We've watched workout wear go from baggy, ratty sweats and tees to clothes that can go all the way to dinner. Given the sport influences in high fashion and on the streets, where one of the latest looks is stylish gym shoes paired with skirts, it's no surprise that more fitness wear companies are getting into fashion.
Here are some brands that have caught our eyes recently, in part because they are offering everything from in-house classes, recipes and wellness lectures to online workout videos, playlists and a magazine.
Launched in January, Los Angeles-based e-tailer Carbon38 (Carbon38.com), co-founded by former
The site features emerging and established designers, including many California brands, such as Solow, Body Rock, Style Firm, Electric Yoga, Splits59, Onzie, Spiritual Gangster and Nina.B.Roze. Styles are chic, with color, prints and details that often reflect runway trends.
In September, a weekly digital magazine, Page38, was added to the site with health and fitness secrets from the likes of actress Kerry Washington and local designer Kelly Wearstler, brand profiles, recipes, fashion and more.
The brand's target consumer is an entrepreneur, an executive, a mom, a wife and still wants to live a healthy, chic lifestyle and look good," says Johnson. "Now it's time for a new wardrobe to rise to the occasion."
She says that the brand's aim is to "develop and diversify" the market that lululemon created a decade ago.
"Currently the only option in the sportswear market is to be spoon-fed a single brand," says Johnson. "We want to provide variety and ingenuity and help the Carbon38 woman transition through her day seamlessly. Fitness apparel is comfortable, sexy, machine washable and easy to wear. Why not boost the fashion factor?"
If Britain's fashionable activewear brand, Sweaty Betty, is unfamiliar, its customers
Known for pieces that work in or out of the gym, the line boasts bold patterns, pops of bright color and flattering, feminine silhouettes.
With looks for a variety of sports, including swimming, dancing, skiing, yoga, running and tennis, the company emphasizes fabric innovation, with sweat-wicking and odor-resistant materials, chafe-resistant seaming and reflective piping.
"I have always loved the dream of California and grew up with posters of surfer girls and endless beaches and amazing sunsets on my wall," says Tamara Hill Norton, Sweaty Betty's creative director and founder. "So when I wanted to start a business selling activewear, it was the California girl I had in mind. She is so inspiring — especially for us in cold, gray, damp Britain — with her Day-Glo clothes, toned, tanned body and totally active mentality."
A fall collection, "Beyond Blastoff," was inspired by an exhibit at the Chabot Space & Science Center in San Francisco that highlighted a 1970s-era female astronaut; patterns depict imagery of galaxies and the northern lights, and some details are derived from spacesuits.
The company has online workout videos and playlists at online and in-store workout classes.
Canadian-based Lolë, based on an acronym for "live out loud every day," opened its first U.S. locations in Santa Barbara and Salt Lake City in late July and will soon add stores in Palm Beach and Boca Raton, Fla.
The line consists of pieces that target specific sports, such as running, yoga, swimming, hiking and skiing, as well as versatile travel and lifestyle items, including down coats, aprés-ski sweaters, stretchy knit dresses and accessories. The "Poetry in Motion" collection of seamless tank tops, bras, panties and leggings is a recent addition.
About 40% of products are made from eco-friendly, recycled or organic materials, including fabrics made from recycled plastic bottles or coconut shells; many fabrics have performance properties: water and wind repellence, UV protection, wrinkle resistance, odor management and bacterial resistance. Fabrics with four-way stretch or slimming compression and tops with removable pads contribute to a flattering fit.
Lolë's website (www.lolewomen.com) includes articles, videos and podcasts on topics such as fitness, travel and culture — all part of the company's emphasis on community. It also holds health and wellness lectures and complimentary fitness classes — some designed as mom-and-baby play dates.
A recently launched Yellow Label program recycles gently-used jackets from Lolë and others — some owned by celebrities — and resells them on the site for $40, with proceeds going to food pantries; donors receive a $50 gift card toward the purchase of their next coat.
Lolë plans 40 more locations in North America and Europe in the next five years, including in California.
With about 150 stores worldwide, the 23-year-old company is rapidly expanding in California; nine stores opened in the state last year and 11 this year. Another store opens in the Beverly Center this month.
Like a "fast fashion" retailer, the company releases 70 to 100 styles each month, characterized by vibrant colors, prints and aspirational slogans. The designs are for specific activities, such as dance, yoga, running and cycling, as well as leisure wear. A top seller is the relaxed, drawstring-waist Flashdance pant.
"The brand's purpose is to inspire active living, and it does not want to be pigeonholed into being [called] yoga wear, as it so often is in the U.S.," says company publicist Lizzie Mesa.
The company has a trademarked LJExcel line of fabrics. A "classic" support fabric is used for most performance pieces, six types of mesh materials range from lightweight for breathability to power mesh for ultimate control and a compression fabric has eight-way stretch to relieve muscle soreness and fatigue while stimulating blood circulation, according to the website.
The brand's aspirational philosophy — move, nourish and believe — is promoted zealously by founder and Chief Creative Officer Lorna Jane Clarkson, who is also the face of the brand and has written two books on the subject. A dedicated website (www.movenourishbelieve.com) features workout videos, recipes, articles and event listings. And its Now Move It app (available on