ULA Aims to Flex Fashion in Activewear & Denim

After working for more than a decade as a personal trainer, Eric Cooper thought it was time to make a statement about the way men dress in the gym.

The formless clothes many men wear during their workouts might even defeat the purpose of going to a gym, Cooper said. Body-conscious clothes hug and support the body, he said.

“It’s like a muscle enhancer and supporter,” Cooper said. “There’s also no reason to hide what gym rats toil so hard for—a muscular body,” he thought.

Cooper recently made his trade-show debut for his activewear brand Urban Luxury Activewear at the LA Men’s Market at the California Market Center in downtown Los Angeles. Cooper has been designing styles and occasionally releasing looks since 2005. They are exclusively sold on his direct-to-consumer channel,

For ULA’s Spring/Summer 2020 styles, which are planned to extend into 2021, Cooper released activewear looks and streetwear styles. The street looks were intended to complement the active collection. Fabric used to manufacture the jeans is made out of a soft, stretchable denim that an ULA customer could work out in. The two lines are also connected by a design theme of horizontal racing stripes. The stripes are intended to represent a flow of energy and health, Cooper said.

ULA’s activewear line is named Billboard. The line’s cotton T-shirts feature words intended to be affirmations such as “Focus,” “Energy” and “Power.” The line’s other looks include hoodies that come in white and black colorways, both bearing drawstrings and the signature horizontal stripes. Sweats and shorts are made in colorways of red, white and black. Some of the line’s T-shirts are brightly colored, utilizing a bright red, while others use earth tones, and the basics are created in white and black.

The ULA street line is known as Pico and is inspired by the 1980s Los Angeles biker culture. The line’s jeans represent the first time that Cooper has tried his hand at one of Los Angeles’ top fashion businesses—denim.

“I really wanted to bring back retro designer denim,” Cooper said. As a teen, he remembered wearing designer jeans made by fashion brands Calvin Klein and Sassoon. “Instead of being a utility style, I wanted to bring back fashion to denim.”

The jeans include an embroidered back-pocket design that features ULA’s horizontal stripe on the left back pocket and copper-colored stitching outlining the other pocket. Other looks include tops with low V necks and lace-up plackets. Some shirts feature details such as epaulets and hoods. The collection also features waxed-canvas outerwear inspired by biker jackets and vests. Details include exposed nickel zipper pockets and high, Mandarin-style collars.

Retail price points range from $90 to $195 for the Billboard line and $90 to $450 for the Pico line. Cooper also designs caps and duffel bags for his brands.

There are increasing opportunities for emerging activewear designers, said Scott Sykes, co-founder of Universal Body, a multi-brand boutique in West Hollywood, Calif., that focuses on active and contemporary styles.

“It’s not an easy category to design for,” Sykes said of active. “From the major designers to even a local designer that has just started, they all have the challenging task of producing something innovative that gets consumers’ attention while also including core pieces that bring in the money.”

It’s wise for designers like Cooper to go beyond traditional active categories, Sykes said. Consumers are expecting more from the category.

“Active has merged into a mobile lifestyle category,” he said. “These clients have now moved to form-fitted blazers and stretch dress shirts or T-shirts for the workplace along with stretch chinos and jeans.”

Photos courtesy of ULA