Though Kanye’s relationship-busting antics might dominate Gap Inc.-related headlines right now, Athleta is steadily laying the groundwork to challenge Lululemon and Victoria’s Secret alike and doing little to quiet speculation that a spinoff could be coming down the pike.
The San Francisco clothing giant’s B Corp. subsidiary is expanding its reach with a new store plus a whole new category and a fresh formula to get customers buying into the Athleta lifestyle.
The brand on Tuesday made a bigger push for women’s wallet share with the dual launch of the Rituals bra and underwear line and ‘The Athleta Look,’ a dressing formula encouraging wearers to choose more of the label’s function-first fashion.
Rituals offers bikini, boy short and thong underwear, an adjustable-strap bra and a T-shirt bra in Athleta’s size-inclusive range of XS-3X and cup sizes A-G. Colorways include black, white, light grey, hot pink, yellow and purple, with bras priced at $59-$69 and underwear at $16 per pair or three for $36.
Athleta’s foray into the intimates category, which Statista market research values at nearly $79 billion by 2027, comes as the brand saw customers increasingly searching for innerwear on its website.
“As a customer focused brand, we are consistently engaging with and listening to her needs and know the intimates category is growing,” chief product officer Felix del Toro said. “By introducing the Rituals collection, we are inviting even more customers into our brand and giving her an opportunity to build a complete wardrobe at Athleta, layer by layer.”
Athleta’s female-led design team created Rituals garments with breathable mesh and moisture-wicking technical fabrics that aim to minimize digging, rolling and chafing. More than 100 women wear-tested the line, with del Toro saying the brand is focused on “continuing to develop innovative products.”
“With Rituals, we’ve created a base wardrobe layer that enables freedom of movement and comfort through no-dig fit and flattering silhouettes,” he added.
Athleta’s Rituals launch dovetails with the brand’s ambition to become the customer’s go-to choice for all-day dressing. Also on Tuesday, it rolled out a three-step formula and eight-piece capsule built around comfort-minded head-to-toe outfitting.
“Women are looking for more functional yet trend-right clothes than they did pre-pandemic,” said Ebru Ercon, Athleta’s vice president of design. “They want the comfort of a performance product and the polish of their favorite ‘before times’ outfit.”
Ercon said The Athleta Look capsule responds to customer demand for “simplified shopping” and offers “a few key pieces that they will wear again and again in lots of different ways.”
“Thus, we developed this fall capsule that creates more, with less,” Ercon said. “We created a wardrobe that moves at the speed of her life.”
The Athleta Look capsule’s eight staples combine to create 20 different outfit options. Pieces in the performance-meets-elevation collection include a pant, vest, blazer, turtleneck, crop tank, hoodie and long-sleeve dress offering mix-and-match versatility in a neutral color palette. Prices range from $54-$229.
And just last week, the brand grew its more than 220-store footprint by putting down roots in New York’s tony Bridgehampton enclave on Long Island. Visitors to the new 2,373-square-foot retail space at Bridgehampton Commons can shop the full Athleta and Athleta girl assortment, get garments altered and pickup online orders. Kickoff celebrations started Thursday with a jewelry party followed by a yoga event and cupcake giveaway over the weekend. Athleta further feted the launch with an opening-week initiative giving $15 off to customers who donated to partner charity Heart of Hamptons, which supports local people in need.
Athleta remains the star performer for Gap Inc., eking out second-quarter sales growth while sister brands Gap and Old Navy declined (though Banana Republic outshined everyone with 9 percent growth). On a recent earnings call, Gap Inc. interim CEO Bobby Martin described Athleta as one of the company’s “dominant shareholders of active.”
Though Athleta has long been the subject of spinoff speculation, Gap Inc. has run into trouble shedding brands in the past after it pulled the plug on plans to separate Old Navy out as a standalone company just months before the pandemic. Still, Sonia Syngal’s shock departure this summer as CEO of the Bay Area conglomerate could renew investor efforts to maximize the company’s assets by putting Athleta on the public market. Dealreporter earlier this year valued Athleta at $9.4 billion relative to its parent’s $11.9 billion market cap at the time. It made the assessment after activewear rival Fabletics was said to hire bankers to prepare for an IPO and valued the TechStyle-owned, Kate Hudson-fronted label at $5 billion.