We’re all looking for the perfect outfit to lounge, flow, explore, and workout in. When roaming around any trendy shopping center or yoga studio, the two biggest brands that jump out are Athleta and lululemon.
They’re both “athleisure” (workout and hangout) companies especially popular amongst yogis. They sell some really similar products, but there’s a few big differences between the two.
I decided to stop into both stores and take a deep dive into the brand specifics to help you decide which is best for you.
What is Athleta?
Athleta is a fitness and streetwear brand founded in the late 1980s. It is now a subsidiary of Gap, along with Old Navy and Banana Republic. They focus exclusively on a female customer base, with a core mission to empower women and girls.
Athleta recently became a certified B Corporation and has devoted themselves to more sustainable manufacturing and fiber sourcing. They sell everything from leggings to shorts, tank tops, t-shirts, bras, sleepwear, dresses, jackets, and jeans.
Their stores appeal to a diverse audience of shapes and sizes, from XXS to 3X. Their Athleta Girl line also attracts a mother-daughter customer base who can shop, exercise, and practice a healthy lifestyle together.
What is lululemon?
lululemon (often affectionately abbreviated “Lulu”) is a Canadian yoga-inspired brand founded in 1998. Their eccentric founder Chip Wilson established Lulu into an innovative and quality-obsessed brand that curates clothing designs for high-end athletes and yogis. Lulu is arguably the most well-known and iconic yoga brand on the market.
Their core values include personal responsibility, entrepreneurship, honesty, courage, connection, fun, and inclusion. The brand is all about the highest quality clothes for people to sweat in, but their unique patterns and flattering designs have quickly evolved into trendy day-to-day leisure wear as well. In recent years, lululemon has expanded into mens yoga clothes and tech advancements like their virtual workout system called MIRROR.
Overall, Lulu’s style screams classy, earthy, and free-spirited. Lulu customers tend to be super dedicated to the brand. I have to say, once you own a pair of Lulu leggings, it makes sense why you would keep going back. The company is also super community-driven, with many celebrity ambassadors, events, and a super helpful online resource called SweatLife.
How Do They Differentiate?
- 1 Styles
- 2 Quality
- 3 Sizing
- 4 Longevity
- 5 Price
- 6 Athleta Bestsellers
- 7 lululemon Bestsellers
- 8 lululemon
- 9 Athleta
Lulu was founded with a focus on yoga. They have since expanded into menswear, loungewear, and technical clothing for other sports like tennis.
Athleta has a more broad appeal for hiking, running, weight lifting, swimming, and other activities. Lulu customers tend to be more hippie yogis or elite athletes, whereas Athleta is more like casual athletic streetwear.
Athleta definitely sells many high-quality designs and fabrics, however lululemon is much more geared toward an elite level of yogi or athlete. Lulu’s luxurious patented fabrics include their signature Luon® for yoga/barre classes, and Everlux™ for hot studio classes, among others. On the flip side, Athleta has recently expanded to sustainable fibers like recycled polyester, nylon, and even organic cotton for optimal quality and earth-friendly marketing.
Athleta leggings tend to fit more tightly while Lulus run true to size.
Many people say that Lulus can last for 3-5+ years even wearing them almost every day. But others have had problems with piling after a year or so.
Athleta is very popular amongst runners and also has a long lifespan. Depending on the fabric, Athleta leggings can last 2-5 years. The key to longevity of either brand is washing and caring for them properly with delicate wash cycles, cold water, and low spin.
Unsurprisingly, lululemon is some of the most expensive yoga wear around. Most leggings will set you back $98 to $138, with very few sales.
Athleta is more affordable, but womens leggings are still in the $70-$90 range. Athleta has sales more frequently, often with 20-30% discounts.
Athleta’s signature tight comes in a full length, ⅞ length, or capri. Made with their trademarked Powervita™ fabric, these tights are buttery soft with large pockets on both sides and sizes for regular, petite, and tall physiques.
This Athleta signature “nirvana” fabric and flowy flattering fit is a gamechanger both in and out of the studio. The Pranayama wrap quickly dresses up leggings and a sports bra, or compliments a tank and jeans.
Perhaps lululemon’s best known product, Wunder Train tights live up to all the hype. You can run in them, do hot yoga, or look cute out on the town. They dry super quickly and manage sweat really well. Not to mention, the color options are amazing.
Align shorts are always a showstopper. Best for hot yoga and power yoga classes, the buttery soft ultra-fast drying Nulu™ fabric is virtually unbeatable from any other brand. Plus, they last seemingly forever! I’ve worn mine to over a hundred hot yoga classes.
This bestselling bra is light-support without any restriction or friction. The fabric is super smooth and the criss-cross strappy back adds flair without any discomfort.
In-Store Shopping Experience
Many Athleta and Lulu stores around the country have in-store yoga or fitness studios. Lulu stores definitely feel more high-end, whereas Athleta is more family-friendly and approachable. Any time I have entered either store I was greeted with excellent customer service and staff who were genuinely passionate about fitness. Both stores use interactive displays and mannequins to show their clothes in action, but lululemon’s displays are just a next level up in terms of artistry and aesthetic appeal.
The online experience of Athleta and lululemon is very similar, except Athleta simply has more options and a wider range of categories. Athleta’s All-Stars and pre-designed “Shop This Look” outfits are a bonus addition to their website. If you shop at Gap, Old Navy, or Banana Republic, you can also get one centralized checkout along with Athleta.
Pros and Cons of Each Brand
- Highest quality and durability
- Niche focus on yoga and leisure
- Luxuriously comfortable fabrics
- Internationally recognized
- Menswear available
- High price point with few sales
- Limited sizing
- Greater diversity of options
- Wide focus on sports, leisure, and streetwear
- Most sizing inclusive
- More affordable
- Frequent sales
- Girls line available
- No menswear
At the end of the day, Athleta and lululemon have a lot more commonalities than differences. personally, Lulu has won me over with quality, longevity, shopping experience, customer service, and the lifestyle associated with their brand image. Athleta is still a great option for those seeking more affordable and diverse athleisure outfits.
Ultimately, if you’re going to invest in $100 leggings, they better be damn good. For a yoga nomad, lululemon never disappoints.
Have you worn either of these brands on or off the mat? We’d love to hear your opinion in the comments.