Yesterday, Under Armour invited Sneaker Report to witness a launch of, not a sneaker or a brand ambassador, but to announce what they see as the future of the brand⎯ Under Armour Women.
Upon entering into the carefully curated space in Hell's Kitchen it was obvious that this would not be a typical Under Armour event. Sure, Kevin Plank would tell his story about the little boy in the sporting goods store and show a graph illustrating the rapid growth of the company, but the white orchids and acoustic sounds of Beyoncé softened what would typically be a much more aggressive affair.
"I will protect this house" never entered the conversation.
Powerful images of the brand's female ambassadors lined the walls, allowing us to take in the American Ballet Theatre soloist Misty Copeland, the outspoken but promising Sloan Stephens, and Lindsey Vonn looking just as focused as when she joined the brand almost 10 years ago. The guests were different too, mostly consisting of sharply dressed women that mingled on cozy white cushions until the presentation began (like any good fashion show) thirty minutes late.
ESPN's Sage Steele hosted the panel of brand ambassadors including ballerina Misty Copeland, soccer star Kelley O'Hara and professional skier Lindsey Vonn, to talk about the new campaign (above) that features Copeland in all of her muscular glory.
According to Plank, Under Armour Women aims to "equal or surpass" their men's offerings and with the new campaign underway the enterprising founder claims that "they are just getting started." He also shared the little known fact that the brand had launched their first women's collection in 2003 but had buried the line after it did not meet expectations. With a newly opened New York headquarters on 23rd street housing a team of all women designers, the new direction is clear.
About five years after that first unrealized collection, Under Armour met and exceeded my expectations as a runner that was painfully resisting the cotton-to-performance-fabrics transition. City Sports Baltimore was the spot hosting a modest collection of bras, tees and tights, all varying lengths in three colors: black, white, and light pink. I opted for the black. There was something in the simplicity of UA's early days that was more fashionable than the brand may realize. It became something of an active uniform⎯ wearable, durable, and minimal⎯ everything a female athletes needed to get to the gym and back without resembling a traffic cone. The "shrink it and pink it" approach was obvious, but somthing about simplicity of it all was appealing.
Listening to Under Armour's founder speak yesterday, it is apparent that the company craves a different customer. #IWILLWHATIWANT is in an effort to inspire women to shop, which has been no easy feat for their competitors. With the sudden growth of the active luxury market thanks to retailers like Net-a-Sporter and Yoox, and brands Live the Process, Outdoor Voices and Michi taking up the coveted spots in between, competition is fierce in this category formerly occupied solely by Lululemon and Nike.
But this Baltimore brand is a company marked by goals. Lindsey Vonn's? To become the best skier of all time. Kelley O'Hara? US Women's World Cup Champion. For Under Armour the lines have been drawn, now we'll have to wait and see if the product is up to the task.
Calvy Click is the Editor-in-Chief of Sneaker Report. When she isn’t writing about performance footwear and apparel, you can find her running around Manhattan to Rick Ross anthems or hitting the tennis court. Keep up if you can on Instagram or Twitter.