The first Lululemon Lab opened in Vancouver in 2009, right at the corner of Broadway and Cambie, a unique marker in the brand’s home city. Excitingly, that original location has recently moved itself to 50 Powell Street in Gastown. And now there is a splendid iteration in New York City, as well, at 50 Bond Street in the NoHo district, where head designer Marcus LeBlanc guides the ship. He previously worked at ready-to-wear brand Theory, and at John Varvatos, before taking over the Lab, at the invitation of newly-minted (and first-ever for the brand) creative director Lee Holman. “The idea is to de-centralize the design process, and I love that,” says LeBlanc. The expansion into New York marks new territory for Lululemon, furthering its foray into streetwear.
The front of the New York Lab is retail—but like the Vancouver one, it melds, sans barriers of any sort, into a set of fitting rooms and a design salon, complete with cutting tables, scissors, and sewing machines. The clothing on offer is completely unique, distinct from the Lululemon mother brand.
Even an unseasoned eye can discern how different the garments are from Lululemon. LeBlanc says, emphatically, “We are Lululemon Lab, not Lululemon. We are building our own design language here.” Some of the fabrics are used in the main line as well, but the designs are unique to each Lab. “We are a little more structured, and more urban,” says LeBlanc of the New York location. “We are really excited about it, and we try to bring an element of surprise, to a degree.” Outerwear, including some fabulous blazers, windbreakers, and hoodies, make an immediate impact upon entering the store. This is not for the exercise room, but rather apparel that can work through the entire day and into the evening. “The Lab is both literal and symbolic,” LeBlanc explains. “The retail space merges into the design space. And, actually, we can almost have a little too much fun. People get so enthusiastic.”
Lululemon Lab could be a harbinger of things to come, in which design and artifice seemingly disappear into transparency, and designers and clients in effect collude. “I take transit over from Brooklyn every day,” says LeBlanc. “I love seeing what people wear, and I learn something new pretty much every day. And it can influence what I do here at the Lab. It is a very dynamic process, and our clients get to participate.” It goes from the street to the Lab and then back to the street, in a remarkably streamlined, vibrant development—all of which you can experience, simply by strolling into the store, combing through the racks of beautiful and functional pieces, asking a helpful attendant some questions, trying on a jacket or a pair of pants, and probably wanting to take it all home. For now, it can be done in Vancouver and New York only. But who knows what the bright future will bring?
Sign up for our Thursday newsletter.