty store chain claims the U.S. exclusive for the first two months, P.E. Nation plans to begin widening the distribution in July to Carbon 38, Ragged Row, Bandier, Gym and Tonic, Equinox and Sinister.
Drawing on the oversize silhouettes, strong colors and sporty stripes that were commonplace in the street styles of the Eighties and Nineties, Edwards and Tregoning aren’t staying confined to activewear. They’re flooding the resort collection with a lot of swimwear, adding knit tops later this year and prepping a denim selection for 2017. They’ve also queued up eclectic collaborations that will be incorporated into the resort fashion show scheduled to be held on May 19 in Sydney: sneakers with Reebok, caps and visors with Nerida Winter and clutches with Poppy Lissiman.
“The P.E. Nation girl is quite fun, bold and confident,” said Edwards, who also logged time designing for Ksubi and General Pants Co. prior to starting the new brand.
Retailing from $69 to $179, P.E. Nation’s inaugural collection includes the standard lineup of sport bras, leggings, shorts, windbreakers and sweatshirts. The differentiation stems from a heightened attention to fashion. A one-piece swimsuit enhances curves with black side panels that optically squeeze an hourglass figure out of the black-and-white checkered print covering the front and back. A baggy black sweatshirt features sleeves that can be zipped off right above the big orange, white and red stripes shielding the elbows. Thanks to mesh panels and high side cuts, running shorts reveal a lot more of toned legs than other conventional styles do.
“It’s actually the detail that has won our customers over,” Edwards said.
Plus, Tregoning is confident that the styles will flourish in the transition to the U.S. “Sydney and L.A. are very similar,” said the alumna of Topshop who once led her own denim brand called Maise and specialized in knits and jersey at Sass & Bide. “It would definitely translate to the L.A. customer.”
Tregoning and Edwards are using denim to help ease their way into the California lifestyle. Targeting a retail price tag of $180, they described their interpretation of another key component of the L.A. uniform as a sporty play with stripes and styles ranging from jeans to bomber jackets.
“Because we pair our activewear with denim on a daily basis, we wanted to stay with the retro-inspired aesthetic. It’ll be a lot of ripped denim [and] light washes,” Tregoning said.
Edwards added that the strategy is to launch the denim simultaneously with the sneakers from Reebok, “which will speak to a whole complete look,” she said. Color-blocked in black, white and red and accented with stripes, the footwear will come in a classic nylon style retailing for $85 and also in textured materials for a more high-end look selling for over $100.
Even with all their side projects, Edwards and Tregoning are careful to regulate their growth. Edwards said they’re close to doubling their sales target for their first collection, which is sold in Australia on its own e-commerce site, stylerunner.com and in General Pants Co. But they want to maintain first-year revenue well below $20 million so that it’d be manageable for their start-up. Any plan to open their first store is two years beyond the horizon.
“You got one shot of getting it right,” Edwards said.