Walking into the lululemon Studio press preview last week in lower Manhattan felt like a class reunion. But rather than making awkward small talk with former classmates I haven’t seen since graduation, I got a chance to reconnect (and sweat) with some of the best boutique fitness studios and instructors in the country for the first time since the pandemic started. My endorphins already felt elevated—and that was before I started doing back-to-back workouts with top trainers from AARMY, DOGPOUND, Rumble, Y7 Studio, and FORWARD__Space, five of the eight independent studios lululemon’s partnered with to stream exclusive content through its new online fitness platform. (Rounding out the bunch are Pure Barre, AKT, and YogaSix.)
Members can access classes from each brand, as well as hundreds of workouts from lululemon Studio instructors, via the new lululemon Studio app (which launched today). They can be streamed either through your phone, tablet, or a Mirror, the at-home workout device lululemon acquired in 2020. Membership ($39 per month) also grants you 20 percent off in-person classes at any of the eight partner studios—and 10 percent off any lululemon purchases.
The best of both worlds
Having spent the better part of the past decade immersed in New York City’s boutique fitness scene, both personally and professionally, I can say that I’ve never seen or experienced a model quite like this—which is exactly the point, according to Nikki Neuburger, chief brand officer at lululemon.
“lululemon Studio bridges the gap between what exists and the fitness experience [people] want,” she says. “We know people are going back to gyms and attendance is up 10 percent today versus pre-pandemic levels, while at the same time, 60 percent of these fitness enthusiasts also want a digital or at-home option because it’s convenient and it has become an integral part of their daily lives.” As a result, the segment of the fitness industry devoted to hybrid fitness (businesses that offer both online and IRL options) is expected to almost double to $1.2 trillion by 2025, according to the Global Wellness Institute.
Given all this, in a lot of ways, lululemon Studio feels like the future of fitness, as its tagline says, or at the very least, the future of hybridized boutique fitness. “What we know today is that the landscape for at-home fitness has changed quite dramatically over the past 12 months as consumer needs have shifted,” Neuburger says. “We listened to what our guests were asking for and looked at how COVID re-shaped daily fitness routines and preferences to create a platform that expands choice and delivers the hybrid experience they want—from the comfort of at-home workouts and the convenience of online access to the excitement of reconnecting in person.” And not only do users get both online and discounted IRL classes, but they have access to multiple boutique brands all under one membership.
Broadening the boutique fitness scene
For members of lululemon studio not based in New York City, the launch of this platform may be the first time they’ve experienced workouts from some of the boutique gyms now partnered with the app. “Joining forces with lululemon Studio allows for two immediate happenings,” says Kristin Sudeikis, founder of FORWARD__Space. “The first: It allows FORWARD__Space to be in the homes of countless new people. And two: Members everywhere get to experience the elevated technology of lululemon Studio.”
Honestly, the same could be said for all the brand partners. Each of the eight indie studios featured in the app had launched some digital version of their offerings earlier in the pandemic. I’ve tried many of them, and they’re great, but the quality of content being produced for each brand by lululemon Studio is next-level. Each studio has its own channel within the app, and they were able to work with lululemon to make sure the look and feel of the visuals on the screen, as well as their music, felt aligned with their unique brand identity.
For instance, in person, the FORWARD__Space studio in New York City is a dark box with neon lighting around the edges that feels more like a nightclub, and that energy is replicated in the app as well. Meanwhile, AARMY opted to shoot its workouts on location at its home studio. For its videos, you’ll see founder and lead instructor Akin Akman standing in front of a wall of mirrors flanked by a troop of fitness buddies in arms.
An added benefit for the indie studios linking up with lululemon: Being able to see where in the world their communities are organically growing is offering insights into markets where it makes sense to launch brick-and-mortar locations. Sudeikis says that feedback from digital subscribers to FORWARD__Space’s own streaming platform already has her considering opening spots in Chicago and London.
With its global audience, lululemon could help smaller studios like hers connect with more communities in deeper, more meaningful ways. “The landscape of how we relate to one another continues to rapidly evolve,” Sudeikis says. “Learning how we can further connect, move, and dance together will always be an exciting door for FORWARD__Space to unlock.” And the new model lululemon Studio is pioneering may just be the key.