If you haven't ventured to Vancouver, Canada in the past few years, you've probably never heard of Lululemon's high-end, beyond-the-gym Lab offshoot. The Lab's first (and only other current) outpost is in the northwestern Canadian city, which originated in 2009. This week, the company opened its second Lab location (and its first in the U.S.) in New York City's Noho neighborhood. Each Lab's selection caters to the store's location — the Vancouver outpost stocks more outdoorsy goods, while the NYC spot places a heavy emphasis on commute-friendly, work-to-play transitional pieces. "Retail, style creation, innovation, are all happening at once, interactively; everything about the process is transparent," Marcus Le Blanc, head designer of the first U.S. outpost of Lululemon Lab, told Refinery29. Thus, you'll be able to see Le Blanc and his design team at work, 20 feet away from shoppers. "Lululemon is best in the world with sweat [-wicking clothes], and now we're experimenting with new ways of using the brand's technology and [customer] information and infusing that into other parts of your life," Le Blanc says. "We're using a lot of great technologies in our construction — a lot of them are not sewn at all," he says, citing the slew of laser-cut, bonded pieces in the collection.
Le Blanc spent four years at John Varvatos and five years at Theory, and that background certainly shows in his spiffed up, more tailored take on Lululemon. "I like a clean line and sharp, focused clothing," he says. Le Blanc also plans to work with emerging New York designers on collaborations, starting this fall. "Some of the pieces are truly 'no sweat'; there's no confusion about it. These aren't pieces to wear on the way to, or at, the gym. They're for a different part of your life," Le Blanc explains. The Lululemon proper also stocks "sweat," "post-sweat," and "no-sweat" pieces, but the Lab's iterations of that latter category are a whole lot more polished and work appropriate (and a bit pricier). The NYC Lab location's lightweight, jersey T-shirts start around $60, while structured outerwear will run you roughly $450; the selection as of now is around 70% women's and 30% men's, though that could even out to 50-50 men's and women's down the line.
The store is also a testing ground of sorts; the "real winners" that "qualify to 'graduate'" beyond the Lab concept, will eventually be found at Lululemon's nationwide, based on how they sell in the Lab. There's a big caveat, though, if you're not NYC-based: you can't buy the NYC-specific Lab wares online. But items that proves fruitful in the Big Apple will enjoy a (much) wider distribution down the line. (And eventually, Lab goods may well be available via e-commerce, a Lululemon rep says.) As for the next Lab roll-out, the location and debut date are still under wraps. But Lululemon's creative director, Lee Holman, tells Refinery29 that after NYC, "design-focused markets such as L.A., London, and Sydney are a possibility in the near future" for upcoming Lab locations.