Activewear brand Outdoor Voices flexes its design muscles in its latest stores

Outside In

Not many retail spaces are designed with neighborhood pools, Dolly Parton, and the heyday of the Chicago Bulls in mind. But for Outdoor Voices, an Austin, Texas-based athletic-clothing company, these motifs signal its lighthearted approach to exercise, which is more about #DoingThings—the firm’s hashtag motto for getting endorphins going—than about being first to the finish line. In nine stores around the country, the brand has raised its profile in brick and mortar one blush-colored display platform at a time.

At the Dallas store, a powder blue volume that rises behind the clothing displays is diagonally cut across the top to reveal a sliver of the fitting rooms within. Around the corner, angular volume leans on a citron-tiled wall of more fitting rooms. The juxtaposition of raw plywood with laminate and speckled tile reflects the firm’s desire to avoid making everything “too precious,” according to Will Fox, the company’s head of physical brand experience. (Justin Clemons)

Three of Outdoor Voices’ newest stores opened in 2018 in Chicago, Dallas, and Nashville, respectively, with interiors inspired by YMCAs and other vintage cultural touchstones. Material palettes of unfinished plywood, ceramic tile, and rubberized flooring reference the retro rec centers, and custom fixtures are upholstered in Naugahyde, an imitation leather better known for dressing up classic diner banquettes. But these elements transcend nostalgia by being cast in vibrant and delicate hues, cut into crisp geometric shapes, and molded into curved forms that snake like Technicolor river rocks across the floor. Each store also gestures to the city beyond its walls, whether in the John Hughes–inspired color palette of the Chicago store or the Nashville installation that invites customers to play a golden Dance Dance Revolution console in tribute to Elvis’s footwork and baroque tastes.

In Chicago, a custom- designed water fountain glows in a reddish hue inspired by the Chicago Bulls and the team’s championship streak in the late 1990s. The focus on the fountain is part of Outdoor Voices’ approach to having stores that are not just points of merchandise sale but also gathering spots for group runs and exercise classes. (Matt Harrington)

A rounded cube in the Chicago store holds a set of fitting rooms, lockers, and apparel. Like a giant piece of furniture, it also wheels out of the way for classes and gatherings. The giant circular rubberized mat, an item reminiscent of high school gyms, is a motif across many of the stores, and indicates where group activities take place. (Matt Harrington)

The stores showcase the company’s experimental approach to fitting rooms. Near the back of the Chicago shop, a gleaming, rounded cube sits askew, illuminated by skylights above. The cube’s shiny lavender skin is punctured to reveal plywood-clad nooks within. The structure was conceived as a big piece of furniture, according to Will Fox, director of physical brand experience. Not only does it display apparel and hold lockers for customers to stash their possessions during in-store workouts, but it also wheels entirely out of the way when those classes and events take place. Nearby, a rounded, cork-clad volume with simple white fitting rooms tucked inside offers a quieter alternative.

In Dallas, the Outdoor Voices store reflects its mall milieu with a custom arcade basketball game and cobalt blue mechanical horses. Stepped display platforms in the front windows double as stadium seating from which customers can watch the “street” of the mall corridor.

The Outdoor Voices store in Nashville, which takes over the ground floor of a bungalow, dedicates each room to the city’s storied musicians and their domestic spaces. Seen here is the Patsy Cline–inspired living room, in which the musician’s checkerboard floor is replicated in alternating cork tiles. (Matt Harrington)

Meanwhile, the Nashville outpost unabashedly revels in the city’s musical culture. The retail space, which occupies the entire first floor of a small bungalow, offers customers the chance to pass through rooms inspired by the domestic lives of Patsy Cline, Elvis, and Dolly Parton.

“Rather than fight against it, we decided to play up the idea of the store being in a house,” said Fox. Not only were the small rooms kept intact, but their original functions were alluded to in finishes, like wood paneling in the den, and through found furniture. Cline’s living room checkerboard floors are reinterpreted in a layout of alternating cork tiles, while jewel-tone displays highlight a retro exercise bike that Parton herself might have used. The clothes are incorporated into alluring domestic scenarios rather than set apart from them, evoking the company’s exercise ethos: that it should be comfortable, everyday, and enjoyable.

Header image: In a Dallas mall, the cascading product displays in the windows of the Outdoor Voices store are upholstered in bright hues of Naugahyde. The forms are actually designed to double as seating, allowing customers to become spectators of whatever dramas unfold in the mall corridor. (Justin Clemons)