Lululemon has been able to create an impressive business on selling its high quality, comfortable active wear for women and men online and in retail stores. But while I love my Lululemon workout gear (and wear it all the time), the prices are very high. A pair of workout pants is around a $100 with tax/shipping. Ellie, a new startup incubated by LA-based Science, is launching today that promises the Lululemon quality of workout gear at half the price.
Ellie is also announcing today that it raised $2 million in funding from Trinity Ventures, Rustic Canyon Partners, and Blumberg Capital.
Ellie is based completely online, and blends the subscription model with a la carte ecommerce. Women can buy a la carte or sign up for the ‘Fit Fashionista Club membership’ and receive monthly deliveries of functional and fashion-forward activewear. Members answer simple questions about their fashion sensibilities and lifestyle, and Ellie’s stylists will send once a month customized cases of workout gear. Members will two pieces that are tailor-made for $49.95 each month, much less than Lululemon. And shipping is free.
The designs are meant to be suitable for intense workouts like Yoga, Pilates, Spinning or running, or just for casual wear. At launch, Ellie will have 16 styles available, with new designs debuting each month.
For now, Ellie is selling its tank tops, workout shirts, yoga pants, hoodies and leggings for women only but eventually has plans to expand to offer men’s clothing.
I actually visited Ellie’s headquarters in LA to see if the quality of the clothes matched up with my Lululemon gear. And the touch, feel and fit of the clothes are virtually the same. Keep in mind, I have not actually tested the clothes through a six-mile run yet, but the actual quality of the fabric appears to be very similar to what Lululemon offers.
So how can Ellie offer the same quality at half the cost? Marcus Greinke, co-founder and CEO of the startup, explains to me that it comes down to the markup. Ellie is buying the same fabrics as Lululemon, but that have made the process by which the clothing is created and sold much more efficient, so these costs are not passed on to the Ellie has taken a bunch of design and manufacturing processes in house (and in the U.S.). Sketching, to creating sample, to actual development of the product is done by Ellie. What usually takes four to five months, now only takes less than 2 months, he explains. And of course, there are no brick and mortar stores, so that overhead is cut out as well.
Additionally, Greinke and co-founder Lindsay Daniels both come from backgrounds in retail apparel and design, so they know the inefficiencies of the industry.
The workout apparel market is $14 billion activewear industry, so while Ellie is a niche ecommerce site, there is still a large opportunity to create a meaningful company in the space.