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Lands' End Finally Hops Aboard the Activewear Train

A Surf look from Lands' End. Photo: Lands' End

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Considering Lands' End is home to all sorts of casual, practical clothing and has origins as a sailing equipment business, it's hard to believe that the company didn't go all in on athletic apparel when that market exploded a few years ago. (The brand already sells skorts, the sportiest of everyday skirting options, for crying out loud.) Today Lands' End is making up for lost time, with the launch of a dedicated activewear collection called Lands' End Sport.

The range breaks down into three sub-collections: Surf, Performance, and, in an embrace of the popular portmanteau, Athleisure. With these, Lands' End is expanding existing product categories while also sharpening their marketing possibilities.

The brand has always been big on swimwear, for instance, but it's introducing full-body wetsuits for the first time through the Surf collection. According to Lands' End's VP of Public Relations Michele Casper, those were designed after consultations with actual surfers. With Performance, Lands' End has pieces explicitly designed for runners and Pilates fans, whereas previously its athletic clothing was more all-purpose. It's easier to ask someone to buy something when you tell them exactly what it's for.

A Performance outfit from Lands' End Sport.

While the cut of the clothing isn't particularly unique, Lands' End Sport's design team has focused its aesthetic energy on working in a nautical palette (red, blue, white, gray) and refreshing archival company logos.

The collection is one expression of CEO Federica Marchionni's plan to broaden Lands' End's customer base to reach, as Bloomberg put it last year, a "younger, cooler" shopper. After arriving at Lands' End in February 2015 after serving as president of Dolce & Gabbana USA, Marchionni shepherded in April's launch of Canvas by Lands' End, a revival of a discontinued label that the company is positioning as a more upscale alternative to its main line. The desired audience: a more fashion-minded shopper.

Lands' End could use a boost right now. During fiscal 2015, its sales clocked in at $1.42 billion, down from $1.56 billion the year before. On June 1, the company reported that its net revenue for the first quarter of 2016 was $273.4 million, compared to $299.4 million the year prior.

Casper says that Lands' End Sport isn't built for a particular age demographic so much as those leading an active life who don't typically think of Lands' End clothing for their specific sports. But these days, with more brand options than ever for running tights and racerback bras, Lands' End's late arrival to the activewear game is going to make it harder to get these shoppers' attention — and keep it.

A Lands' End Performance look.