According to the EPA, Americans consume an average of 20 billion garments each year. That equates to 68 pieces of clothing and seven pairs of shoes per person. And what happens to the items we replace or grow tired of? They end up in the landfills – more than 10lbs of clothing per person – or in secondhand stores that are already inundated with donated items. Couple this with the barrage of headlines reporting the negative impacts of the fast fashion industry and it’s simply impossible to turn a blind eye to this kind of consumption.
Some clothing companies are helping to combat these issues by encouraging consumers to purchase less by purchasing better. Clothing that withstands more than a single wear and performs multiple functions; that transitions seamlessly from the morning bike commute to the office, to lunchtime yoga in the park, to happy hour with friends.
Tyler Haney, the 27-year-old CEO of clothing brand Outdoor Voices, is actively working to rearrange our purchasing behavior. In 2013, she founded Outdoor Voices as an active lifestyle brand based on the idea of “freeing fitness from performance and embracing activity with ease, humor, and delight,” said Haney in a recent Women’s Health article.
The brand’s mission is to redefine recreation as a part of everyday life and provide consumers with one wardrobe to accommodate all aspects of it. Living an active life, or “doing things” as Outdoor Voices phrases it, is a major influence on the brand. “We don’t really see a start or finish in activity, especially recreational activity, which is what we’re making clothes for,” said Haney. “The idea of ‘Doing Things’ is less prescriptive. … we make clothes that you can go play soccer in, do Pilates or yoga in, clothes that function across various activities. And I think that lends itself nicely to the way that our generation is working out, like going to SoulCycle and hiking on the weekends, then jogging with friends.”
Haney’s business capitalizes on the rise of fitness-conscious consumers who look at athletics not only as a hobby but also as an all-around lifestyle. She also caters to their desire for clothing to be comfortable, even when it’s supposed to be functional, thus the appeal of “athleisure” wear – clothing designed to be functional, stylish and appropriate in and out of the gym.
“Casual and ‘athleisure’ have taken on a life of their own,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst of The NPD Group, Inc. “This is no longer a trend – it is now a lifestyle that is too comfortable, for consumers of all ages, for it to go away anytime soon.”
What sets Outdoor Voices apart from brands like lululemon and Nike is its reverse approach to the idea of athleisure attire. Most brands create sporty gear that is appropriate outside of the gym after work and weekends. However, that model still requires consumers to purchase two sets of clothing. Outdoor Voices designs clothing that can pass in casual work environments, social settings and the gym. It’s clothing that functions throughout the entire day, not just during downtime.
While the concept initially seems foreign to those of us used to packing a separate gym bag, consumers seem to be open to the idea of changing their point of view. In three short years, Outdoor Voices has gone from a simple idea to a full line of men’s and women’s clothing sold online and in a brick-and-mortar store in Austin. There have been partnerships with prominent fashion brands like J.Crew and Man Repeller. And future plans include opening a pop-up shop in Manhattan this winter.
Outdoor Voices has found success in listening to Conscious Consumers and shifting with their evolving preferences. People of all ages are starting to reconsider the benefits of owning – from cars and homes to music and movies – and the idea of “having it all” doesn’t carry the same prestige it once did. Rather than fighting against “the death of ownership,” recognizing this new attitude is the first step toward leveraging it. If it can work for a small retail brand, it can work for your brand, too.