The earth moved among fitness-loving fashionistas in July when the luxe online shopping portal Net-a-Porter launched a site-within-a-site dedicated to active wear.
The newcomer, called Net-a-Sporter, is organized by sport or activity and offers curated selections of well-designed clothes and accessories for which the site is known. Like its innovative and influential e-tail parent, Net-a-Sporter looks great, is easy to navigate and makes shopping a breeze.
So far, so good.
However, among categories that include gym/crossfit, yoga/dance, tennis, swim/surf and golf, there’s a notable omission.
It’s cycling. Although clothing for spinning was mentioned as a possibility in industry reports last spring when news of Net-a-Porter’s move became public, there is no evidence of it now. I thought I’d wait a while and see. But, according to the site’s homepage (above) sailing and skiing are what’s on deck. If I want a well-designed pair of padded cycling shorts for my spin class or a pretty top with a handy little pocket on the back for my ride to work? Nada. Bubkes.
What Active Women Want
The Net-a-Sporter launch acknowledges the ever-accelerating blending of high fashion and active apparel that on-the-go women love; it’s seen everywhere from fast-fashion retail to the latest looks on the couture runways. The active wear category grew 9 percent versus 1 percent for all apparel last year. And it’s not just fitness heavyweights like Under Armour who are upping their style and marketing game. Designer names like Tory Burch are reportedly heading in that direction, and creative capsule collections already abound.
The popularity of cycling, both indoors and out, makes the exclusion of a this category puzzling. As the dueling SoulCycle and Flywheel chains, with their moneyed and dedicated clientele, continue their march of market expansion, indoor cycling studios with ever-more-exotic themes also proliferate (underwater spin classes, anyone?) And riding outdoors? It’s the hottest, hippest way to travel around town in urban centers, which would seem to pave the way for opportunities to sell quality clothing and accessories that enhance comfort and style while pedaling.
Fashion Brands Embrace Two Wheels
Could it be that Net-a-Sporter views the spin category as increasingly “owned” by the likes of lululemon, Athleta and the spin studios themselves? Do they consider outdoor bicycling, notably for transportation in big cities, too “fringe”? (Never mind that brands like Hermès, Chanel and Marc Jacobs have sold branded city bicycles as part of lifestyle marketing thrusts.)
It’s true that SoulCycle and Flywheel sell branded apparel that’s available not only online, but also through on-site boutiques in their studios. But SoulCycle’s tanks and hoodies adorned with a skull and crossbones, for example, are not for everyone. There’s clearly room for an elegant, understated assortment — the kind for which the parent Net-a-Porter is known.
Luxe Options Abound
Could Net-a-Sporter be at a loss for quality garments with a healthy fashion quotient to merchandise a cycling category? That might have been the case only a few short years ago. But apparel for cycling today is increasingly taking its cues from fashion, as well, yielding some excellent choices for discerning shoppers.
How about sleek bike shorts in fine Italian knit? Those by newcomer Velocio look as chic on a spin bike as outdoors. Simply-cut tops (with back pockets for cycling) from the New Road collection by Giro are made of a soft Merino wool blend that makes you feel cossetted while exercising. Giro’s boy undershorts with a comfy tri-chamois are a go-to wardrobe staple to wear under tailored skirts or slacks for everyday comfort while cycling. Sophisticated hues and color blocking? Former Wall Streeter Melissa Moo has that box checked with her Moo Motion triathlon collection. For footwear, Sidi cycling shoes in silver and white fit the luxe bill. And, a reflective, houndstooth rain cape from Cleverhood answers the call for multi-season and travel versatility.
If Net-a-Sporter is up for offering jewel-encrusted sweat bands, then surely there’s room for some smart cycling accessories like a versatile vegan leather carryall by Give Love Cycle, sophisticated and witty jewelry stylings by fashion insider Lorenzo Martone (why not feature his bikes, as well?) and über-cool sunnies by POC.
I’m no expert on the business of fashion apparel. I recognize that there’s always a back-story, and sometimes it’s more quotidian than one might imagine. But I do know this: I attend spin classes and I like to dress well for those. In addition, I don’t make fashion concessions when riding my bicycle for daily transportation. I recognize, and am willing to spend on, quality apparel that’s (increasingly) available to women who make pedaling part of their healthy, green and stylish lives in cities. And no disrespect to riding horses or to seaborne adventure, but I care — and I’m vexed — when a site as influential as the new Net-a-Sporter seemingly snubs cycling.