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Turf’s Up: How Vuori Is Raising the Activewear Game

For a brand that’s leaned into the broadly interpreted “active” aesthetic, Vuori seems to be making performance a bigger part of its identity.

After a busy 2022 that expanded the $4 billion California challenger to Lululemon, Athleta and Rhone outside of the 50 states and into eco-friendlier offerings, the joggers, leggings and T-shirts maker is starting the new year with a partnership putting it squarely head-to-head with the biggest names in apparel that’s made to stand up to the rigors of on-field, on-court demands.

Pro football hopefuls under the guidance of Phoenix-based Exos will train for March’s NFL Combine outfitted neck-to-ankle in Vuori’s performance apparel as part of a broader deal that will also dress the coaching and corporate wellness giant’s experts “working inside the walls of nearly a third of Fortune 100 companies,” according to the collaborators’ joint statement. Staff in the nine performance centers Exos owns and operates in Arizona, California, Florida, Missouri, New York, South Dakota and Texas will similarly spend their workdays in poly-blend garments some wearers have described as “ridiculously soft.”

The move nudges Vuori into a conversation where Nike, Adidas, Under Armour and Puma—which some might call the Four Horsemen of the Athletic Apocalypse—are the marquee sporting nameplates that usually spring to mind. It suggests there’s a ripe opportunity to change the narrative around what consumers and professional athletes alike view as performance-driven apparel.

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“We are continuously looking to align our mission with like-minded brands, athletes and organizations,” said Nikki Sakelliou, Vuori’s chief marketing officer, pointing to Exos’ “shared commitment to fitness, health, and overall wellness.”

Sarah Robb O’Hagan remembers a time when “performance was performance, lifestyle was lifestyle” and never the twain would meet. Today, the Exos CEO and Nike and Equinox alum told Sourcing Journal, “everything has become much more blurred.” Though the No. 1 priority of pro-level athletes is standing out and making a case for landing a big contract, today’s competitors insist that “style matters” off the turf just as much as how their pants perform when put through the paces.

Dressing the combine class might soon give Vuori some brand-new intel on where products could use a tweak or two. “We’re definitely really excited about working together on providing insights for products, innovation, all that stuff because that’s one of the things that we can [help with],” Robb O’Hagan said.

The deal comes after Vuori capped off The Year of the Tiger by opening a roughly 5,000-square-foot flagship in New York’s uber-popular SoHo neighborhood, where tourists and city dwellers flock to shop trendy mass and premium brands.

Vuori’s SoHo store.

“SoHo is the ideal location for Vuori’s new and largest store, as it has long been one of New York’s most desirable shopping hubs––the perfect intersection of locals and visitors,” Sakelliou told Sourcing Journal.

Vuori stocked the 106 Orchard Street shop with its new EcoOuterlands outerwear collection in addition to the usual studio-to-street moneymakers. Because coats and jackets represent a “relatively new category” for the apparel unicorn, Sakelliou said the company searched out “best in class” woven mills to produce the eight-style, dual-gender collection made with at least 50 percent recycled materials. The Idyllwild jacket for men features recycled performance eco-sherpa fabric, for example, while 85 percent of the inputs in the women’s Canyon vest come from non-virgin sources and a DWR coating is free of PFCs, the chemicals now coming to stricter regulation for their links to adverse health effects.  

Designing new products with greater attention to their implications for the environment aligns with how Vuori customers make “thoughtful decisions about the products they buy” and “purchase from brands that share like-minded values,” Sakelliou pointed out.

“That’s why we continue to invest in our sustainability efforts and make improvements with our products, our business practices and our commitment to living on a healthier planet,” she said, hinting at future “advancements in material innovation.”

Downtown Chicago is now home to a new Vuori store.

Those values arrived in Chicago just weeks before Thanksgiving when Vuori opened a 5,300-square-foot downtown store next to fellow get-out-there-and-get-moving brand Arc’teryx and two doors down from Shinola for its 26th location in the U.S., with many more in the works.