Parka, camo bomber and sweatpants from the new UAS Collection 01

Parka, camo bomber and sweatpants from the new UAS Collection 01

Performance footwear and apparel brand Under Armour has taken a much-anticipated step to broaden its appeal to a more mainstream audience with its new Under Armour Sportswear brand – or what the company describes as 'Modern American Sportswear.'

Called UAS, and launched last week, the new line includes men's and women's apparel, accessories and shoes including trench coats, parkas, sweatshirts, sweatpants, track pants and leggings, priced from $49 to $1,500.

Designed by Tim Coppens, who was hired as creative director in June to lead the UAS division, and overseen by SVP of Sportswear Ben Pruess, the collection "respectfully pays homage to the classics, while delivering fast, modern functionality supported by Under Armour's performance innovations," the company says.

The move is part of the group's wider plans to reach more customers in new channels, categories and geographies, but also takes it into new territory away from peers such as Nike and Adidas.

"UAS is not just a category play or a distribution play, it's about bringing a new consumer into the Under Armour brand," CEO Kevin Plank said earlier this year. "UAS will bring a young, fresh and modern voice to sportswear and reflects the insights we've gained as a performance brand now applied to the everyday wardrobe."

Under Armour makes lifestyle push with new brand

"This is not about being on trend or capturing the athleisure market," Plank continued. "Consumers have the expectation that performance product is not just functional but is fully executed through fit and style. We don't believe that Under Armour technology should be exclusively for on-field. We don't see it as an either/or thing."

The move undoubtedly makes sense given the lifestyle sportswear segment represents a massive market opportunity.

John Kernan, analyst at Cowen & Co, agrees: "The development of a lifestyle component for the brand will provide UA with long-term prospects to raise its current 1% share of the substantial $15bn sportswear market."

And it seems Under Armour will be able to pull off the potentially difficult move of adding fashion-forward pieces that appeal off the field, without alienating its current customers.

"Sophisticated streetwear with nary a logo in sight," is how Kernan describes the new line. "At first glance the product line…looks very high-end with a limited colour pallet. It is a complete departure from compression performance wear, more sophisticated and with a relaxed silhouette," he notes.

"Additionally, the UAS logo was not prominently displayed – another differentiating factor from the parent UA brand."

By continuing to use its innovative technology such as fabrics that are water-resistant, high stretch and regulate body temperature, the company also retains features that appeal to its current customers too.

"Luxury fabrication with a technical twist," is how Kernan describes features such as soft merino wool stretch that is water repellent.

The UAS sportswear line is also a chance to reach millennials, with its target audience aged between 25 and 30 years old "who are looking for everyday fashion with innovation for off-the-field," Kernan says.

"Management sees UAS as a long-term stepping stone to expanding its runway and creating a halo effect for the UA brand as a whole," he adds.

With distribution including select Barney's locations, online at Mr Porter and at UAS's online site, along with select UA brand houses, the core of the line – including chinos, oxford shirts and travel blazers ­– will fall within a $129-$250 price range. At the top end this will stretch to $1500 for a trench coat, while at the other end of the spectrum, a base layer will be around $49. T-shirts will retail at $80-$90, which compares to $30-$40 for a typical Under Armour brand tee.

While Under Armour has continued to post strong topline gains, with sales up 28% in the second quarter to US$1bn, earnings slipped 58% to $6m on rising costs and the liquidation of its long-standing customer The Sports Authority.

Analysts have also expressed concerns the company faces intense competition from several established global athletic and footwear brands with significantly larger budgets for product development and marketing, putting the company under increasing pressure to maintain its rapid pace of new product innovation.

Click here to see more pieces from the new UAS Collection 01.