Growing global brand opens in Chch

Last updated 09:53 24/07/2013
Lululemon
INSPIRATION: Yoga-inspired lululemon clothes are also for other sporting activities.

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It's a growing global brand and it has big plans for Christchurch. Get ready to get inspired by lululemon athletica, writes Christina Kuntz.

For some women, workout gear is all about function; they do not want to have to worry about things rubbing or riding up while they are working up a sweat.

For others, it is about the fashion - they still want to look good while they are getting fit.

The beauty of lululemon athletica products, says Lindsay Udell, is that they manage to tick both boxes - and offer a whole lot more.

"Our garments feel great and look great, but they also enhance your workout," says the Sydney- based spokeswoman of the yoga-inspired athletic wear brand for Australia and New Zealand.

"I like to say that they're technically beautiful. Everything is really detailed and there's been a lot of thought going into every feature on the garment and the material and its use, but it's well designed."

Clearly, a lot of women - and men - agree, as the brand has become a raging success in its home country of Canada and is gaining plenty of ground in other parts of the world - including New Zealand. The first local lululemon store opened in Ponsonby in Auckland in 2011, followed by one in Queenstown and another Auckland store at Britomart.

Christchurch is next on the list, and Udell says they have special plans for the store that just opened in Re:START.

"Because of everything Christchurch has been through in the last few years, our vision is to elevate the local community through a dedicated goal-coaching space," she says.

"We generally see our stores as fitness and health hubs for the community and we see this store as almost being one step up from our traditional hubs. We want this to be a place for people to come and share and connect and just reset their goals."

It may sound like rather high aspirations for a retail brand, but Udell emphasises the company has always been about more than simply selling products.

Opening its first store in Vancouver in 1998, lululemon was started by Chip Wilson, who came from a surfing and snowboarding background and wanted to make more appropriate workout gear for his new favourite activity - yoga. Though quality and technical aspects were a strong focus, he also wanted the brand to be about healthy living and community.

Udell says more than a decade later, now with more than 200 stores worldwide, the company mantra remains the same.

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"Our original intent as a brand was to elevate the world from a place of mediocrity to greatness. And how we do this is through our mission, which is to create components for people to live a long, healthy and fun life," she says.

That begins with great workout gear, and fans of the brand certainly rave about the fit and quality of lululemon styles, which now cover other sports such as cycling, tennis and running. It also carries over into the stores, which are set up so they can double as studios, with fixtures on wheels which can be pushed aside to make room for complimentary in-store classes.

Staff work closely with local athletes or ambassadors, as they are called, to offer those classes, which can range from yoga to crossfit, and slowly build their own local lululemon community.

Udell says the Christchurch store will offer even more complimentary classes than other stores - possibly three a week - including a special event this weekend. Aotearoa Asana, a Kiwi-themed yoga event to celebrate the launch of the brand's New Zealand website, will be held on Sunday in Christchurch at a rather unexpected location - the Air Force Museum.

Udell says they wanted to give locals a chance to "experience yoga in a different way," as well as get to know the brand and everything it has to offer.

"It's all about helping people to live a life that they love and to feel confident in their health, their body and their mind as they get there," she says.

THE DETAILS

For more information about lululemon, go to lululemon.co.nz. The Aotearoa Asana event is free and takes place from 6pm-8pm on Sunday, July 28, at the Air Force Museum, Wigram.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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