There's no need to wait to spruce up your style until after you shape up your body. Fashionable fitness apparel is as hot as Zumba or spin classes these days as more designers and brands add activewear and workout accessories to their offerings.
"The popularity of fitness, yoga and a general healthy lifestyle has given rise to many new designer active labels," says Dana Matsuzaka-Franklin, vice president of production for Hard Tail, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based outfitter.
Hard Tail has manufactured made-in-America lifestyle wear since 1992, and local retailers have included Nordstrom, REI, Picket Fence in Shadyside and Bend Yoga, Downtown. Now others are entering the market. For yoga devotees, lululemon athletica (Ross Park Mall and Walnut Street in Shadyside; www.lululemon.com) and Gaiam (www.gaiam.com) make it easy to channel calmness in child's pose or brush up on downward dog with athletic wear, mats, bags, nonslip socks and gloves and other gear. American Eagle's aerie recently released a fit collection. Plus, there are options from Victoria's Secret PINK, Danskin, adidas, Nike and other well-known brands.
High-fashion figures also have tapped into the trend, with Neiman Marcus carrying cashmere coverups and jogging suits and Nordstrom providing its own athletic label, Zella. Several seasons ago at New York Fashion Week, Vivienne Tam launched a line of yoga clothes called OM, modeled by yogis executing poses outdoors at Lincoln Center. For the Target + Neiman Marcus holiday collection last month, Diane von Furstenberg contributed a reversible red and zebra print yoga mat (now marked down from $49.99 to $14.99 at www.target.com).
For runners, GapFit features reflective pullovers and jackets. Pittsburgh also is home to one of Dick's Sporting Goods' True Runner specialty stores. Located on Walnut Street, it stocks hundreds of shoe styles. Staff members analyze customers' gait to help them find the perfect fit.
There's a function behind these fashions, many say.
"When Chip [Wilson] founded lululemon, he had been practicing yoga and noticed that people were wearing cotton clothing that was not conducive for sweaty, stretchy power yoga," says community relations representative Nina Gardner. He led the company in creating signature fabrics, such as luon and luxtreme, that are moisture wicking, extra stretchy and don't bag or sag after exercise.
"Our aim is to create athletic gear that is perfectly suited for each activity and design a majority of our product line to withstand five years of its intended use, while keeping its functional content," Ms. Gardner says.
Hard Tail also produces fitness fashions that "fit properly, wash well, wick sweat and last," Ms. Matsuzaka-Franklin says.
Some designers combine these degrees of durability with eco-friendliness. The eco-fashion house Jonano, started in 2005 and headquartered on Smallman Street, designs sportswear with bamboo, organic cotton, hemp and its own trademarked eco-fabrics.
"Organics are a natural fit for the sportswear activewear category in fashion because they're soft and they also go with the mentality that people are caring about themselves and are often selecting organic food, clothing and beauty products," says Bonnie Siefers, Jonano founder and designer.
In 2013, expect to see more bold brights in shoes and clothes and more prints. Versatility also is a must.
"Our customers desire clothing that they can work out in and then head out into the world," Ms. Matsuzaka-Franklin says. "Layering pieces are key to this, and we continue to offer new styles, washes and colors to keep things fun and new."
Most of all, search for quality pieces with a look and style you can picture wearing to the gym week after week.
"When you spend a little bit more on a quality item it's going to be an item that you're going to reach for in your wardrobe more often and it's going to stay in your wardrobe longer," Ms. Siefers says. "It's got all those finishing touches that will make you fall in love with the garment."
Sara Bauknecht: email@example.com. First Published January 8, 2013 6:00 AM