Under Armour is on a mission to compete with Nike and Adidas. And while it has undeniably done a great job of doing that recently, it hasn’t yet developed one important ingredient that’s long helped fuel the success of those companies: Its cool.
Fashion credibility brings Nike and Adidas heaps of customers beyond those just looking for performance gear or basic athleisure. Now, a new line from the Baltimore-based Under Armour is making a big move in that direction. Business of Fashion reported today that Under Armour has partnered with designer Tim Coppens to create a “casual, lifestyle-directed” sportswear label, called Under Armour Sportswear, or UAS, that will pair Coppens’s fashion prowess with Under Armour’s performance-wear capabilities. UAS is set to launch this fall.
The line will include a range of apparel, accessories, and footwear, but it’s not for working out in. “It’s not activewear. It’s not athleisure,” Ben Pruess, senior vice president of sportswear at Under Armour, told Business of Fashion. “It’s very specific to this idea of young, ambitious, new generation of clothing.”
That description could work for Coppens’s own line. The award-winning Belgian designer is an established star in the New York fashion industry, and his men’s and women’s lines are carried at some of the most selective shops in the world, such as Barneys in New York and Isetan in Japan. He also has a background in luxury activewear, having served as design director at RLX, Ralph Lauren’s performance line.
His own collections mix activewear details, such as elastic cuffs, zipper details, and tech fabrics, with street influences, notably the skate culture he grew up with as a kid in Belgium. Those reference points have set him apart in the crowded New York fashion scene, and should also allow him to bring something new to Under Armour, such as chino pants in a technical stretch fabric or tyre-soled boots according to Business of Fashion.
UAS joins a rising group of fashion-focused performance labels—a market where yoga-pants pioneers Lululemon are dabbling too. The premium line reportedly won’t have the same distribution channels as the core Under Armour brand. It will be sold at select Under Armour stores in New York and Chicago, but will also get a dedicated e-commerce site and will be for sale in select department stores, though these haven’t yet been announced.
It’s not clear if the move will affect Coppens’s own line, but plenty of designers juggle multiple design jobs. We’ve reached out to the brand for comment and will update this post with any new information.
The global sneaker market is one Under Armour has only just started to crack, and thanks to Stephen Curry, it’s well on its way. Critics point to a big problem with the footwear, though: It’s not cool and doesn’t look good. Coppens, who has designed sneakers before, could bring a fresh attitude if he did a line for UAS.
But in the end, any boost of cool he brings could help.