The Big Idea: Redefining the retail experience at FORLiSE

Tucked into a quiet corner of Mountain Square you will find a small storefront that is big on community.

Once the original location of the lululemon Whistler store (now just two doors over), the current store, FORLiSE, has morphed into a community hub showcasing lululemon’s more masculine side.

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The recent recipient of the “Innovative Business of the Year Award” at the 2016 Whistler Excellence Awards, FORLiSE offers plenty more than just men’s product for the yoga/fitness lifestyle brand. The experimental space is a unique mix, with equal parts men’s retail and collective space for fellas to gather, be inspired and get their stretch on.

Ryan Proctor, project manager at FORLiSE, explains that the retail space is a creative concept that stems from lululemon’s long-time love of community.

“It’s a space for product feedback and innovation, local art, athletes, community and collaboration,” he said.

It is this community connection that forms the foundation of FORLiSE.

“We know people visit or live in Whistler for the lifestyle and community — it is the foundation of the town,” said Proctor. “This aligns very closely with our brand and FORLiSE is a space that celebrates both while also being a showcase for our men’s brand.”

Stretching their market

While lululemon has completely captivated the female fitness audience, FORLiSE’s concept works to woo a more diverse audience that includes the dudes.

Their Tuesday night stretch session was started as a way to connect with men who may have been reluctant to join a yoga class. The free class brings bros together and helps the brand root a more solid footing with the male market.

“It’s our way of bridging the gap and giving back to the community,” said Proctor.

The store also gives back by raising funds and awareness for local athletes and the causes they are passionate about like the Sarah Burke Foundation, the Mike and Manny Foundation and Zero Ceiling. They also host events that share stories and inspirations from their community like the recent Whistler premiere Mike Shaw’s movie, The Healing Agent, a documentary by Red Bull of his recovery.

Artistic exposure

Believing that art is a big piece of Whistler’s community culture, FORLiSE offers plenty of space to highlight local creatives.

“Our art program showcases local artists and allows them to tell the story of Whistler’s culture,” said Proctor. “It also supports their career or passion for art by giving them a place to display creations.”

The store offers a huge space in the back to spotlight local artists. To keep things fresh and ensure exposure for many artists in the community, they rotate new art every three months.

Proctor said that when people visit the store for the first time they are always curious about the combination of art and clothing.

“It’s actually a great way to start a conversation and it’s great for us to showcase the talent in this town,” he said, adding that this type of visual storytelling can help give visitors a glimpse into everyday life and culture in Whistler.

Elevating ambassadors

A roster of local ambassadors that includes photographer Mason Mashon, skier Stan Rey and Olympic snowboarder Chris Robanske enables FORLiSE to make an impact in the community in an authentic way.

“Our ambassador program is in place to support local athletes while they follow their passion,” said Proctor.
FORLiSE supports their athletes with goal coaching along with programs and resources to make those goals a reality. They share the practice of yoga and meditation and arm their athletes with gear to be put to the test for future development. But, perhaps the most meaningful support that FORLiSE offers is to simply give ambassadors a space where they can feel supported with encouragement and guidance in their endeavours.

“I think it’s definitely a good mental support,” said Proctor. “They know they have a good foundation. They can come here and they know there’s someone behind them cheering them on, giving them the avenues to tell their story and a space to connect with the community.”

FORLiSE’s mountain culture community has snowballed lululemon’s reach to build a meaningful male following and their mantra makes their purpose clear, “We are for the mountains, for adventure, for community. We are FORLiSE.”

Make business easy — tune in to The Big Idea, a bi-weekly column from the Whistler Chamber of Commerce showcasing a Whistler business innovating in their sector.

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