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Cool Teens, Athleisure, and Me

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I Owe My Lululemon Love to a Cool Teen

If you know me (or read the stuff I write, anyways) you’ve probably picked up on this: I’m obsessed with Lululemon.

And not just the apparel, although the Wunder Under leggings are dope. (Lulu sports bras, however, I have a serious problem with.) I’m fascinated by all the drama that surrounds the brand — from a rogue ex-CEO who won’t stop making trouble to the eerie self-help training employees were often encouraged to attend to the underground market that enables people to buy used leggings at high markups.

But I wasn’t always into Lululemon. I hadn’t even heard of it until 2012, though it’s been around since 1998. How did the brand get on my radar? Well, I found out about Lululemon the same way we all find out about great and trendy things: from a cool teen.

A very specific cool teen, mind you. One named Kiernan Shipka.

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Five years ago, I was freshly unemployed, having fallen victim to a round of massive layoffs at a failing journalism startup. A friend from the job graciously introduced me to an editor at New York magazine, who in turn took me on as a freelance party reporter.

I was initially thrilled at the prospect — Free champagne? Celebrities?? Parties??? — but quickly learned how grueling and socially isolating the beat actually was. After taking on Fashion Week assignments that involved attending parties for brands I couldn’t pronounce (Proenza Schouler) and reality stars I adored in college (Lauren Conrad), I jumped at what I assumed would be an easy task: attending the Ralph Lauren kids’ show to interview little Sally Draper. Piece of cake, right?

I don’t remember if it was my idea or my editor’s, but I went to the fashion show intent on asking Kiernan all about her Mad Men masturbation scene from a couple summers before. The publicist who set up the interview must have read my mind, because I got cornered and was told I could only ask Kiernan fashion questions, and that those about Ralph Lauren were specifically encouraged.

Needless to say, the interview was pretty boring, although Kiernan was incredibly sweet and impeccably dressed. At some point, I asked her to name her favorite brands. She listed a few, including Ralph Lauren (of course) and Miu Miu. She then thought for a bit and added, “I'm very active and play a lot of sports, so I also wear lots of Lululemon.” To which I replied, “I’m sorry, can you spell that?”

Kiernan winced and gave me a look (one that almost certainly read Isn’t this chick supposed to be a fashion reporter?) but was kind and diplomatic, giving me the rundown on the brand. I went home, filed my story (spelling the brand “Lulu Lemon,” by the way), and then, with a giant glass of wine, surfed the Lulu website and spent $300 I didn’t have on a pair of leggings and two tank tops.

Though my story never ran, the encounter proved to be a pivotal moment for me. Thanks to Kiernan, I’m now the proud owner of dozens of Lululemon pieces and have come into a pretty regular hot yoga practice. I still pronounce Proenza Schouler wrong, but we can’t have it all now, can we? Chavie Lieber, senior reporter

Dickies’ American Worker Is the Product of Mexican Factories
A welder.

Donald Trump swept into the presidency rallying against companies whose goods are made in foreign countries, going as far as to toy with the idea of punishing companies that don’t move production to the US with high tariffs. During his inauguration, he said, “We will follow two simple rules: buy American and hire American.” (It hasn’t gone unnoticed that the president’s branded clothing line, and his daughter Ivanka Trump’s line, is made in China, Indonesia, and elsewhere.)

But it’s uncertain how that will affect production of established brands’ clothing, or how companies with factories abroad will fit into the political discussion during the next four years.

So maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised that Dickies, the largest workwear manufacturer in the world, which has factories in Mexico and elsewhere, wasn’t interested in being featured for this story.

There were back and forth emails pre- and post-inauguration until a rejection showed up in my inbox: “Unfortunately at this time, Dickies will not be able to participate in the interview or factory tour for the piece you were interested in working on.” To be fair, there could have been a hundred other reasons they said no.

I had always been interested in the brand; its parent company, Williamson-Dickie Manufacturing Company, is even based in my hometown of Fort Worth, Texas. Dickies’ social media pages are full of motorcyclists, mechanics, construction workers — the kinds of jobs I knew about through my own construction-worker father. Made for the blue-collar American worker, Dickies seemed like the epitome of what it means to be a pull-yourself-up-from-your-bootstraps American.
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Men’s Grooming Brands Have a Man Problem
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"I’m on a horse," Isaiah Mustafa says at the end of an Old Spice commercial that sees him embody every enviable masculine stereotype — rich, muscular, great with women — and add "great-smelling" to the mix. He’s the man your man could smell like. The commercial is playing with and making fun of the branding in this space, but also: Is it? Six years later, branding on men’s products remains extremely over the top.

A search for grooming products in the men’s sector unearths some brand and product names that would fit perfectly in the console of an unnecessarily loud sports car: Bearded Bastard, Ab Crew, Hair Arousal Wax, Suavecito, Uppercut, Combat-Ready Balm, and so on.

Men’s beauty is one of the fastest-growing categories — sales in the market have increased 5 percent each year since 2010 and were worth $47.17 billion in 2015, according to Business of Fashion. Yet, despite positive numbers, it remains one of the most difficult categories to market. Dr. Lars Perner, a Ph.D. in marketing who teaches consumer psychology at the University of Southern California, says that while most products benefit tremendously from word of mouth and environmental factors (i.e. seeing your friend or other influential person with something and wanting it), this category doesn’t work that way.

"The problem here is these are products that are usually consumed in private," Perner says. "These are things you use in your bathroom so it means you don't really get to see the brands that other people are using." That’s what makes branding and packaging in this space so crucial.


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Kevyn Aucoin’s Volume Mascara Will Change Your Life

Kevyn Aucoin Volume Mascara, $28

I hate beauty hyperbole. Basically nothing is actually a miracle product, but I do believe that Kevyn Aucoin’s Volume Mascara really will change your life.

Yes, it’s $28, and some tubes dry out a little bit faster than your average, but let me tell you: It is worth it.

For one, it grants you the kind of control you need to swipe on the whole spectrum of lash. You want wispy lashes? Great. In the mood to go full Twiggy? Easy, just keep piling it on. Because here’s the best part: It doesn’t flake or rub off onto your skin in any way. You never have to worry about what’s happening underneath your eyes or if your mascara’s smudged halfway to your hairline.

If that sweet relief doesn’t sell you, the actual best part is that it just comes off with warm water. Like, really, truly comes all the way off. You don’t even need to use soap or makeup remover (though I generally recommend using soap in life). It just flakes right off; specks of black fiber will line your sink, but who cares when you don’t have to worry about mascara getting in your eyes overnight, or waking up with darker-than-necessary under-eye circles?

The best question you can ask a beauty editor is what products they actually pay for; someone who writes about beauty for a living is inundated with products to test and consistently gifted their known favorites. This was mine when I was a beauty editor years ago, and if the brand ever stopped making it I would find a way to buy 100 tubes.

My favorite is the Volume version, though all of the above goes for Curling, too. The Essential is a very different formula that makes your lashes gloriously full, but without the above benefits. —Britt Aboutaleb, editor-in-chief

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