Newspaper article International New York Times

Finding a New Fitness Niche: People Who Want to Buy $400 Yoga Pants

Newspaper article International New York Times

Finding a New Fitness Niche: People Who Want to Buy $400 Yoga Pants

Article excerpt

Bandier is a two-year-old retailer that specializes in high-end activewear for women.

On a recent Wednesday night, about 70 fitness devotees wearing in- the-know brands like Heroine Sport and Outdoor Voices were crammed into a studio in New York's Flatiron district, mastering their leg lifts while Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb" blared overhead. Taryn Toomey, a founder of the workout program called "the Class," led the group.

But this was not another fitness upstart in a body-obsessed neighborhood dotted with dozens of boutique studios and several major athletic clothing brand stores.

It was the new flagship store of Bandier, a two-year-old retail brand that specializes in high-end activewear for women seeking $400 yoga pants and other fashionable alternatives to giants like Lululemon and Athleta.

The boutique, which started in Southampton, N.Y., is the creation of Jennifer Bandier, a 47-year-old former R&B manager, vintage clothing peddler and fitness enthusiast who comes across like a sweet and hyperactive cheerleader.

During an afternoon visit at the store, she brought up such seemingly random topics as the Tennessee origins of her rescue dog, Dixie; her desire to flip houses after watching HGTV; and how she came to start a fitness retail chain with next to no sales experience.

"I'm the type of person who is either at a one or 3,000," said Ms. Bandier, wearing wide-legged jeans, a pinstriped silk button- down shirt and navy suede boots.

The concept for the store was born out of Ms. Bandier's own frustrations in 2013, when recovery from a broken foot had her largely sidelined and living in workout clothes. Wanting her clothes to be as stylish as the Frame Denim and Isabel Marant labels she prefers, she scoured the web and found smaller brands, like Toronto- based Michi and Los Angeles-based Splits59. But she couldn't find a boutique to try them on.

So in the summer of 2014, Ms. Bandier opened a 1,200-square-foot concept store on Main Street in Southampton that sold high-end fitness wear like a Michi "Feline" sports bra ($129) and technical fabric leggings from a London label, HPE ($125).

The store was a hit. At a time when Lululemon seemed like the only name in the game, the beach-body-conscious women of the Hamptons were drawn to the store's well-edited selection of fashionable workout brands. …

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