Inside this stylish boutique, a dramatic free-standing black cube appears to float off the ground, wrapped in a gold bead curtain, evoking a mysterious art installation. It might be Prada, or Barneys—but it’s not. It’s a store devoted to clothes you sweat in.
Specifically, it’s the new Waikiki location for Yogasmoga, an ambitious activewear brand that’s been planting its flag in locales (often luxurious) that are a perfect fit for green-juice-sipping wellness seekers who want to flow through life with a sense of fashion. “We often find that beach locations like La Jolla, Newport Beach, and now Hawaii add a special depth to the brand,” says Rishi Bali, who founded the yoga-inspired apparel company in 2013 with his sister, Tapasya.
YogaSmoga is now exploding with new retail outlets across the country—10 in just the last six months, and 20 more planned for 2016. Rishi, a former Goldman Sachs executive, is accomplishing that with a kind of investment you just don’t see in activewear every day—a deal last year set the brand’s value at a staggering $74 million. In short, Yogasmoga is showing signs of becoming a major fitness fashion force.
A brand on the rise
In three years YogaSmoga has rolled out 12 stores in places like Malibu (where the Geffen family has been spotted lingering over the leggings more than once or twice), San Francisco, and Greenwich, CT.
With the 20 additional locations that are planned for 2016, Yogasmoga would be on a whole new playing field, and chasing brands like Sweaty Betty with 50 stores (most of which are in the UK).
Yogasmoga is showing signs of becoming a major fitness fashion force
And while Waikiki is a striking new addition to the brand story, the news will likely soon shift to the wow-factor Manhattan location that we just toured. With 30-foot ceilings and a chic address (10 Bond Street, where Gigi Hadid is said to live), it’s slated for a fall opening.
Such is the fate of a fast-growing fitness fashion empire with a sweet rhyming name. (My mother always said, ‘Do you want some chai shai?’ which means tea and things that go with tea,” says Bali. The name comes from the Indian tendency to rhyme, he explains.)
Yoga values versus athleisure
For the stores, Rishi aligns with very accomplished architects—”design darling” Annabelle Selldorf for 10 Bond Street and John Beckmann of Axis Mundi design for Waikiki—trappings that the fitness fashion category hasn’t seen much.
Rishi can wax poetic on the spaces (Waikiki’s International Market Place store has a 100-year old banyan tree sprouting up through it, that he gushes about), but he swears it’s something simpler that fuels YogaSmoga’s desirability. “Consumers keep wanting to connect with YogaSmoga because of our strong yoga-based ethos and our quality product,” he affirms.
Focusing on yoga, when everyone from celebs to designers are creating athleisure, might seem anachronistic. But Bali disagrees. “Today yoga is a lifestyle that denotes wellness, a healthy spirit, connection to nature—it goes far beyond the actual ‘yoga class.’”
Clean designs for a high-end niche
The Balis take their yoga ethos seriously. “We don’t view [ourselves] as a luxury brand and we don’t think of what we do as luxury. We are more of a technical company than a luxury company,” says Rishi.
“We don’t view ourselves as a luxury brand, and we don’t think of what we do as luxury”
To that end, the clothing designs are not a bit crunchy, or cutesy, and don’t have slogans on them. They’re smart and simple, with modern details like mesh cutouts: You could just as easily see women on a surf retreat sporting them as fit moms hitting their post-school-drop-off vinyasa sesh.
Popular items, like the Vail Pullover, Carmel Hoodie and Tippy Toe Vigor Leggings (which come in a cool camo or herring bone) have a composed, wear-it-anywhere versatility. Price points, despite Rishi’s characterization, match a store with a golden cube as its altar. The pullover is $280 and the leggings are $160.
“We have always said that while others use yoga as a marketing tool, we are a yoga company that makes things for life.”
Yogasmoga’s got lot of confidence in a market with more and more players. Some of that comes from innovations like its no-fade color, Carbon 6, a deep trademarked black, created in an American-based eco-dye lab. Its touted fabric Aurum (a blend of Supplex and Lycra) is key to the collection’s moisture management. As for chic factor, the sheer Reyes tee, with its golden tones and made of Zari Mesh (a technical blend of polyester and Spandex) doesn’t seem to stay in stock for more than a sun salutation.
Moving into a power pose
While most brands in the fitness fashion space are hyper focused on the booming women’s market, 40 percent of Yogasmoga’s customers are male, a number Bali is super proud of as a brand differentiator. And that’s likely to continue to grow. “We connect very strongly with men,” he says.
“Yogasmoga differs from other brands who are jumping on that athleisure bandwagon,” explains Bali. “We have always said that while ‘others use yoga as a marketing tool, we are a yoga company that makes things for life.’” And your life in particular, if Bali has his way. —Michael Albo, with reporting by Melisse Gelula
Speaking of athleisure success stories, did you hear about the Fashion Week track pants that sold out in a single day or the the sweats with a 6,400-person waiting list?