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Under Armour's new sportswear line draws mostly positive reviews from analysts

Now that Under Armour has made the leap from workout and sports clothes to high-end fashion, analysts are weighing in.

One analyst said he was surprised and impressed by the new Under Armour Sportswear line unveiled last week. But another called the move to outfit "ambitious young professionals" outside of sports and the gym both risky and potentially confusing to customers.

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The brand's UAS line is a departure for a brand known for performance-based gear for athletes. The first peek came during New York Fashion Week on Thursday as Under Armour presented a collection by award-winning Belgian designer Tim Coppens, hired in June to lead the UAS division.

Coppens is a fashion industry star who designed for luxury brands and athletic wear companies before creating his own New York-based line.

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As The Sun reported last week, Coppens first fashion week collection for UAS ranges in price from $59 for lifestyle layering pieces called Prime to $1,500 for a camo wool trench coat. It features creations such as quilted bomber jackets and wedge boots.

"We came away both surprised and impressed at how distinct the company's first collection is relative to what we know UA to be," wrote Camilo Lyon, an analyst with Canaccord Genuity Inc., in a report Monday.

"Not only was the collection comprised of fashion-forward pieces that can speak to an altogether different consumer, but it also had functional everyday components to it that UA's current customer base can embrace, such as technical chinos and merino wool sweaters."

Lyon added that UAS showed "fashion/technical envelope-pushing that reminded us of [Lululemon] five years ago" and looks poised for solid long-term growth.

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As TheStreet reported Monday, Nomura analysts see the brand looking to "extend its reputation beyond athletic gear and into your everyday wardrobe and although some runway items may draw puzzled looks, in our opinion, the majority of showcased product is not intended to sell en masse anyway; rather it is meant to give UA permission to sell Chinos & Button Downs (along with their Shirts & Shoes)."

But Under Armour could be entering dangerous territory in going after two ends of the market simultaneously, a Seeking Alpha research analyst said. While pitching UAS to fashion-forward professionals, the brand will also be selling workout gear at discount department store chain Kohl's starting next year, the analyst said.

"Selling clothes under same brand at both extremes of pricing will be a major challenge and can dilute the brand," Rohit Chhatwal said in the report. "Under Armour is known as an athletic gear brand and selling khakis, pants and coats under similar Under Armour name risks confusing customers."

Ben Pruess, Under Armour's senior vice president of sportswear, told The Motley Fool that the company can serve both markets thanks to a new logo and distinct distribution. 
In a Motley Fool report, analyst Seth McNew called Under Armour Sportswear's pricing and limited distribution at retailers such as Barney's and Mr. Porter a bold strategy. 
"If the gear is well-received at those prices, it could be a major opportunity for future growth," he said. 

Pruess, in an interview with The Sun in June, said the clothing will incorporate the same technology used in Under Armour athletic apparel, such as fabrics that stretch, regulate body temperature and shield from weather.

"This comes from a high-performance, innovative brand now put through the lens of your everyday life, through the lens and culture of fashion," Pruess said.

lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com

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