SoulCycle has been selling limited selections of branded apparel for close to 13 years, but with its latest collection of athleisure products, the brand is branching further into the fashion world than ever before.
Called SOUL by SoulCycle, the new collection launched on Tuesday is its first designed by its newly created in-house team of designers. SoulCycle poached talent from Victoria’s Secret and Barneys, among other fashion brands and retailers, to build the merchandising and design team. Previous collections sold by SoulCycle, which has been selling apparel for over a decade, have been designed by collaborators like Public School or sourced from other brands and sold as private label. The collection features 50 pieces, including leggings, sports bras, sweatshirts and tank tops, all in the $50 to $130 price range.
The collection’s release also marks the first partnership between SoulCycle and Nordstrom, the latest retail collaborator SoulCycle has worked with after previous partnerships with Lululemon (a product collaboration) and Target (a multi-city marketing activation). Starting Tuesday, the collection is being sold at 18 Nordstrom stores nationwide, on nordstrom.com and through SoulCycle’s studios and website. Select styles are exclusive to Nordstrom. SoulCycle has not sold its own label through wholesale partners before.
SoulCycle began marketing the collection at the beginning of February, relying on a combination of social media marketing and more organic marketing of having SoulCycle instructors wear the collection while teaching classes.
“Just having the instructors wear the pieces from the collection during a class speaks more strongly than words, in terms of marketing,” said Caroline Gogolak, vp of retail at SoulCycle, noting instructors were not required to wear the products but were given pieces from the collection. “We’ve had a lot of riders come up and ask where their instructors’ leggings came from, for example.”
The worlds of athletic clothing and high fashion have been on a collision course recently. From suits made with performance materials to athletic brands’ runway presence at New York Fashion Week, athleisure has become a major trend in fashion. Gogolak said the athleisure boom has been a major boost to SoulCycle’s apparel sales and to its long-term fashion ambitions. SoulCycle declined to share sales figures.
“We tried to find a white space in that market where we could fit in,” said Gogolak. “There are few players providing true technical design. If you’re in an indoor cycling class or any other athletic activity, you’re really being active. We wanted the product to actually perform, as well as be fashion-forward.”
Nordstrom’s decision to host SoulCycle’s new collection is consistent with its recent buying process. Over the past few years, Nordstrom has made a reputation of being a starter home for small DTC brands like Thinx, Sandy Liang and Dagne Dover looking to test wholesale.
But the relationship between Nordstrom and the brands it carries has not always been seamless. DTC brand The Arrivals, which partnered with Nordstrom last year, had to scale back on its Nordstrom’s partnership when the retailer put pressure on the brand to expand to a larger number of stores than it could handle. (Nordstrom has denied that it put any pressure on The Arrivals to open in more stores than it was comfortable with.)
Gogolak said she has not had that experience with Nordstrom.“One of the fears of wholesale is that you don’t have control, but Nordstrom has acted like a partner,” she said. A Nordstrom spokesperson said the retailer is “committed to bringing customers access to the coveted brands we know they love.”
For Gogolak, SoulCycle’s deeper expansion into fashion has been a unique exercise in brand building.
“It’s unique for us since we’ve built our brand for a long time. So we’re starting with feedback on what customers want first and then building the collection after. Most brands put something out there, test, get feedback and then iterate, but we were able to hear from people for over 13 years and build our collection off of that. It’s like building a brand in reverse.”