Outdoor Voices Wants To Change The Activewear Game — & What's Considered Active

If you’ve been noticing a flurry of simple, bright blue baseball hats (Dad hats, really) embroidered in white with the phrase “Doing Things” throughout your Instagram feed today, well, we’ve got some answers. The caps are part of Doing Things Day, a new, daylong initiative from Outdoor Voices, the activewear line that’s a welcome alternative to all the super-sleek, black, mesh-accented athleisure offerings out there.

NYC Recreationalists and the OV Team kick off #DoingThings Day with @SkyTingYoga in the park.

A photo posted by Outdoor Voices (@outdoorvoices) on

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In addition to a pretty great amalgam of #DoingThings–tagged shots (there are a lot of ways that "doing things" can be interpreted, trust us), the brand is donating $50,000 of its sales to Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA), the nonprofit devoted to ending the childhood-obesity crisis (Michelle Obama is the org’s honorary chair). And if you’re trying to get your hands on those aforementioned hats, they’re currently out of stock, but you can sign up here to find out when they’re restocked — and all proceeds will go to PHA.

For the uninitiated, Outdoor Voices is focused on “freeing fitness from performance and not being so serious” about activewear, according to founder Tyler Haney, who launched the line two years ago in Austin. “‘Doing Things’ is a super non-prescriptive, inclusive, and approachable idea,” and having a day (and a hashtag) devoted to the phrase is about “seeing how people use our clothes, instead of telling them how to,” Haney said.

Photo: Courtesy of Outdoor Voices.
The brand has grown quite impressively since its debut, nabbing $7 million in series A round of investments in October. “The message of ‘better, faster, harder, stronger,’ which works when you’re at track practice, running hurdles,” she says, of how activewear brands have typically positioned themselves. “When you graduate from that part of your life, but need to find a way to stay active every day, [physical] activity needs to be fun, delightful, and social — instead of competitive or performance-based,” Haney said.

And while the likes of Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour sponsor athletes and use professional sports stars as models, Outdoor Voices is about the “everyday, ‘recreational’ athlete,” she said. The point: to celebrate physical pursuits that are a lot more practical, like, say, moms jogging with strollers or playing a casual game of pick-up basketball during lunch (which the Outdoor Voices team does every Friday).
Photo: Courtesy of Outdoor Voices.
Initially, Outdoor Voices was stocked in a select range of stores — as the sole activewear brand at fashion boutiques carrying brands like A.P.C., Acne, and Rag & Bone, as well as in indie running stores (as the hip, logo-free alternative to the usual black spandex–dominated selection). It was also carried by J.Crew in its early days. The brand has since switched to a direct-to-consumer model, “in order to fully own the relationship with the customer,” Haney explained, though they’ve maintained a select handful of stockists, like NYC boutique Fivestory, and Nordstrom.

After opening its first brick-and-mortar location in Austin in 2014, the brand opened its NYC outpost in October 2015 — expect two more stores in as-yet-unannounced cities sometime in 2016. To complement the brand’s activewear designs for men and women, the stores stock a couple of styles of kicks, like Spalwarts and “super geeky Newton running shoes” from Haney’s native Boulder, Colorado; and a three-piece set of sculptural body rollers made of cork. Next up, expect Outdoor Voices accessories (beyond totes) in the not-too-distant future.

This July, the brand is opening up a San Francisco store in tandem with A.P.C., which invested in Outdoor Voices in October. The store will house the collaboration between the two brands, called A.P.C.O.V., which debuted at NY Fashion Week in February. “Both [A.P.C. founder] Jean Touitou and I are obsessed with fabric — he started A.P.C. based on quality materials, and I started Outdoor Voices based on materials that can perform and function across multiple activities, but are durable and high-quality,” Haney explained. When the duo met for the first time, “we geeked out over technical materials,” she says. “Jean’s methodology with clothing has to do with stuff you wear every day, and building out your uniform,” she said, which aligns with Outdoor Voices' M.O.
Photo: Courtesy of Outdoor Voices.

As for Haney's obsession with textiles, she visited mills that develop materials for Nike and Lululemon while she was getting her business degree at Parsons. She started her line of signature textured compression fabric right after graduating. “I saw a huge opportunity in the market,” she says.

While Doing Things Day involves a lineup of dozens of fitness classes at studios (and outdoors) in cities across the country, the connection between the clothes and actually doing physical activity in said clothes is big for the brand year-round (somewhat similar to what, say, Lululemon does, but with a more accessible, slightly quirkier feel. “For us, retail is really about activating community, and bringing the clothes to life,” Haney says, through jogger’s clubs, Pilates and yoga classes, and dog walking at the brand’s two locations. “Activity is more fun when it’s social, and with others; we're really big on working your body in order to work your mind, so you can think more clearly and be more creative."
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