Every day, women spend hundreds of dollars on clothes they plan to wear only while sweating –- sports bras, yoga pants, skin-tight “breathable” tanks. But why? Business Insider reports that it’s all about the way that retailers like Lululemon market their apparel ... to appeal to women’s insecurities.
Companies like Lululemon capitalize on these instincts, providing workout gear that women can feel “stylish” in, even when they’re doing sun salutations. "Lululemon was the first place that provided workout clothes that women weren't embarrassed to be seen in, they could even grab dinner after yoga if they wanted to,” a New York yoga instructor told Business Insider.
It's not men they're trying to impress with their high-end workout garb, Business Insider says -- it's other women. A poll of British women conducted last summer supports this claim. Two-thirds of over 2,000 participants between the ages of 18 and 30 claimed they care far less about impressing the men in their lives with their sartorial decisions. Instead, they dress up -- or down -- for the ladies. (Popular fashion blog The Man Repeller, by New Yorker Leandra Medine, is built around this very premise.)
But female competition and insecurity can't be the whole story here. Because single women are on the path to out-earn their male counterparts, they’ve steadily become a more formidable consumer force. The L.A. Times reported last July that “brands are eager to quickly roll out new merchandise because the core active-wear shopper is the ultimate consumer: female, relatively young, fashion-forward and willing to spend money.” Women in their 20s and 30s aren’t just spending money on workout gear because they feel a need to impress their peers -- they’re spending the money because they can.
It makes sense then that Lululemon uses real women to market the “lifestyle” that its products are supposed to embody. The company recruits “ambassadors” -- predominantly yoga instructors -- in each city where they have a retail outlet. These women (and men) receive free apparel to wear while leading (rarely cheap) classes at their own studios and in Lululemon stores. Some Lululemon retail stores even have their decked-out employees do yoga in the windows. This sends a message to young, female consumers that the brand is made for and embraced by them.
Lululemon isn't the first company to actively target young, single, self-sufficient women. Earlier this year both Citibank and Honda launched major ad campaigns that explicitly pointed to the demographic's financial successes and increasing independence. In the ad for Citibank, a young woman says: "My boyfriend and I were going on vacation. We talked about getting a diamond, but with all the ThankYou Points I've been earning, I flew us to the rock I really had in mind." The rock she "really had in mind" happens to be a giant rock formation near Moab, Utah. As HuffPost's Katie Bindley wrote: "The new commercials sell women the cars and financial products they can now afford by presenting those big ticket items as tools for celebrating their independence rather than attracting a husband." Advertisers are learning that the way to women's wallets is acknowledging their strengths rather than exploiting their weaknesses, and by focusing on this demographic, Lululemon, intentionally or not, is appealing in part to their awareness of their own power -- earning power.
The company's approach seems to be working. Several major retailers, including Gap, Target, Victoria’s Secret and Under Armour have created similar women’s athletic-wear lines over the last decade to compete.
Do you buy Lululemon (or similar) workout gear? Tell us why in the comments!