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Can Athleta’s Latest Technical Fabric Improve Gap’s Performance?

Athleta has long been the only bright spot in Gap Inc.’s business, and the brand is hoping its latest innovation will help set it apart in the oversaturated activewear arena.

Sculptek, which Athleta filed a trademark for back in January, is a new line of tops, bottoms and sports bras made from a 360-degree stretch fabric that molds and adapts to the wearer’s body, while also offering breathability, moisture management and odor control.

“Our designers worked with a fiber technology company to create a new fabric that had a seamless stretch, no pinch point, and that was supportive without being overly compressive,” Sarah Carlson, vice president of product development and design at Athleta, told Glossy. “We wanted to create workout gear that would respond to a woman’s body—no matter her shape—when she moved.”

To celebrate the line’s launch next week, Athleta will host try-on events at several store locations, inviting consumers to put the new technology to the test during body-sculpting classes.

“The customer has high expectations for products that move with her, because she’s experienced our performance apparel. It wicks, it quick dries, it breathes,” Carlson explained to Glossy. “Athleta has its antenna up at all times, so we keep track of all things happening in technology. Our innovation team touches on every part of our company.”

The brand has been giving active apparel veteran Lululemon a run for its money for a while now. In addition to introducing signature fabrics that feature similar performance-enhancing attributes, Athleta’s prices are more pocket-friendly. Its basic black Chaturanga capri pant retails for $59 and comes in a wide range of sizes, from petite to plus. By comparison, Lululemon’s Flow & Go crop pant is priced at $88 and only goes up to size 12.

Gap said last week that in the second quarter ended July 30, sales at Athleta and Intermix combined reached $200 million, up from $177 million in the year-ago period. Overall, however, the company’s consolidated net sales fell from $3.9 billion to $3.85 billion.