It came true: Lululemon opens its very first Lululemon Lab in the US this week. What does this mean for your supply of leggings (and the inability to shut the dresser drawer containing them all)?
The much anticipated conceptual design and retail space officially opens its doors at 50 Bond Street in New York City’s NoHo neighborhood on Tuesday, March 29. (They had been previewing the inaugural winter collection at Lululemon’s flagship store in Manhattan for February and March.)
Like its Vancouver counterpart, which launched in 2009, the US Lululemon Lab houses both limited-edition capsule collections (the exclusive, in-store only pieces range from $60 to $450) and the very designers who created them in the first place—which means that you’re sharing the dressing rooms with fit models trying on prototypes of future pieces.
But don’t go in expecting to pick up a pair of trusty Wunder Unders. According to Marcus Le Blanc, the Lab’s head designer, “Whereas the main collection at Lululemon is uber-functional and made for sweat, what we’re up to is a bit of a hybrid between function, sweat, performance, and ready-to-wear [clothing] that can take you through your whole day.”
And when he says whole day, he means it in a New-York-minute kind of way. The entire Lululemon Lab concept is super site-specific: In addition to stocking one-off collaborations with nearby brands and artists (the store is launching with sunglasses by Smoke x Mirrors and bags by Imago-a), New Yorkers themselves serve as the inspiration for Le Blanc and his team. He counts even small things—like a proclivity for running to catch the subway or walking 15 blocks to meet friends for dinner—as emblematic of the ways in which local clothing demands may differ from, say, adventure-loving Vancouverites.
“[New Yorkers] need clothing that can move, clothing that has a storage option, that you want to be able to carry your whole day,” he explains. “There’s an edge, attitude, and sophistication that’s uniquely New York—that’s what I’m trying to put into this Lab.”
With Le Blanc’s previous stints at traditional ready-to-wear brands like John Varvatos and Theory, that translates to a touch of suiting and a keen eye for tailoring that feels a whole lot different from the mesh inserts and studded skulls we’ve come to expect in the athleisure world.
“I’ve done my best to infuse that craftmanship and tradition into this really modern way of dressing. We have trousers and blazers that fit impeccably; they’re sharp, and you can feel absolutely dressed up in them, and yet they function like something you can sweat in,” he explains, noting that no matter how sophisticated they may appear, the New York Lab’s pieces are also stretchy, moisture-wicking, and packed with ultra-functional pockets.
At least, they do for now. Every capsule will evolve to reflect what the design team is hearing directly from shoppers browsing the racks near their desks.
“That’s one of the most exciting aspects of the Lab,” Le Blanc notes. “Being a designer for nine years in New York City, you put something out there and hope that people like it. Being able to be in conversation, be on the sales floor, help people with fitting their garments and choosing the style is really going to create a relationship that’s going to cycle back into the product each season.”
In other words, prepare to share your sweatiest stories in the hopes that something very stylish will come from it.
Keep reading to see the spring Lululemon Lab collection.
Originally posted February 2, 2016, updated March 28, 2016.