Archive for August, 2009

As LuLu Gets the Squeeze, Hyde Keeps It Real (or at least small)

There’s nothing wrong with visibility, there’s nothing wrong with success. Or is there?

We yoga folks seem utterly torn about LuLuLemon. As the yoga clothing company surges from being a cool, innovative business, to an annoyingly ubiquitous logo, yogis, studios, and even New York Magazine (see last week’s “Lust for Lulu” feature article) have been experiencing some queasy feelings.

When did yoga clothing become “active lifestyle wear for women”?

LuLuLemon Free Yoga in Bryant Park, NY

Up in arms for LuluLemon. (Photo: Summer Starling/Courtesy of Lululemon)

This week, A.K. Kennedy, founder of Hyde yoga clothes, reminds me that not long ago, well-made, comfortable yoga clothes were hard to find.

“I was that person who didn’t want to spend $70 on yoga clothes. So I bought them at Old Navy and was annoyed that they didn’t fit very well.”

“There was hippie dippie organic clothing, or Nike stuff, or if you did find something that worked, you couldn’t find it again.”

In early 2005, A.K. began designing and manufacturing yoga clothes part time (she had been designing rugs, and before that, working in the corporate world). Lulu wasn’t quite on the scene (in the U.S.) yet. By the end of 2005 she was full time and had 4 samples in organic cotton—2 tops, a pant and a pair of shorts.

Now Hyde has standing orders with 85 studios and employees three staff (including A.K.). They work out of a modest Lower East Side office.

Hyde yoga clothing 3

Not the Lower East Side office. 

“We have a lot of fun and everyone does everything—we all went out to Wanderlust together. On photo shoots, my boyfriend is the photo assistant.”

On LuLuLemon, A.K. says at first studios were excited to carry clothes specifically designed for yogis and yoginis—and well-made, too. But as the company has grown bigger, there’s been some brand fatigue.

“Some studios tried retail for the first time because of LuLu. Now they want to try something different and maybe a little less expensive.”

“Hyde has such a different point of view. We’re less sporty and totally all organic except for a little bit of Spandex. We’re not quite active lifestyle wear. ”

Hyde yoga clothing 2

Originally, A.K. wanted to offer much less expensive clothes. But the realities of running a small, quality business made that impossible.

“We could make cheaper pants but we would be sacrificing something to do that—we would have to sacrifice quality of materials and we just don’t want to.”

Hyde’s most expensive pant is $69. LuluLemon’s signature Groove Pant is $98.

“I want to be under $60 but we’re small so our minimums are not quite high enough to come down in price.”

“I used to pick up a cute, organic dress from a small company and think, ‘Why the hell is this $250?’ and I’d put it back. Now I know that company is paying rent, using unusual material, and probably paying a premium for not meeting factory’s minimums for small production run.”

“It’s changed the way I shop—before I would have put that dress down and bought something from a bigger company. Now I spend money on the smaller company and feel good about it.”

Hyde yoga clothing