Since the advent of Y-3, traditional active wear companies have been trying to marry sport and fashion. New York-based Outdoor Voices might just be the most seamless integration of the two disciplines yet. Founded by Tyler Haney and Matt McIntyre, graduates from Parsons’ business school program, Outdoor Voices launched about a year ago with a tapered sweat pant for guys. That might sound ordinary, except few sweat pants come as close to Haney and McIntyre’s polyspandex version which not only weighs next to nothing but has the subtle, fine hand of cashmere.
“At the core we’re an active wear brand, but we’re trying to get away from all the super techy—the neons and the logos everywhere—to create more of an editorial experience from the clothes and the lifestyle,” says Haney, who handles more of the biz dev and marketing and McIntyre the branding for the company. Together, they make solid and printed performance shorts, graphic tees, tank tops, zip-front jackets and sweatshirts so effortlessly good-looking and plush you could crash in them or wear them straight from a late-night run to the club. “Design-wise,” Haney adds, “we’re trying to simplify everything, so from the outside you don’t necessarily know it’s technical but it has completely functional elements. So when you need to put your keys somewhere, there’s a spot.”
Indeed, targeted initially at the creative guy into the active lifestyle but not defined by it, the brand could be the most exciting story in active wear in recent history, not just because it offers great style and fabrics from the same mills as Nike and Lululemon for under $140, is 100% machine washable and made in the USA; but because it’s setting its sights on becoming the online active brand. Next month, the company will launch a more robust e-commerce site with original, featured content designed to curate taste in the active wear space and ask questions such as what does it mean to be active and why do we flock to the gym instead of the outdoors.
In this, what a brand like Arc’teryx Veilance did for the snow sports industry, Outdoor Voices may well be doing for the running community. As McIntyre explains, “We want to change the culture or at least redefine the culture so it doesn’t have to be just Lululemon and the boring brand. I think when people work out they have a certain connotation or expectation that they have to look really pro performance. The really tight synthetics with perforations so contoured to your body, black shorts with lines of color, the super bright shoes—it doesn’t need to be like that. We look at all activities and want to create content that changes how people see being active and progress what it means to be active. Hopefully we can redefine all the other brands too so they start moving towards this and make active more than what it is now.”
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