For Natalie Cohen, all the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely gracing it in comfortable, casual style. Walking the sidewalks of Manhattan and Sag Harbor, she’s noticed, “Women aren’t wearing jeans as much anymore. You go into a restaurant, and you see them wearing Lululemon yoga pants, Isabel Marant wedge sneakers–items that are comfortable but cute.”
Fortunately for her, Cohen is a gatekeeper of sorts for that trend: she’s director of retail at Flywheel, the New York-headquartered spin studio started in 2010 by SoulCycle co-founder and instructor Ruth Zukerman. Beginning in September, Flywheel’s 24 locations will ramp up its retail offerings, selling the private-label merchandise that Cohen oversees.
Over the past three years, Flywheel has grown from a single studio in New York City’s Flatiron neighborhood to a multinational fitness machine thanks to Zukerman’s cult-like following. The competitive classes feature sweat-resistant bikes that allow the spacious, stadium-style studios’ customers to track personal progress and how they compare to fellow riders. With locations from Dallas to Dubai (and Boston is on deck this fall), Flywheel’s new retail push means it can firmly grab a rein on the rampant fitness-fashion trend and drive it toward the future.
Starting on Sept. 10, 75 percent of Flywheel studio boutiques’ merchandise will be comprised of its own label, complete with original tags. Every collection will have between 60-70 items. Though studios will refresh their inventory every month, Cohen, who previously worked in sales at Guess Kids and Rocawear, plans to intermittently introduce new pieces from other designer and collaborators, as well.
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Flywheel’s tank tops and t-shirts for men and women will retail between $28-$38, while sweatpants and pullovers will run between $62-$68. These price points are cheaper compared to items from previous collaborations (designer Lauren Moshi pieces sell for about $75 apiece). Customers will be able to choose men’s and women’s clothing in on-trend fall hues like camouflage-inspired olive greens and khaki browns, deep jewel tones and plaid.
The collection is impeccably timed. As Women’s Wear Daily recently reported, “In a recent survey of more than 1,119 outdoor cyclists who ride more than 2,000 miles a year, respondents spent an average of $460 on clothing, helmet and shoes last year, and another $270 on accessories and gear. Roughly four in 10 participants said they purchased apparel items like shorts and bibs, jerseys, and vests or jackets more than once a year.”
Those numbers are backed by wholesale changes in workout patterns. Bloomberg recently uncovered the growing trend among Wall Streeters to bond at pre-dawn and afternoon fitness classes, rather than during boozy post-work outings. Last year, The New York Times zeroed in on women doing “workout hopscotch” in Manhattan, doing two or three workouts in a row at yoga studios, Flywheel, Barry’s Bootcamp, and more for upwards of $500 a month.
In Cohen’s eyes, the commute to, from and in between these workouts is the sweet spot. “We focus on pre- and post-workout, not just things to wear to Flywheel classes,” she says. “People can come in and buy the tank top, wear it to the class, and it’s cute and wearable enough that they don’t have to change to get a cup of coffee with their friends after. That’s the goal, to outfit people for all parts of the day.”
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Madeline Bloch, an assistant buyer of men’s classic clothing at Saks Fifth Avenue, is one of those ever-active New Yorkers. Bloch estimates that she works out 4-6 days per week, both at her gym and at classes like those offered at Flywheel. Her daytime style is just the kind Cohen sees as the new New York fashion.
“I do wear ‘gym clothes’ when I’m not going to the gym or I will stay in them all day after having a workout,” Bloch says. “I think they are very comfortable and they tend to fit very well and also be flattering. If I’m running around doing errands or whatever, I don’t feel like I’m going to ‘waste’ an outfit that I may put on for brunch with friends or hanging out in a slightly less casual setting.”
Before it moved toward private-label designs, Flywheel was known for its collaborations; studios sold Flywheel-branded Havaiana flip flops, Hanky Panky underwear, Rebel Yell t-shirts and so on. The biggest, most successful design collection to date included clothing from high-end casual wear line Lauren Moshi. The popularity of those items played a large role in the Flywheel’s decision to expand its in-house designs.
“Buyers from department stores and boutiques started telling us that customers were coming in asking for Lauren Moshi for Flywheel apparel by name,” Cohen says. “Even if they didn’t know what Flywheel was, they thought it looked good and they wanted to wear it because of that. It tapped into Lauren Moshi’s really tight fanbase and introduced them to Flywheel, and hopefully made them want to check it out.”
Now, Moshi is using ideas submitted directly by Cohen and her team. Those are only part of Cohen’s dream for Flywheel fashion. She also envisions a larger men’s selection, Flybarre-specific apparel, puffer vests, harem pants, clothing babies and teens, and even leashes, collars, hoodies for dogs, all emblazoned with Flywheel’s logo.
What will never grace the tables of a Flywheel studio boutique? “I don’t think you’ll ever walk in and find a pair of jeans or a button-down shirt,” Cohen asserts.
After September’s big retail rollout, Cohen says the next big move will be an e-commerce site, which is expected to launch around the new year. The perfect storm of Cohen’s equal passion for fitness and fashion and feverish demand for spinning and its accouterments may not settle soon, but Flywheel is more than prepared to ride it out.