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Should All Brands Offer Workout Clothes?

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Everyone from H&M to Nordstrom is making workout clothes, fitness rules the runways, and even celebrities are launching their own lines. The activewear market is vast and colorful—no doubt about it. In fact, heritage brand Lilly Pulitzer just launched an activewear collection called Luxletic. Their spring collection features items in sculpting, performance-ready fabrics, which they hope Lilly fans will wear with other products from the brand, like tunics and popovers.

And Lilly Pulitzer isn't the only non-fitness brand making waves. Last year, there were $33.7 billion in activewear sales, up seven percent from the year before, according to global information company, The NDP Group. And while the surge of spandex is great, (hey! I can buy yoga pants anywhere!), should you really buy yoga pants anywhere? After all, while sports companies like Nike may specialize in sneakers, Chanel's got 'em too.

There are certainly benefits to both sides of the argument: You want gear that has been tested to perform (brands like New Balance even get customers to test prototype products through their Wear Test Program). “Whether you’re talking about footwear or apparel, one of the advantages with brands that really specialize in sportswear is that they have a lot of experience with quality control and testing of fabrics. Sure, when a pair of yoga pants is brand new they feel the same, but as they wear out, the more trusted brands will show,” says Johanna Bjorken, Merchandising Director at Jack Rabbit Sports in New York City. On the other hand, having designer duds in spin class is kind of great, right?

No matter where you shop, you should keep an eye out for a few features. “The biggest giveaway in terms of quality is seams. As you’re moving around and wearing something, if they’re in a place that is going to chafe and irritate you, then that will cause discomfort and problems,” explains Bjorken.

But Jennifer Bandier, owner of Bandier, a fitness clothing boutique in Manhattan and Southampton, urges that you don't have to compromise your style for functionality. She carries Nike, APL, and Stella McCartney's line for Adidas at her shops—all sneaker brands that are known for both fashion and performance. Considering which brands work for different workouts can also help you make your decisions, she says. “Brands such as Strider's Edge, APL, and Human Performance Engineering make great running gear, while more sweat-wicking fabrics, such as Onzie and Pure Lime are optimal for cycling.”

Even though not all brands may be right for your workout, brands that don't specialize in activewear are important participants in the athleisure movement, says Bandier. “They design for wearability throughout the day, creating options that can be paired easily with ready to wear,” she says. And it’s true—you may not want to wear the same leggings to the gym that you wear to brunch, even if you’re still rocking the athleisure trend.

We're glad that so many brands are paying attention to the fact that women want cute and hard-working gear to sweat in. With so many great options, fitness-loving fashionistas can embrace having one—or ten pairs of yoga pants for wherever their workout (or life) takes them.

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