Lululemon Lab, the in-house streetwear brand, is branching out. The fall 2019 collection, which up until this point was only available in a concept store in Vancouver and two in New York City, will expand its distribution to 45 Lululemon doors this fall.
Beginning Sept. 10, the collection, which focuses on “Sweat” and “Office, Travel, Commute,” will be available at 45 Lululemon stores globally and lululemon.com. The brand includes such pieces as jumpsuits, layering dresses, tops and functional outerwear.
According to Sun Choe, Lululemon’s chief product officer, “What distinguishes the Lab concept from our main line is it definitely represents a more pinnacle aesthetic for us. We definitely use more exclusive, raw materials and trims, so the price points are a little more expensive from what you’ll find in the main line.”
Lululemon Lab retails from $78 to $500, while Lululemon starts at $48 and goes to $500. The original Lululemon Lab store in Vancouver has been open since 2009. The first U.S. Lab store opened on Bond Street in New York in 2016.
Ben Stubbington, senior vice president of men’s design, explained Lab’s purpose as “anything to adapt to your life.”
“It’s to help you move through your life and through the city — this sort of urban nomad and city dweller. We think about how we combine function and aesthetics together. We’re looking at a minimalist aesthetic. Every detail and line within the garment is built around functionality. That goes to the fabrics as well,” he said. “Whether it’s stretch fabrications, sweat-wicking, fast-drying, antiwrinkle and antistink. We’re building these things into the garments. They obviously have this fashion-forward perspective to it, but they’re minimalist and they work as urban camouflage, so they take you through multifunctions throughout life.”
Choe said the Lululemon stores that had more square footage were selected to house the collection.
The first collection includes dresses, pants (both men’s and women’s), tops and outerwear. “Some have a gender fluidness to them,” Stubbington said.
He said the first delivery is fairly neutral, with grays, and when they get to winter, there are autumnal and pop colors. Fabrics are mostly synthetic, “so you can get a beautiful saturation of color,” he added. There will be four seasons offered a year, and within that there are two flows.
Stubbington said the collection is geared to “a progressive thinker, who’s constantly moving through life and not knowing what she’ll get herself into through the day.” He said she’s not necessarily working in an office, but constantly moving around, traveling, running to a meeting or training. “The product really works to that and adapts to that,” he said. There are products in the line can be worn to a workout class and can be worn to go out afterward. There’s also a small offering of bra tops and leggings, and pieces that can be worked around that. He said Lab is appropriate for most office situations. Fabrics contain polyester, nylon and stretch, and they’re trying to bring more texture in and use more unexpected colors.
Asked if she thinks the Lab concept stores will be expanded (beyond the initial three), Choe said, “No, I think we’re excited to be able to offer this within our Lululemon stores. I think we’ll stick to our three concept stores and increase our presence in our mainline stores.” She said the company doesn’t plan to wholesale the line, although Bon Marché and Selfridges have Lululemon shops-in-shop, and will add the Lab collection.
Stubbington said the women’s product has a minimalist hand to it, and a lot of it is bonded and laser cut. “We have this reductive ethos within design. We’re removing neck trims and stitching, and stripping back. It’s taking a classic and modernizing it through fit and construction detailing and the fabric,” he said. Lab is manufactured in Vietnam and Taiwan.
Both Choe and Stubbington declined to give annual retail projections. “Right now we’re testing and learning and don’t have hard numbers as of yet,” Choe said.
It’s not unusual for an activewear player to expand into the sportswear category. In 2016, Under Armour tapped Tim Coppens to serve as creative director of a new collection called UAS, which stood for Under Armour Sportswear. It launched in fall 2016 and ran through spring 2018, when Coppens left. That initiative then morphed into collaborations with designers and influencers, such as A$AP Rocky.
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