Loving Lulu
by Jessica Novak - Wednesday, October 30th, 2013
Lululemon Athletica moves into a downtown showroom

When Chip Wilson started Lululemon Athletica in 1998, it was about more than apparel. After attending a yoga class with his wife and noticing the participants’ unimpressive clothes, which were not designed for the demands of the exercise, he decided someone needed to create athletic apparel that was both beautiful and durable.

Today Lululemon has a reputation for superior quality products, although it’s impossible to ignore the high price tag. But showroom manager Liz Scheer, of the Lululemon location at 327 W. Fayette St., has an easy answer for that. “It’s an investment,” she says. “You can go to Target and buy five pairs of yoga pants that will last one year or come here and buy one pair that will last for the rest of your life. I’m wearing clothes from 1998 that still look brand new. We stand behind the quality.”

Since opening the showroom in June, Scheer has spent much of her time outside of the store, connecting with the community rather than trying to push products. (A Lululemon “showroom” carries key styles and is open only part of the week so staffers can be out in the community.)

“It’s very organic,” she explains. As athletes in the area heard about the store and came in, they brought with them information about their studios and programs.

Scheer also explored gyms, studios and trails, usually eight to 12 a week, to seek more like-minded people.

The result is a showroom that not only features Lululemon products, but also a wall of information about studios that span Liverpool to Ithaca to Binghamton. Photos of local brand “ambassadors,” which are framed and featured around the store, reflect the people Scheer found upon moving to Syracuse who embody the culture of the brand, such as studio owners, yoga instructors and runners. The mutually beneficial relationship allows the store to feature the studios and the studios to connect with Lululemon’s fans.

“They all love Syracuse and love sweating,” Scheer says. “It’s a perfect combination.”

runningEvents include a weekly complimentary yoga class at the showroom on Saturdays at 10 a.m., and Oktoberfit, a program on Nov. 2, where participants will be able to participate in a CrossFit class and then get treated to a beer at Kitty Hoynes, just down the street.

“The mission is to create components for people to live long, healthy and fun lives,” Scheer says. “It’s also about going from mediocrity to greatness and sharing a culture of goals, self-awareness, candor and personal responsibility.”

Although Scheer came to Syracuse via Long Island, she is originally from Buffalo, so the Salt City transition became easier, much more like a homecoming than a typical relocation. “It’s been overwhelmingly wonderful,” she says. “But I’m not surprised by the people. They like to work hard and play hard up here.”

Lululemon products feature patented fabrics such as Luon, Luxtreme and Silverescent, with properties that set them apart from others on the market. Additionally, the products sport details like thumbholes, emergency hair ties, extra zippers and pockets and built-in gloves, all to address the issues that any athlete has and/or will inevitably come across.

The products are designed by athletes, with input taken directly from buyers. A chalkboard behind the register reads “design feedback,” featuring a list of suggestions from store visitors who have tried on clothes. Customers have lent their opinions regarding the store’s hours of operation, looser wrist fabrics and more color options. The information is given to the design team in Vancouver, with follow-up meetings between store managers and designers to ensure the feedback will be heard.

The result is a showroom that combines fashion, community and function.

“We don’t have a time frame for becoming a store,” Scheer says. “Our goal is to dig our roots into the community and get to know it. If we stay will depend on the Syracuse response.”

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