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In an industry defined by competition, intensity, and tight black spandex, Tyler Haney wanted to create a clothing company to put the fun — and pretty colors — back in exercise. The 27-year-old Boulder, Colorado native founded Outdoor Voices with the belief that casual activity doesn't have to be constricting.
"It's all about freeing fitness from performance, and shifting the perception of activity from something that's traditionally performance or competitive-based," Haney told NBC News' Olivia Sterns in the Outdoor Voices retail location in Austin, Texas during South by Southwest. Instead, "OV," as she likes to call it, "celebrates activity and approaches it with moderation, ease, and humor and delight."
With red and turquoise bikes parked on the stoop outside, the Outdoor Voices shop in Austin looks more like a family home. Inside, leggings, tanks and sweatpants in all kinds of colors — none of which are black or neon — hang neatly on their racks.
Haney studied strategic design and management at the Parsons School of Design in New York, and there began what she calls her "obsession" with technical materials. She's now launched "OV texture compression," a soft, long-lasting and textured fabric that she says can "hide any sort of imperfections on your legs, which is key."
Outdoor Voices is already a player in "athleisure" apparel, with a J. Crew partnership and an endorsement from Lena Dunham.
Dunham is an apt example of an "OV" target customer because, "You don't think of her as like an athlete, but she's out there jogging. And we're all about the participation award, like get out there and do it," said Haney.
Indeed, the company's motto is "Doing Things," and embraces being the go-to brand for the moderately active. Or the go-to brand for people in airports.
"We call our warm-up leggings 'airport pants,'" jokes Haney, who says she welcomes people wearing her brand for activities besides exercise. "I'm focused on building a product that's meant to sweat in. But I don't mind — I think it's nice that people want to wear it all day long."
And don't worry, Haney guarantees the pants won't be too sheer and accidentally expose you, à la Lululemon.