This spring, singer Iggy Azalea showed up to a star-studded music awards show in her paparazzi finest: sky-high heels, a sexy mesh top and a pair of zebra-striped leggings. That’s right. The 24-year-old rapper rocked workout pants. At night. In public. On the red carpet.
While it may seem like a fashion risk, Azalea is one of countless celebrities and NYC women ditching jeans for high-tech, crazily printed — and often crazily priced — leggings.
While high-end leggings have been on the rise in recent years thanks to popular 0 Lululemon yoga pants, now Lycra is coming out of the locker room and into the spotlight. Women want stretchy looks that work for spin class or a Saturday night out — and they’re willing to pay big money.
Luxury sites like Net-a-Sporter and new dedicated boutiques like Bandier in the Flatiron District hawk “couture” leggings that can cost upward of 0 and are class to night out: jogger pants printed with everything from kale motifs to emojis. According to the NPD Group, a consumer tracking service, leggings are becoming such a force that women’s jeans sales dropped 8 percent in 2014. Even high-end designers like Fendi are jumping on the stationary bike, selling 0 leggings to the fit and fabulous.
“I don’t think there’s ever too much to spend [on leggings],” says Jennifer Bandier, founder of the 5-month-old eponymous shop.Jennifer Bandier (left) owns Bandier, a boutique specializing in high-end sportswear and leggings that is frequented by celebrities like Kim Kardashian.Left: Tamara Beckwith; Right: AKM-GSI
“Our clients come back wearing their leggings with heels going out at night,” says Bandier, 46. (She herself is sporting knee-high leather boots with a pair of graphite crocodile-print shiny leggings.)
Bandier has sold haute yoga pants to everyone from former Miss Universe Olivia Culpo to the Kardashians, who bought so much during their epic three-hour haul, “we had to restock the store after they left,” she says.
In fact, some New Yorkers have given up on nonelastic pants entirely.
“I have basically stopped buying real clothes, and I use my workout clothes now as almost investment pieces. I use them as real outfits,” says Kris Schoels, 31, who has a collection of 0 leggings, which she sports with leather jackets off the treadmill.
Brooke Jaffe, fashion director of women’s ready-to-wear at Bloomingdale’s, says the “cool athletic moment” started two years ago with sneakers. Now, “the printed, fashion workout legging is [the department’s] biggest driver of business.”From left:
Kale leggings, at zaraterez.com
Hydra crop leggings, at michiny.com
HPE combat leggings, at Bandier.comBrian Zak (3)
“Part of the way people are dressing and identifying themselves is sort of through broadcasting that you have this fitness-related lifestyle,” says Jaffe. “Your identity is, ‘I go to spin class,’ ‘I go to dance class,’ ‘I am a yogi.’ ”
After all, if the Birkin bag is the status symbol for the lady who lunches, a pair of 0 Lucas Hugh leggings is the It item for the lady who lunges — and then goes straight to lunch.
“With the emergence of the boutique fitness community, I think people are spending, per workout and they want to feel good about what they’re wearing,” Bandier says.
Plus, what better way to show off your hard work than skintight Lycra. As blog The Cut declared after Beyoncé, Kim Kardashian and Jennifer Lopez rocked mostly sheer gowns to the Met Gala last week: “The body is the new outfit. The gym is the new atelier.”From left:
Michi shadow leggings, at Bandier.com
Lucas Hugh azure molten leggings, at Bandier.com
Fendi stretch-jersey stirrup leggings, at net-a-porter.comBrian Zak (3)
Loni Edwards, founder of emPowered, a line of cell-charging leather handbags, loves her trendy body-hugging leggings so much she proclaims they’re “better than jeans.”
“They’re more flattering,” says Edwards, 30, who recently picked up three pairs of leggings from Bandier, including a 5 camouflage pair she accessorizes with a cashmere sweater. “You get multilevel value for your money.”
But not everyone is buying it.
“People are spending a lot more time in clothing that you used to wear exclusively to the gym,” acknowledges Jayna Maleri, fashion features editor at Lucky magazine. “So it makes sense if you can do it in a high-end way.
“But I feel like even the most expensive 0 legging still looks like a legging. And I would rather not walk around in a legging.”
While it can be hard to justify the 0 price tag behind a pair of futuristic Lucas Hugh leggings created by “Hunger Games” costume designer Anjhe Mules, Bandier says the technology is worth it. Her shop’s tights boast everything from antibacterial silver thread to special seaming that hits pressure points to increase blood flow.
“With the PrismSport brand, there’s no center seam, so you’ll never get camel toe,” brags one Bandier sales associate.
With this new couture crop of workout pants, some women are even tossing their once-coveted Lululemon leggings, deeming them too basic and too black.
“If you look like a lemming, it doesn’t make you feel inspired to go work out,” says Whitney Casey, a 30-something media maven, who recently hosted a girls’ weekend where she gave away all her old Lulu pants, which range in price from to 0 and, a few years ago, were the only high-end stretchy game in town.
She now exclusively sports Michi leggings, with mesh inserts that give the tights a lingerie feel.
“There’s so much more individuality when you get dressed now,” says Casey.
“You can’t be in black workout pants anymore,” concurs Stacey Skulnik, 23.
“You’re a huge loser for running around in black gym pants.”
How New Yorkers are rocking it“I prefer leggings over jeans, because they are more comfortable and I feel like I have more freedom,” says Cinthia Sullivan, a 20-year-old sales associate from Brooklyn. She rocks Originals by Rita Ora for Adidas.Kristy Leibowitz
Kaku Kumagai, a 27-year-old from Japan who is studying dance in Manhattan, says the colorful-legging trend is also popular in her home country. “The best part of being in New York is going back home with all my new leggings with the different designs. There is a good chance that I will be the only one who has them,” says Kumagai, who sports a pair from Monki, but says she’s willing to spend up to 0.Kristy Leibowitz
“I am small, so I like the way that leggings fit my body type,” says 15-year-old Staten Island student Jillian Maysonet. “I usually wear them with sneakers. I would probably try them with heels, but they can’t be too high.”Kristy Leibowitz
Vendula Kalinova, a designer for Estée Lauder, says she prefers leggings to jeans. “I own about 20 leggings — they’re my go-to,” says the 37-year-old from Astoria, Queens. “I wear them with heels and sneakers, but I chose heels today because I’m working.”Kristy Leibowitz
“I like these particular tights because they are loud and you can jazz them up or down with a simple top,” says Alice Ridley, 36, who wears a pair from the Gap. “The focus goes straight to the legs — that is why I like it.” The Manhattan-based press officer likes the form-fitting look. “It is perfectly fine to wear them on a date, especially when you get up to walk away. Your date gets to take in a solid look of who you are. . . from behind, of course.”Kristy Leibowitz
“The most I have spent on leggings is 0 by designer Lucas Hugh,” says Manhattan’s Valerie Bortnovsky, 30, who sports a sparkly blue pair from Saks that cost about 0. “I prefer tights to jeans right now because I am 5½ months pregnant, so it is an easy go-to.”Kristy Leibowitz
“I wore my leggings to a wedding once,” says Greenpoint, Brooklyn’s Amanda Browder, 38. “My friends were totally fine with them — I did not outshine the bride!” The artist, whose vibrant leggings were a gift, says she owns more than a dozen pairs of tights, with the most expensive being upward of.Kristy Leibowitz
— Tashara Jones
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