Canadian Athleisure Brand ‘Lolë’ Expands into Men’s and Travel Categories

Canadian brand Lolë has taken a new approach to not only survive, but thrive in today’s retail economy.

Once focused exclusively on women’s athleisure apparel, the Montreal-based lifestyle brand has branched out with a new men’s line and travel-focused products to maintain a competitive edge.

“For the last 19 years and probably over the last 10 years when we opened our first store back in 2010 our primary target consumer was the sophisticated, educated woman who understood the importance of a wellness-based lifestyle, had a global perspective, and was quite often a career professional with a family but somebody that was kind of at the intersection of an active lifestyle and fashion,” said Todd Steele, the company’s CEO.

“Over the last 10 years, we saw a lot of these similar values and trends happening on the male side and we found that this was relatively unique in the world of sport and active wear. If we think historically about the development sport lifestyle brands going back to Nike and Adidas early on through the outdoor companies like Patagonia and North Face through the action sports like Quicksilver and Billabong, almost all of them have been male-focused brands first. What we’re seeing now is there’s an openness and an alignment between some of the values of female first brands like Lolë and like some of our competitors in the athleisure industry.”

The brand is 19 years old and today has 29 corporate stores, 19 in Canada, six in the U.S., and four in Europe, as well as another 12 franchisees spread across those areas. There’s also a few stores in airports in Canada.

Through distributors and other partners, the brand is in 11 countries.

“Lolë’s a lifestyle brand kind of predicated on a few values. The first – the kind of prominent one – is wellness. Wellness of mind and body. The second value pillar is community and the idea for us is to develop global communities in each of these markets that we’re in. And the third value is sustainable consumption. We build versatile, long-lasting products that hopefully will reduce the frequency that a customer has to re-buy or re-consume and we do those products where we can with recycled fabrics and with sustainable production processes,” said Steele.

He said the push into the male market has been well received. The retailer started the male collection very small with probably only 10 per cent the number of styles for men as it does for women. It tried to approach the men’s collection with as much versatility as possible so it designed a set of products that the average man could travel with, could be active in, and could live this active urban lifestyle.

“The company began as a 100 per cent wholesale business and I think this year we’ll be about 50-50 between wholesale and our direct to consumer business, meaning our retail stores and the web,” said Steele. “We like that balance. We believe in the wholesale market. We believe in our retail partners who are out there helping us build our brand and in places we wouldn’t otherwise be and in front of consumers we wouldn’t otherwise be in front of.

“On our own direct to consumer side, we’d like to continue to build out three to five stores a year. Our focus right now for the past year has been on four-season resort towns. We’ve opened stores recently in Vail and Keystone, Colorado, in Lake Tahoe, California and we’ve got a store opening up in January in the Canyons Village in Park City Utah. We think our brand has a real resonance in these four-season towns. Twenty five to 30 per cent of our business is outerwear and given that we’re from Montreal and Quebec we’ve got a real heritage in kind of building warm technical jackets that maybe some of our competitors don’t have. So we’re able to give an offering to the consumer in these resort towns in the winter and then when summer comes obviously we have a bunch of active and lifestyle athleisure pieces. We truly can provide something for every time of the year which is relatively unique in a ski town. That’s been our focus over the last year and we see that continuing in 2020.”

Actor and outdoor enthusiast Josh Duhamel has become an ambassador for the retailer after signing on as equity owner and investor.

“There’s a rugged yet fashion-forward element to the line that speaks to both outdoor adventurers and urban explorers,” said Duhamel. “Lolë will travel.”

“As an understated style icon, Josh has participated in design workshops with our product teams. The new line is an exciting opportunity for us to continue to inspire people to live outside their comfort zones in style. We want men to engage with the world through their own travels and be comfortable while doing it,” said Steele.

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He now works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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