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First look: Lululemon brings calm to Regent Street

London’s West End may not feel like an oasis of calm for many shoppers, but Canadian athleisure brand Lululemon is doing its best to instil a sense of peace with the launch of its new Regent Street flagship.

The two storey, 6,344 sq ft store, which is the Vancouver-based retailer’s European flagship, highlights Lululemon’s ambitious plans for the UK market. Having made its debut in 2014 with a store in Covent Garden’s Long Acre, Lululemon now operates nine store across the UK, including Richmond and Spitalfields in London and Edinburgh.

The Regent Street store is a suitably soothing haven of grey tones and marble finishes. Customers are greeted by a concierge desk, where they can find local studios, cafes, running routes and product recommendations. A number of new digital elements have been introduced into the store, which has been described by creative director Lee Holman as “an evolution of what a flagship store is for Lululemon.” One such digital installation is a screen able to pick up movements on the yoga mat positioned below it, turning poses into bright explosions of colour.

Upstairs, standout features of the new store include a photo booth and a “visions and goals” wall, and an interactive fitting room designed to show customers the reflective features on their chosen product. Once inside the pitch black changing room, laser beams highlight any reflective elements in the surrounding mirrors.

The store is also home to a limited edition collaboration with students from Central Saint Martins, Holman’s alma mater. Six prints based on the theme “into the wilderness” designed by the students have been chosen to appear on the brand’s Wunder Under Hi Rise leggings and Energy sports bra.

Five minutes with: Lululemon’s creative director Lee Holman

What has been your key focus as creative director?

Bringing the men’s and women’s collections together. We may take a different approach to gender through fabrications and silhouettes but we’re making sure one vision comes together for both. The investment we have made in men’s is one of our biggest initiatives going forwards.

What’s different about the Regent Street flagship?

There’s a lot of innovation around digital, such as changing rooms which show reflectivity on product which you might not be able to see in store light. We’ve thought about how to showcase product functionality in a physical store space. There’s a lot more film throughout the store to bring in the voices of our ambassadors and designers, so we might have a designer talking about how they created a print. People want to know who’s behind the product more and more.

What shifts are we seeing in the athleisure market?

Lululemon was built on yoga but now people want more choice - there’s a lot more “hybrid” activities and a new breed of gym class are blending fast and fluid movements. You might start with a high sweat class and then move into mediation, so we need to create products that can do both. When we create a fabric, we’re creating it so sweat doesn’t show and it dries quickly so you’re not left in wet garments.

How has Lululemon stayed ahead as athleisure becomes more crowded?

The sector has got more competitive; brands which started in denim are looking to come into athletics. You can do an athletic line and just put stretchy fabrics into product but Lululemon leads the way on testing and innovating. Our fabrics are built from a yarn which we create ourselves rather than buying from vendors or off the shelf. If you innovate, you’re always leading the market rather than following it.

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