Dec 20, 2012 -- You may have noticed it at the gym. But just as likely, you've seen it on the streets.
It's the logo that looks a little like a horseshoe, but with curly edges. It's the logo of lululemon, the leader in designer workout gear. The brand started as just one store in Vancouver, B.C.. Today it boasts 175 stores in the U.S. and many more worldwide.
The company ranked fourth among the most profitable stores in the U.S., according to research company RetailSails. Who beat lululemon? You may have heard of them: Coach, Tiffany and Apple. Sales for lululemon were $1,800 per square foot.
And on a recent Saturday at the lululemon store in New York's Union Square, there were a few people waiting to get into the store before it even opened at 10 a.m. Over the next few hours, there was consistent traffic: lines at the register and plenty of people shopping.
The question: Why is everyone so keen to pay $100 for yoga pants?
"We have a propriety fabric called luon," said Amanda Casgar, area community manager for the brand. "It's four-way stretch, moisture wicking. Every seam is flat, and we put a gusset in the crotch to avoid camel toe."
And fitness experts agree the gear isn't just a gussied-up version of something you could pay a fraction for at Old Navy or Target.
"The apparel options today are supersonic," said Annbeth Eschbach, CEO and Founder of Exhale. "You now can get apparel that's not just comfortable but makes you look good. It's not just functional but it's supportive and it's high tech and it looks great."
But the cult of lululemon is part of a larger trend of women – and to a lesser degree men – taking care of themselves.
"These are women who are really proud of what they're doing," said Eschbach. "So if I do boot camp or I do core fusion, I want to be defined by that, and my purchases are going to reflect that as a badge of honor."
But ultimately, you have to do the work. Casgar thinks the gear is another way to get you to the gym.
"It makes you feel great, putting on these pants, putting on a top. Going into a class, you are judging yourself and others, that happens", she said. "The point of a yoga class or spin is to feel amazing in body or mind after. If [the clothes] create another opening for you to go to a class and feel great from the inside as opposed to this other esoteric place, that's perfect, that's amazing."