If you’re on social media, you immediately recognize the name BANDIER.
And even when you’re unplugged, nine out of ten people in your Barry’s, Soul Cycle, or Tracy Anderson class, are repping their clothes.
For those of you who don’t know, BANDIER is the luxury activewear retailer taking the industry by storm.
In light of the company’s booming success, we connected with Jennifer Bandier herself, the mastermind behind the brand heard around the world.
It was only after a major foot injury that the idea for a multi-brand activewear store emerged, as Bandier noticed a lack of such shops within walking distance—none of which carried the sort of elevated fitness apparel she was searching for.
Jennifer opened the first BANDIER brick-and-mortar in Southampton the following summer of 2014: a boutique offering highly curated designer performance brands, an intimate shopping atmosphere, and a killer playlist.
A successful summer of Kardashian-attended cocktail hours at the shop led to a Manhattan pop-up, and the brand took off from there: carrying powerhouse brands like Nike and Stella McCartney alongside niche (and often female-founded) startup brands she found on the web.
Now a mecca for fitness-obsessed fashionistas in the era of athleisure, Bandier works alongside a growing team in BANDIER’s NYC headquarters and remains closely involved in the company.
Jennifer continues to innovate ways to keep BANDIER moving in the right direction: as always, with a focus on exclusive finds and an inclusive ethos.
Keep reading to hear her story.
At the time of its founding, how did BANDIER transform the concept of athleisure?
Before BANDIER, women’s athletic apparel was found in the basement or the back of other active stores. It was always a second thought to the men’s assortment. Retailers didn’t recognize that there was a growing market of women who were leading active lifestyles, participating in the boutique fitness movement, and wanted clothing that functioned while allowing them to maintain their personal aesthetic and style preferences. I was my own #1 customer and I created BANDIER out of a personal need.
Furthermore, how has BANDIER paved the way for other brands in the fitness-meets-fashion space?
BANDIER is the launchpad for so many amazing emerging activewear brands. In many ways, we created a new market that allowed many brands to launch, grow, and succeed. BANDIER has always been a place where customers discover new brands. I feel so lucky to work with CEOs and Founders at the ground level, and I love supporting brands that I’m obsessed with through retail partnerships as well as creative marketing concepts. Customers trust us to curate the best assortment of women’s activewear for both fashion and function.
As the Founder, in what ways are your style and personality implicated in BANDIER's brand ethos?
I started BANDIER for my own personal need. The boutique fitness movement was just starting, and I couldn’t believe that, in New York City, there was no place to shop for multi-brand activewear. Since its launch, BANDIER has been an expression of my personal style. I wanted to have something unique, different, and special that was fashionable without sacrificing performance.
How does BANDIER “meet the needs of the ever-evolving customer?” In doing so, how does the brand adapt to the times, while simultaneously sticking to its core brand identity?
When I started BANDIER, I never compared the brand to other activewear or sporting retailers – I always thought that our peers were larger, multi-brand retailers. We have always focused on building the next generation retailer for the modern woman who is not tied to her desk, who is on the go, living life on her own terms and active throughout her day. We theorized that there would be a paradigm shift in the way people live and work, but 2020 accelerated this. BANDIER has always been the absolute best place to shop for women’s active fashion. Our curation and viewpoint are what define us, and we’ve never strayed from that. You can see that in our assortment of products, in the design of our private brands, in our styling, and in our in-store experience.
As somebody who moved from the music to the fitness space, what advice would you give aspiring entrepreneurs looking to make a career change?
Where you start is not where you end. Trust your intuition and your gut. Don’t let fear ruin a great idea. When I mentioned the idea for BANDIER, everyone told me it was the worst idea, but I never doubted it.
How did your time in the music industry provide you with the necessary tools to create a multi-million empire?
During my career in the music industry, I had the opportunity to work with very strong women that challenged me and taught me so much. There were many ups and downs, changes, and disagreements. I learned how to compromise and problem solve, which has been invaluable to my experience at BANDIER as well.
As a businesswoman, what challenges have you faced in the male-dominated fashion industry?
Since BANDIER was an entirely new concept for women’s activewear, it was initially challenging to explain where we fit in the market and how we wanted to style and story tell. I had hundreds of meetings with executives at large brands and eventually wound up forming strong bonds with all of the biggest activewear companies. Today, we work with many of these brands to create the most amazing curations that work for our customer, and we even collaborate on exclusive merchandise for BANDIER.
How has BANDIER cultivated such a strong community of like-minded individuals? If you could describe a Bandier consumer in one word, what would it be?
BANDIER’s growth has been organic from the start. It makes me so happy to know that people are genuinely excited about our brand, our viewpoint, and how we execute it across channels. Community is the most vital aspect of BANDIER. We build our stores with cafés, event spaces, and fitness studios so that customers can hang out, shop, wear the product, discover new brands, and have an amazing wellness experience. If I could describe our customer in one word, it would be “passionate.”
BANDIER is known for its inclusive brand messaging, which starkly contrasts the exclusivity of the fashion and fitness industries. Can you talk a bit about these tensions, and how you created a more equalitarian space for all?
From the start, BANDIER has always prioritized inclusion and it’s something that is very meaningful to me. We may sell “exclusive,” or special products but our goal is to be the most inclusive community. BANDIER was created to make fitness fun and is intended for all people and all different types of active lifestyles.
From a professional standpoint, what has been your biggest accomplishment thus far? What are you still hoping to achieve in the future?
When I meet people who tell me that BANDIER is their favorite store, it fills me with so much joy – I pinch myself! This may seem like a small feat, but knowing that I created something that people love and that makes them feel good is the best feeling! I am currently focused on designing and curating the best activewear products so that we can share BANDIER with even more people – this includes some major collaborations in 2023, exciting pop-up shops, and more!
Photography by: Courtesy BANDIER