There are a lot of known mainstream clothing brands out there with quality products that I’ve tried over the years (Nike, Reebok, Underarmour, Gap, etc.). But every company starts somewhere. Are there any smaller or up and coming fitness brands with solid products, cute styles, and competitive pricing? I decided to find out.
Working out of several gyms, I spend a lot of time in activewear. Many gyms have dress codes that require instructors to wear specific colors like solid black or gray, so (outside of Zumba) my gym wardrobe has been fairly unexciting over the years. When a couple of my gyms started making allowances for more colors and styles, I decided it was time to update my look with some color and pizazz. Social media has gradually exposed me to new or upcoming fitness brands, so I decided to try out leggings from three brands I’ve discovered on Instagram.
I gave myself a budget range between $40-$60 per item. $60 may feel significant to some consumers for one pair of leggings, but it’s a competitive price compared to activewear from companies like Nike or Lululemon (sometimes ranging between $85-$120 for a single pair). For the amount of time I spend in activewear, I’d rather invest in a quality item that will last me for years vs cheaper clothing I’ll wear out in a matter of months. Mainstream brands like Under Armour, Victoria Secret, and Reebok (all of which I’ve tried and enjoyed) have a range of products between $40-$60, so it was a reasonable budget for my experiment.
I am in no way sponsored or affiliated with these clothing companies. I personally purchased these items and intend to evaluate them with the same level of scrutiny I would other mainstream brands on the market within the same price range. I’ll compare their fit, quality, customer service and price to see how they stack up against the competition.
The Buffbunny Collection is a relatively new brand founded by Instagram and YouTube star Heidi Somers, a.k.a. “Buffbunny”. It’s only been producing clothing since early 2016 but has evolved from a simple assortment of tank tops to a full line of women’s fitness apparel. Some of her followers have compared the look and style of her designs to be on par with the elegance of other well-known clothing companies, like Lululemon.
I was drawn to the Buffbunny Collection for its bright colors, clean lines, feminine styles and promises that their leggings are “squat proof”. The company has a faithful fan following, so many of their popular items sell out following their launches and restocks. I just followed one of their social media pages and placed an order following one of their restock launches.
Their full-length “Luna Leggings” retail for $58 on their website and I paid $5 for shipping.
Arrival time and Customer Service Experience
I placed my order on June 12, 2017, and was impressed when it arrived two days later. When I tried on the leggings, unfortunately, I encountered issues with sizing and material sheerness. Maybe it was an issue with the fabric, sizing or some combination of the two, but underwear was completely visible through the material.
Flukes happen, so I emailed their customer service rep, Colleen. She was prompt and polite in offering to exchange them for another pair in a different size. My replacement package arrived July 13, but unfortunately in the wrong size and color. I emailed Colleen again explaining the situation and she apologized for the mix-up, offered to get my order sent out with two-day shipping and sent me a 20% discount code for future orders. The following package arrived on July 14 and I was pleased to see contained my correct order and the leggings fit without any sheerness.
It was a little bumpy and took a month to get my correct order but their customer service was polite and helpful. If I’m going to nitpick, while I appreciate covering shipping for the faulty orders, I did think that they could have done a little more for all of the hassles than a 20% off coupon. But I still appreciated the gesture and helpfulness from their staff.
Size and Fit
From a little prior research, I read some comments from other customers who felt like the sizes ran small. At 5’3 1/2″ with a smaller frame, I’m typically a size S (small) in activewear. After trying their Luna Leggings in size S, I’d agree that they feel a tad small. The material was comfortable and I easily pulled them on, but they were tight. I like gym clothes fitted, but it was a little beyond my comfort zone (even without the sheerness there was a complete underwear outline).
When I went up to a size medium, they fit quite comfortably. You’ll still want to wear seamless underwear, but going up a size definitely helped minimize that issue. They have a nice length to them, making them friendly for taller frames. On my short frame, I can actually pull them down over my heels, so they do bunch a little at the ankles when I’m wearing shoes. Since over-the-heel leggings are actually fashionable in the yoga world, I enjoy pulling them over my feet for yoga.
Style, Material, and Durability
The colors of these leggings are vibrant with clean lines, high-quality seams and large pockets on the sides. The material is thicker than other gym leggings I’ve tried (with an 87% nylon and 13% spandex blend). It’s incredibly supportive, with flattering compression and a high waistband to hold in your squishy zones. It isn’t the most breathable or flexible leggings material I’ve worn, but they’re quite cozy and I’ve had zero issues bending or twisting in them for yoga.
The material feels soft and sleek out of the package and is very comfortable. It has a minor breaking-in period (I noticed they slid down a little the first couple wears) but were fine after a couple washes. Washing instructions state to machine wash cold, no tumbling dry, bleaching or ironing (which is actually the routine I use for the majority of my activewear to help them last longer). They haven’t shrunk or stretched out over the last three months of regular use and have held their shape quite nicely without the fraying or pilling.
Sweat. It happens. I’m not really bothered by sweat showing in the gym (since I’m there to work and sweat anyway). But lighter colored clothing tends to show sweat more. I’ve worn them for lifting, yoga, and heavy cardio and can say they do very well with sweat. Even in my sweatiest cardio session, the thickness of the material does well concealing sweaty awkwardness in the crotch and booty zones. The only time I noticed an exception was during a fitness photo shoot for fun with a friend where we were outdoors in Naples, FL, under the summer heat for several hours. That will give you some awkward sweat lines, but otherwise, you should be good.
Despite some mishaps in the arrival, my overall experience with the Buffbunny Collection has been positive. I love the fit, style, and color of the leggings and have received compliments and questions asking where I bought them. I even decided to order another pair following their October launch and was pleased when they arrived three days later, the right size and perfect fit. I thoroughly enjoy wearing them both for personal and professional use in the gym and would gladly recommend this brand. Overall, I would rate these leggings an 8 out of 10.
Gymshark is an activewear company based in the United Kingdom. Founded in 2012, it has developed a solid following on social media platforms like Instagram and YouTube. Part of its success in becoming an internationally recognized brand on such platforms could be attributed to its strategy sponsoring bodybuilders and athletes with large followings on social media.
I first heard of Gymshark as a brand through various female bodybuilders and athletes on Instagram. Their brand is known for sleek and functional designs. I was particularly curious to try their trademark “Flex” style line that boasts seamlessly knit “form hugging and figure flattering” styles to help make the wearer look like they are flexing all the time.
Their full-length “Felx Leggings” retail for $38 USD on their website and I paid $10 USD for international shipping.
ARRIVAL TIME AND CUSTOMER SERVICE EXPERIENCE
I placed my order on August 11, 2017, and the leggings arrived on August 28. While I was pleased with the style and fit, unfortunately, four days later they ripped wide open at the seam as I was putting them on for the second time.
I reached out to Gymshark through their Facebook page and received a prompt, polite response the following day offering to send out a replacement pair. My package arrived nine days later on September 11. While it did take a month and a quality control hickup to get my leggings, their customer service was polite, helpful and quickly resolved my issue. Overall, it was a positive interaction that allowed me to see how they respond to customers.
SIZE AND FIT
These leggings seem to fit true to size and their size S leggings suited my frame perfectly. They were comfortably snug without being so fitted that your underwear line becomes visible. The leggings are quite long and I can pull them over my heel and up the arch of my foot (once again, great for a taller frame). They bunched at my ankles when wearing shoes but, at my height, most pants do that anyway. They keep my feet warm and toasty in yoga, so once again, I’m counting it as a plus.
STYLE, MATERIAL, AND DURABILITY
These leggings burst with vivacious shades of heathered blue. The majority of the leggings are seamlessly knit together, with two discreet seams at the waistband and inner portion of the legs and crotch. The “flex” pattern is woven into the fabric so that the leggings themselves seem to highlight and contour different muscle groups in the legs, like the quads, glutes, and hamstrings. It sports a fun, colorful low-rising waistband that bears the company name in bold print. The material (a 56% nylon, 41% polyester, 3% elastane blend) is light, breathable and fabulously soft. Washing instructions state to machine wash cold, no chlorine or bleach, and to tumble dry on medium and iron on medium from the inside out.
They’re what I’d consider true leggings because the material is thinner without the same structural support that typical yoga and activewear bottoms offer. The flex pattern itself is very flattering and the waistband hugs the hips in a way that gives your booty a bit of a pop. The elastic waistband can potentially give your sides a love-handle effect depending on your frame and how high you position it, so I like pairing it with looser shirts. You can pull them up higher but tread carefully to avoid sporting some unflattering fabric bunching around the crotch. In the time since I’ve had them, I’ve worn them quite frequently and they’re held up well without fraying or pilling (although the wash instructions disappeared from the rubber in-seam tag after a couple washes).
These leggings hold up excellently against sweat. The fabric itself is moisture-wicking and the deep colors of the blue probably help add camouflage. I’ve worn these for all my usual activities (lifting, yoga, cardio, etc.) and even on days when I’ve worked out at my husband’s non-airconditioned Crossfit gym, these babies hid sweat like a dream.
These are currently one of my most favorite pairs of leggings and I’ve gotten more compliments on them than anything else in my gym wardrobe. There was an issue with my first pair, but the company worked smoothly and professionally to resolve my issue. I love these leggings and would definitely be inclined to get another in the future. Overall, I would rate these leggings an 8 out of 10.
Til You Collapse Leggings
Til You Collapse (or TYC) leggings is a family-owned business run by a husband and wife. According to their Facebook page, the company began in July of 2013. They have a few tanks and hats for men but the bulk of their inventory appears to be in women’s apparel with a fairly wide assortment of leggings and shorts, a few tops and one sports bra available on their website.
I first noticed them on Instagram through advertisements for their Leggings of the Month Club, a promotion they run in which you sign up as a member and received a mystery pair of leggings in the mail each month. I was drawn to select their brand, once again, because of the variety of bright and interesting colors and sleek designs.
Their full-length leggings retail for $59.99 on their website and I paid $4.16 for shipping. I was able to find a discount code by doing a quick Google search (something I do whenever purchasing online items because sometimes you get lucky) and used it to get $5.99 off, so I actually ended up paying $58.16 total.
ARRIVAL TIME AND CUSTOMER SERVICE EXPERIENCE
I placed my order on August 15, 2017. Their website says that most of their leggings are “a pre-order that ship 4-6 weeks from order date”, so I wondered how long they’d take to arrive. They arrive on August 27 (so just under two weeks).
TYC’s Facebook page states that their items are “handmade in the USA”, but the label on their leggings simply said, “designed in the USA”. I was curious about that point, so I messaged them on Instagram to ask where the leggings were designed and manufactured. They impressively responded within minutes, explaining the leggings are designed in the USA and manufactured overseas. So, they may produce a combination of products created here and overseas. Based on the look and feel of the leggings, if I had to guess, I’d say there’s a good chance they’re manufactured by the same company the Buffbunny Collection uses.
SIZE AND FIT
I ordered their Premium Pastel Pink Heart Booty Leggings in a size S and they feel true to size (although their website advises customers may want to order one size up). They are the lightest color legging I own, and unfortunately not completely squat proof with every underwear color. The material holds up fairly well with white and flesh-colored underwear, but darker colors do become faintly visible when I squat. They definitely have a shorter length than my other leggings and cut off directly at my ankles (so for people with a taller frame, they may turn into capris).
STYLE, MATERIAL, AND DURABILITY
These leggings are advertised as having a “second skin” feel on the website and I’d agree; they are divinely soft and feel like slipping into silk. They are a vivid pastel pink, with clean lines, a thick waistband, quality seams, large side pockets along with a small compartment pocket in the back of the waistband. They provide compression but aren’t as fitted as other leggings I’ve tried (there is actually a good bit of room in the material behind the knee). If you don’t like your activewear as skin-huggingly compact, these have a lovely fit (though less compression than tighter leggings). They are the same material blend as the Buffbunny Collection (87% nylon and 13% spandex), but definitely not as thick. The material breathes and stretches quite well; they’re some of the most comfortable leggings I own. There are no wash directions on the printed tag, but I always machine wash on cold and then hang to dry. In the time I’ve had them, they’ve held their shape well without fraying or pilling.
Sweat is not your friend in these leggings. After a heavy cardio session, they show sweat pretty prominently in your awkward zones. Like I said, personally, sweat marks on clothing at the gym don’t really bother me because I am there for a good workout (sweat marks are like a badge of honor in that regard). That being said, they aren’t ideal if you have to run errands after your workout (unless you bring a jacket to tie around your hips).
The ordering process was simple and hassle-free and customer service was prompt and helpful when I had a question. These are some of the most comfortable leggings I own and I love the feel of them. They didn’t quite hold up to the squat test, but they also weren’t what I would consider sheer (just avoid dark or bright underwear colors and you’re good for this shade). Sweat does show pretty prominently during a heavy sweat session, but if you’re self-conscious you could wear a longer top or just use them for a yoga or Pilates class where you aren’t sweating as heavily.
I would be curious to see if these leggings faired better with sweat and squat testing in other shades and colors. My pair is cute and comfortable, but for now, am not planning on ordering another pair in the immediate future. Overall, I would probably rate this brand a 7 out of 10.
I was excited to try some new brands and find out what they offer. These are a few of the Instagram hyped legging brands I’ve seen on social media and it was fun testing them out. One thing I appreciate about each brand is the personable customer service (which you often find in smaller or upcoming businesses). Each brand had its pros and cons, but overall I didn’t feel like any of them were a poor investment; they have all added a pop of color and fun into my wardrobe and I enjoy wearing them to the gym. Have you tried any of these, or do you know of any apparel brands I ought to test out in the future? Feel free to let me know!
All writing copyright © 2017 Rachel Elise Weems Woods. Most photography copyright © 2017 Rachel Elise Weems Woods with guest images copyright © 2017 Captured Design Photography.