Meet Style & Fitness Guru, Claudia Lebenthal, and her inspiring brand Style of Sport

We sit down with fitness and style guru, Claudia Lebenthal, to chat about her love for all things sports and fashion lifestyle, and how she brings that inspiration to her brand Style of Sport.

*by Kate Wingard

Claudia's Favorite GemTyes: Rose Gold Hamsa, Rose Quartz Pear, and Labradorite

 

 

Style of Sport Founder, Claudia Lebenthal(left) works out with Stephanie Ruhle(right) of MSNBC photo credit: styleofsport.com

 

Give us a storyline of your background. How did you get started within the activewear and fashion industries? 

In the 90’s, my first foray into editorial was at a Manhattan weekly called 7 Days. Everyone who is a big deal now in the publishing industry worked there at that time, Adam Moss, Hal Rubenstein, Lucy Danziger, so many big names. I was working around a group of the talented future leaders of publishing. I was there for 2 years and then became the photo editor for Allure for their launch until Women’s Sports & Fitness launched in 1996. I was always involved with fitness but my first days into fashion was at Allure working with big photographers like Steven Meisel, Steven Klein, and Mario Testino. My exposure to fashion and fashion photographers, seeing their world through their point of view and their lens was a new concept that excited me. I hadn't known that world until I got to Allure, and it was around the time of all the supermodels like Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell. The thing I loved most about magazines was that it was like playing on a team; you write the story then pass it over to me to edit photos, then I pass it back to another department or editor, just the group dynamics that I loved.

Why did you develop and create Style of Sport

Style of Sport started 4 years ago. I was the Creative Director at Trunk Archive, an image licensing agency at the time, and it was summertime, and felt like it was a perfect time to take the season off and explore what I wanted. I was feeling stifled creatively, wanted to get back to making pictures, making stuff, and walked into Saturdays, a surfshop in Nolita. There are books, magazines, candles, jewelry, everything surf lifestyle, and I thought how cool it would be to have a sports store like this. I love sporting goods stores, they just make me happy, and I started to think, what would be in my store? Besides the gear, what are the accoutrement that go along with this lifestyle? Sure enough, as my friend Gabby Reece says, “There are no gate keepers” so I just had to do this, start writing stuff and curating sports stories and fitness lifestyle pieces that go along with things you love. So thats really what Style of Sport is all about, and it’s the notion of select resources too. I don't sell a massive selection. People who know me, my site, know I have a curated and authoritative resourceful store that you can go to for active lifestyles and solid information they can rely on, and that’s what it is today. 

What kinds of inspiration do you pull from? Favorite designers, photographers, social circles, travel, other influencers? Where do you find your creative vibe?

Its everywhere, you can't get inspired by sitting in your office. I'll go for a bike ride, go cruise Barneys, see what’s happening in Tribeca. Luckily I live in NYC, so anything happening style-wise I can get that kind of inspiration easy. I’m a runner, stand-up paddler, cyclist, so just being out in that environment helps create my vision.

Who’s you audience? Or better yet, who are your favorite followers? Do they help you mold your creative vision?

Broadly, it’s the urban athlete that’s influenced by where I live, in NYC. I have a NYC aesthetic and approach, where you do fitness when you go away for vacation or on the weekend. To do sport here is expensive, and so my audience is an older, definitely affluent customer that I cater to. I don't on purpose put the most expensive things on Style of Sport but my audience doesn't want me to give 10 cheap options either, they want me to give 3 nice ones, to do the work for them, find the best. It’s developing a level of trust with that audience. 

And coming from a sports background, having worked in fashion at Conde Nast, I see the other side as well. I ask myself, how can I make this appeal to the Vogue reader and how can I make it appealing to her because she doesn't really care about sports beyond a sport audience, or beyond fashion. It’s finding a balance between the two. There’s a successful upscale Soulcycle in the Upper East Side location that I use as the barometer of my audience. It’s a well-to-do family living the lifestyle, has the huge house in the Hamptons, either going on a ski or beach vacay, going to Barry’s Bootcamp or the Fhitting Room. They don't care if it costs $30 a pop each time they go, they love the healthy lifestyle and everything that goes with it. I don't want to give them crappy stuff that they'll be annoyed, I want the stuff to work for them, to be better athletically, to get more out of it.

Your site is very editorial, so much eye candy mixed with interesting advice and information, do you curate and create all of your content? Everything I see on your site, I want to buy!

I have an editorial background, but I am not a blogger, I do not call myself an influencer. I don't get paid to write promotions, I have editorial integrity. I write about what my audience will like not what I get paid to write about. I like to mix high and low, a Gap tank under a Balmain jacket, that is so much cooler, to spend the money on the good stuff. It’s all about the content, and the quality of it and the way it’s put together. With my magazine background, I like to entice people with the fun stuff and then throw in the media piece. Sometimes I think, I'm gonna do this piece and probably no one will care, but I love it anyway. It’s the funny mix of sport and fashion through my prism of a lens.

And I have to be inspired by my own site. It starts with the visuals first, I have to do that first and then I can write about it. To write about something without a visual is daunting, just daunting. I give my friend Bruce Pask credit, he says, “3 is a trend” so I get so excited if I see 2 of something because I'm like where's the third! I can write about it! Just like I had been watching the Australian Open, watching Nike's pop art and patterns on some of the athletes, and wow! They are making a big statement, it’d be really hard to miss it! I looked around in fashion and saw that it was happening there and also in fitness, so I wrote my Black X White graphic story.

How do you feel that the ‘athleisure’ world has changed over the last couple of years versus over the last decade? Do you feel technology is driving sport, or are the consumers and influencers pushing for more functionally chic ready-to-wear? Does pop culture play a big role in how we wear athleisure? 

PradaSport was the first to do it but no one was calling it ‘athleisure’ then, back in the 90s I believe. I think its become a very crowed space. I joke with my friends who are doing an athletic line or something in fitness. They want me to come see it, and I’m like, no, please don't make me, please don't. You need to know how sport apparel functions, you need to know how the pants stay up when you are working out, your workout bra cannot turn into a ragged mess after you wash it only a few times and yet you paid a lot for it. 

In fact, the NY Times had a very funny piece about athleisure and basically it came down to how stupid we look. I want to look good in my clothes not in my yoga pants. Show off your body in clothes but not your athletic wear. Like, I wear a hoodie under a blazer which is nice, there are things that become a part of our everyday wardrobe. I am an athlete, I don't want my yoga pants to be see-through, or threads to unravel. I've had Nike leggings for endless amount of years, they don't fall apart. I think athleisure as a fashion trend is not going to be around forever, but people are focusing on being fit and there are so many fitness options now and yes, you want to look cute but the category will grow. But as for fashion designers the trend will go down. It's not on the runways. There was so much for Spring but a lot less for Fall. 

What plans do you have for Style of Sport beyond your online endeavors? Are you working with fellow influencers, celebrities, or editors on products or campaigns this year? 

I do ‘Working Out With (WOW)’ where I workout with a celebrity or someone of note, someone fun and interesting, and we feature a cool new workout or something they want to try. Like for Kelly Ripa we did Soulcycle as it’s her favorite workout, and for Stephanie Ruhle, cohost of MSNBC, she wanted to try boxing. We talk about new projects she’s working on and we share with people how these busy, successful people are still fitting in their workouts even with such crazy schedules. We talk about what they like to wear and eat, we can talk about anything. When you workout with someone you instantly become friends so you have an instant connection. A conversation naturally flows from there, and it really becomes the heart of the convo which allows you to talk about other things. I see this turning into a tv show, very Talk Stoop.

I really think Style of Sport is a lifestyle brand, it could go in so many directions. Retreats are a great extension of your website and I could totally see Style of Sport doing these types of adventures, sharing that with a group of people over a weekend getaway with different trainers, nutritionists, workouts. Its like what Laird and Gabby Reece do with their XPT experience, exposing people to the cutting edge of active lifestyle and a chance to experience something new at sports and fitness retreats. There is something for everyone, that same tribe and groups and community exist at so many different places. I get sad when people struggle to workout or lose weight. I've had those struggles over the years but when I found the joy and love in working out, it became easy. That’s what keeps you coming back, that’s the fun, and what makes it effortless. 

 

 


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