If going from the music industry to creating a fitness fashion empire sounds like a stretch, Jennifer Bandier will leave you singing a different tune. After years spent managing music talent like TLC, an ultimately fortuitous injury inspired Bandier to take a new look at existing fitness apparel companies and push herself to fill what she perceived to be a void in the market: fitness apparel you actually want to wear in everyday life.
As a result, Bandier started dreaming of a line that could go from spin class to the office to drinks with friends. She joined forces with the founder of Barney’s Co-op and a former senior vice president of Calvin Klein, Jayne Harkness, to curate a collection of athleisure that met their exacting standards. There are currently five Bandier locations—including one at Americana Manhasset—with two more opening in 2017. But the brand’s roots are solidly planted in the Hamptons where it originally launched. “I’m from New York and grew up between Long Island and New York City, so I have a built-in community of supporters and a strong professional network locally,” Bandier said. “New York has become the center of the fitness community.”
Today, Bandier combines her love of fitness, fashion and music with a boutique-cum-fitness studio. “We’ve built an inspiring community of fitness enthusiasts and brand ambassadors,” Bandier said. “We have special programming in our stores, including workouts, panel discussions and immersive experiences with partner brands. This has created invaluable brand advocacy and has turned BANDIER into an innovator and a lifestyle brand.” As BANDIER’s success skyrockets, its founder shared her inspiration and insights.
Your background was in the music business. How did those skills transfer to athleisure?
I find the music industry and the fashion industry to be very related, especially when it comes to experience, merchandising, brand building and design. The music industry taught me to always be on the lookout for the next “big thing,” something I now live by when looking for brands to sell at BANDIER. I look for companies that not only tell a story, but bring something new and innovative to the fashion world.
What inspired you to create BANDIER and what continues to inspire the collection?
In 2008, I started going to SoulCycle and getting very active in the boutique fitness scene. The more I worked out, the more I wanted to wear active clothing all day long. I have always loved fashion, but I became very inspired by sport—the materials, the silhouettes. Then in 2012, I broke my foot and couldn’t do intense workouts. As a result, I would go for long walks all around New York City. Some people ask me what my mantras for business building are, but I always say that I believe in manifestation. During these long walks, I really visualized what I wanted and the concept of BANDIER came to me.
Today, most of my inspiration comes from my personal experiences and my customers. I listen to what they want from their workout clothes. I love combining their valuable feedback with runway and pop culture trends to come up with exciting ideas.
Why did you want to launch in the Hamptons?
Southampton is my second home so I know the community extremely well. The town is very busy during the summer months and everyone is active. As soon as we opened, I knew we had something special. We had tremendous foot traffic and genuine interest from customers. It was so amazing to hear everyone’s excitement around the concept.
What is your favorite piece from the line?
We don’t have a BANDIER private label collection, but we offer exclusive products with our top brands. We also work on special collaborations with bloggers, artists and designers. One of my favorites was our project with Koral and Something Navy—it’s a collection of leggings, sports bras, shorts and tops in the perfect shade of navy.