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Thursday, Feb 29, 2024

Vuori Muscles into the Activewear Market With Style

Clothing (pronounced vee-or-ee), and after only two years in business, its sales have skyrocketed into the multimillions. It’s landed on the racks of over 150 REI stores, at Nordstrom online, and in every CorePower nationwide, among many other retailers. Founded by a former Dolce & Gabbana model turned accountant,

Joe Kudla, the brand is primarily focused on looking stylish while being functional for active lifestyles.

Kudla, 39, is the stereotypical Encinitas resident: a surfer, a yogi, and a rock climber. He found himself running from the beach to the grocery story, and then back out to yoga — and needing attire that worked in all those settings.

“Consumers are smart,” Kudla said. “They know they don’t need one outfit for surfing, a different one for the gym, and a different one for yoga.”

Versatility Is Vital

Still, Kudla found surprisingly few options for clothing styles that worked for all activities in “the typical San Diego lifestyle.” An athlete from youth through college, Kudla most often wore heritage activewear brands such as

Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour. But these brands are strictly for sports. And as the line between fitness and other parts of life begin to blur, fashion is increasingly considered by consumers. In many modern offices today, for example, yoga during lunch is a common occurrence. Fitness studios have been coined the new “happy hour” spot, with co-workers congregating in CorePowers instead of cocktail bars.

“Fitness has become a part of everyday life, not only in San Diego but across the country,” Kudla said. “It’s now a social experience.”

You can see this trend reflected in the boom of boutique fitness studios such as Orange Theory Fitness, CorePower, and Yoga Works — all of which saw an explosion of locations in recent years.

The Cool Factor

Athleisure clothing lines have been sweeping the fashion world for the past several years. The category is basically athletic wear that can also be worn to other activities, like school, work, or social outings.

Lululemon, which makes luxury “yoga inspired” sportswear, is one of the most recognizable brands in this space. While the company now makes clothing for men, the brand was originally only for women. It left some men feeling cold toward the brand and others like it.

“For guys like me, Lululemon always felt like my wife’s brand,” Kudla said.

So Kudla founded Vuori in 2015, specializing in casual shorts and T-shirts that appear as everyday apparel, but can withstand the rigors of activity. The breathable and quick-drying materials are also anti-odor and anti-microbial. The men’s shorts are smartly designed with locker room loops and mesh pockets that don’t collect water during water activities. The clothing is also cool. “Our clothing is more sophisticated and a slightly more tailored and modern athletic fit, so you get rid of that unnecessary baggage that you don’t need when working out,” Kudla said.

50% of Sales From Retail Partners

Although Vuori declined to publicly disclose its annual revenue, the company did share details privately. And the firm’s growth is significant.

Vuori’s clothing has been quickly adopted by clothing retailers. Kudla said about 50 percent of the company’s sales come from retail partners, a big chunk of which comes from sports and active lifestyle retailer REI. Vuori’s line landed in 10 REI stores to start as part of an incubation program. The brand was so popular at REI that it expanded into 150 stores in less than one year.

“Sales performance for Vuori has been encouraging,” said Emily

Frugé, an REI buyer of outdoor wear. “The brand quickly resonated with our members for its fresh perspective on men’s performance apparel. The training pieces transition effortlessly from one adventure to the next for a variety of outdoor activities, which is a key driver for their rapid following.”

Sales Rep’s Results

It should be noted that Vuori is not Kudla’s first stint in entrepreneurship. He was also co-founder of Sayva Solutions, a recruiting and consulting firm that made this year’s Fastest-Growing Companies list ranked by the San Diego Business Journal. He also founded San Diego recruiting firm Vaco, which he took from $0 in revenue to about $18 million in roughly three years.

Kudla was a fashion model into his early 20s, but he says his retail relationships with Vuori did not emerge from industry connections. Instead, they were brought about by a strong sales rep he hired named

Luis Alvarez, the former sales director of Asics America Corp.


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