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Nike Will Out-Woman Any Other Athletic Brand

Photo: Nike
Photo: Nike

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With the fitness apparel industry exploding faster than any other category on the market, athletic brands are scrambling to compete with each other. Lululemon is focusing on male customers, Under Armour is teaming up with powerhouses like Gisele, and Adidas is desperately reaching for soccer fan domination. At yesterday's Nike event in New York City, the sports giant made it clear who it has its hearts set on: women.

Nike has long sold women's apparel, but given recent competition from female favorites like Lululemon and Athleta, the brand is acutely aware it must step it up in the category—and its latest collection and coordinating blowout event certainly prove they're up for the challenge.

"Nike delivers because we are the world's largest women's sports brand," Amy Montagne, vice president and general manager of Nike Women, told the audience. "Our women's business is already a $5 billion business, and we expect to grow another $2 billion by 2017. We are part of the community in every major market in the world. We are already connected to women across all areas of the sports and fitness landscape so only Nike is in the position to be there for women as they super-charge this new lifestyle of sport."

Photo: Nike

The event featured an over-the-top runway show with 27 female athletes, including the WNBA's Skylar Diggins, Chinese tennis star Li Na, and Olympic sprinter Allyson Felix, to show off its new collection. Moments later, another stage descended from the ceiling so models like Karlie Kloss and Joan Smalls could pose in additional pieces.

So, what is Nike banking on for spring? Its Pro Bra collection (which the Nike product team spent two years researching and developing), seamless tights in a spectrum of wild colors and fun prints ("As I like to say, tights are the new denim!" exclaimed Montagne), and for sneakers, the latest incarnation of the Nike Flyknit, the Flyknit Lunar 3.

Nike CEO Mark Parker also addressed the audience while standing behind a giant screen playing videos of female athletes working out ("We've helped girls rise higher," a voiceover cooed while a woman heaved a kettlebells and pirouetted. "We see gutsiness, grace, and joy. We see rivalry and reverence."). Parker boasted the brand's capacity for innovation and ability to push the limits with these new offerings, which Montagne called Nike's "most comprehensive, most innovative, and strongest women's collection."