Yes, real men practice yoga, but they also have other athletic pursuits.
This story first appeared in the April 2, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
As Felix del Toro, senior vice president and head of men’s design for Lululemon Athletica, describes the company’s consumer, he works out five or six days a week and may do yoga once a week.
Del Toro recalled that when Lululemon Athletica was in the throes of developing its men’s business two years ago, one question that kept coming up was whether to change the brand name and the logo. “How can this be relevant for men when it’s such a woman’s brand,” del Toro remembered being asked again and again. “Can a women’s yoga brand be meaningful for men? Obviously, we feel the answer is yes. Besides, we liked the challenge.”
Lululemon describes its male consumers as being confident, competitive, well rounded and happy. “Self-assured and self-aware,” del Toro added. “He’s discerning, he recognizes quality and expects it. He’s style conscious, works hard, has a sense of humor and is witty. He’s a multidimensional man, someone you’d want to be friends with and someone you’d want your sister to marry — I know, he’s quite a guy.”
It stands to reason that the company’s motto, “There’s no reason why you shouldn’t look as good as you feel when you’re working out and pushing your boundaries,” would appeal to such a male consumer, who may be a little vain, although del Toro didn’t address the possibility.
“We’re in this moment where sportswear and performance gear have come together,” del Toro said. “For us, it’s not a moment, it’s who we really are. We create product by, with and for athletes, and our ultimate goal is to reach this intersection between technical performance and effortless style.”
Del Toro said men’s accounts for 14 percent of the total Lululemon Athletica business, which had sales of $1.6 billion last year. In November, the company opened its first men’s freestanding store in New York’s SoHo. “We’re looking at other stand-alone men’s locations, we’re looking at bigger stores and side-by-side stores,” he said. “We have over 250 stores today. We’re optimizing what’s happening in those stores. We’ve expanded the collection by 70 percent and we see additional growth beyond that.”
Del Toro derives a lot of insights from customer feedback. “We are consistently in conversation around what is meaningful and what is relevant for our guest, who is an athlete,” he said. “Within this very challenging world, how do we support him in living his daily life? By making products that allow for transformational experiences.”
Lululemon apparel is created with the intent of multiple uses. The Pace Breaker short, for example, was made from swim fabric and can be worn as both a workout short and swim trunk. “He was happy because we made his suitcase lighter,” del Toro said of the consumer’s reaction to the two-in-one product. The ABC pant made from moisture-wicking four-way stretch fabric can be worn during a consumer’s commute, while reflective details allow him to go bike riding. The pant can be worn to work and after work because it has “an elevated aesthetic,” del Toro said.
Products under the headings of Sweat, Post-Sweat and No Sweat address functional strength training with a performance fabric so “the customer only has to focus on his performance. There are no distractions for him,” del Toro said. After a workout, Post-Sweat garments allow his body to cool off, while No Sweat recognizes that he has a life outside of working out.
Offering some insight into the company and its culture, del Toro described going to work and “being surrounded by athletes every day. You see people coming in that have gone for a 20k run, somebody who’s been cycling and someone who’s been at the pool. It’s really about being engaged in an active lifestyle. It’s how we bring the brand to life and engage as a collective.”