Vancouver stretches the athleisure market

December 13, 2019

As ground-zero for the athleisure industry, Vancouver has become a technical apparel hub through the years.

The comfort-wear trend launched when Lululemon single handily created the industry more than twenty years ago. The company’s highly comfortable, movable yoga-inspired clothes stepped out of the studio and into the grocery store.

Lululemon, which started as a design studio by day and yoga studio by night, soon became a standalone store in November of 2000 on West 4th Avenue in Kitsilano, Vancouver. Today, athleisure is firmly established in the modern closet – for both men and women. And with it, Lululemon has grown substantially. Statista reported that in 2018 Lululemon employed 4,200 people, an increase in over 1,600 employees since 2012.

Arc’teryx is another mega technical wear brand that emerged from the lush Pacific Northwest landscape. Producing highly technical, well-made line of outerwear and accessories, with more than 200 employees across 25 departments, Arc’teryx’s Design Centre has been described as an engineering lab.

“Imagine Project Runway meets Mythbusters, and you’ll have just a tiny glimpse of the magical working environment at Arc’teryx. There’s an entire industrial lab at the Design Centre where prototypes are rigorously tested. If it’s not an improvement on what currently exists, it doesn’t move forward,” Jeanne Croteau wrote in ForbesLife, describing the inside of Arc’teryx.

Along with the two giants, there are a handful of other successful tech apparel startups making waves, including Herschel Supply Co. – a hip and booming brand born out of Vancouver. Starting with backpacks and bags, the company has evolved into the outerwear industry. Tech-wear RYU (Respect Your Universe) delivers urban tech-style athletic apparel.

Being in the heart of a thriving tech apparel centre gives LaSalle College Vancouver’s fashion students access to an ever-growing industry. As a result, LaSalle College Vancouver’s grads have gone on to work in the design department at virtually all major athleisure companies in Vancouver.