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Lululemon Athletica fitness clothes kick style up a notch

By JONATHAN MILTON

Special to the Times

Mother's Day is coming up soon, so if you're going shopping this weekend for that special mom in your life, let's be clear:

Nothing has more potential to say "slug me square in the face'' than the wrong fitness gift.

Even if you are absolutely certain that your mother wants to run a 10K, your sister wants to get the jiggle out of her middle, or your wife is truly serious about losing the baby weight now that Junior is in college, you must proceed with extreme care.

The line between a gift that tells her "I care about you'' and one that says "Put down that Chunky Monkey right now, chubby cheeks'' can be a fine one.

So you might avoid bathroom scales, diet books, Shake Weights and anything else that's more dictatorial than inspirational.

Why not go for something that makes her feel good about herself even before she's ready to command her own boot camp class? Tempting as it is to hide an out-of-shape body, those of us who spend a lot of time in gyms can attest that well-fitting, stylish workout clothes are more flattering, no matter your shape.

Sporting goods and department stores are full of colorful, good-looking clothes that work in the gym or if you just want people to think that's where you're going.

But if you want to ratchet up the status factor, Lululemon Athletica may be the way to go.

Known by its simple stylized "A" logo, Lululemon started in Vancouver, British Columbia, a decade ago, but opened a store in Tampa just last summer. Be warned: Hours are limited (see box).

Its sleek workout pants, tops and jackets can be seen gracing well-toned forms in gyms, yoga studios, on running trails and in health-oriented cafes. The clothes are distinct in design and fabric, and they're not inexpensive, but devotees (including local yoga teachers and trainers who are Lululemon "ambassadors'') swear the line's style, function and durability make it worth the price.

Even the shopping bags are all about motivation, covered in sayings like, "Your outlook on life is a direct reflection on how much you like yourself."

A more sincere line of clothing you may not find.

And if you haven't heard of it through mass advertising campaigns, that's intentional.

"What we understand and know is that our guest is really smart and savvy and will know when they are being marketed to,'' said Amanda Casgar, Lululemon Regional Community Guru (that's really what they call their P.R. staff). "We take our relationships with our guests very seriously."

So, what do you get when you plunk down $98 for yoga pants or a hoodie?

The company uses a texturized nylon and lycra blend for its workout pants. Silver fibers are woven into items to fight odor. A silky nylon material makes for a second-skin feeling.

And then there's that super-cool logo.

You also get free hemming — a convenience and also a way to draw you in to the cult of Lululemon.

"The best thing that could happen is that someone gets a gift at Lululemon and they have to come into the store to either exchange it for a different size or get it hemmed,'' Casgar said. ''They're going to connect with the educator in the store and they might come in and take a complimentary yoga class in one of our stores or join one of our running groups. It's all about building a community."

Jonathan Milton is a Tampa writer and musician who is preparing for a fitness competition.

WHERE TO BUY

Lululemon's local showroom is at 1315 S Howard Ave., No. 102, Tampa. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Call (813) 251-4751 to make an appointment. Online, you can order at www.lululemon.com.

Lululemon Athletica fitness clothes kick style up a notch 04/22/11 [Last modified: Friday, April 22, 2011 5:30am]

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