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Outdoor Voices: The active lifestyle brand knighted by J.Crew

Outdoor Voices’s soft tones of the season—Baby Blue, Dove Grey, Dusty Lavender, Heathered Charcoal, and Clearwater Blue—say “don’t kill yourself at the gym.” (Photo: Outdoor Voices)

If a fitness brand hung out at the Ace Hotel, swilled Juice Press liberally, and believed in sweating (but not quite so much that it would time meetings around SoulCycle’s noon Monday booking window), that’s Outdoor Voices.

The cool, year-old company, which makes soft, stylish urban active lifestyle pieces for men and women, was recently discovered by J.Crew. In the blink of an eye, and a mega production order later, OV went from being an indie player to this month’s hot ticket item at the retailer’s top selling Manhattan stores, where it’s the only active brand. (There are still some pieces left…)

A J.Crew store showcasing Outdoor Voices including the Steeplechase Sports Bra $55 and Running Woman Pants, $105 (Photo: Molly Gallagher for Well+Good)

The name Outdoor Voices is a rejoinder to when you were little and adults told to use your indoor voice, explains Tyler Haney, the founder and a former track star, who ended up going to Parsons for business instead of USC to run. And her made-in-LA clothing company, with headquarters in New York and Austin, doesn’t play by current fitness fashion rules.

Most notably, she doesn’t use phrases like “studio-to-street” or words like “compression, wicking, or performance”—even if their pieces fit the bill.

“We’re a lifestyle brand approaching activity with moderation. We want to insert delight into activity without worrying about performance,” explains Haney, who when I visit her NoMad office showroom, is wearing a leather moto jacket and shredded jeans, and has a surfer vibe that makes you want to hang out with her.

Tyler Haney says she’s interested in making clothes “in the spirit of active.” (Photo: Outdoor Voices)

Haney grew up in Boulder, Colorado, where fitness, she says, is more intrinsic, social, and practical, like hiking with friends or biking to school: “It’s less about going to the gym to work out,” she says. And her brand, an edited mix of lightly structured crop tops, bras, pants, and tanks, is a reflection of that set of values.

Rather than going after the “hardcore yoga person [Haney herself does yoga], we’re into making clothes for the successful creative type who’s also active. We say our customer is active but not defined by it.” It shows in the pieces: Haney worked with a technical designer from T by Alexander Wang, and the pieces carry an edgy casualness. “I thought this was missing from the market,’ she says.

A great source of pleasure and inspiration for the Haney is a Vogue “Body & Beauty” book from the ‘70s that’s filled with quirky, cool aesthetic imagery.

So do others. Outdoor Voices is attracting the right people with a shared fashion mindset. “We met with Micky [Drexler] and Jenna [Lyons of J.Crew], and they are so supportive.” These are tanks and jogging pants you could see nestled next to $175 jeans at a boutique. (Lycra leggings, for comparison? Not so much.)

It’s about about a whole lifestyle vision and experience of leisure and enjoyment, like batting around a tennis ball, paddling out with friends at a surf beach, or “joining a jogging club versus running club, which is less serious, more social and about connection,” she emphasizes.

“If Nike is sponsoring the professionals,” says Haney, “we’re sponsoring the recreationals.” —Melisse Gelula

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