When Ashley Nelson heads to a morning workout class at NYC’s exclusive new gym, Performix House, she grabs her kicks, a change of clothes and a water bottle — and chucks it all into her $3,000 designer handbag.
“I’ve definitely been that person that’s thrown my sneakers into a Céline bag or two,” says the 34-year-old consultant and lifestyle influencer, based in Park Slope.
As workout gear has gotten more fashionable, and image-conscious New Yorkers slip from class to client meetings, gym junkies are increasingly toting their Prada to Pure Barre. When running to the gym, singer Jennifer Lopez favors crop tops, running sneaks — and an Hermès Birkin or Kelly bag costing tens of thousands of dollars.
“You see Birkins pretty often, and people just shove everything in there,” says SLT instructor Vanessa Padula of her clients’ choice of gym bags. Goyard totes, which start at $1,000, are another popular choice at the studio, which has eight Manhattan locations.
“I think there’s a rise in generally wanting to look better [at the gym],” Padula says.
Some working women say it’s simply not practical — or convenient — to schlep sweats in a throwaway swag bag.
While Nelson sometimes opts for a more utilitarian $150 Sweaty Betty neoprene backpack or a Clare Vivier leather carryall tote ($500 and up), she’ll throw everything into a pricier purse if she’s got an important meeting on her agenda.
Though she isn’t concerned someone will nick her bag while she’s in plank pose, she admits that luxe leather and clammy clothing aren’t always the best workout partners.
“I do get worried about it getting dirty, but that’s the case with any bag!” she says.
For those who can’t afford to shell out thousands to lug their sweaty Lululemon gear in style, there’s a growing array of chic, but relatively affordable, options.
The roomy, quilted bags from Soho-based brand MZ Wallace are ubiquitous at the city’s trendier studios; its medium-sized totes start at $215.
Fitness influencer and new mom Jocelyn Steiber, 32, owns two MZ Wallace styles, and says the multiple pockets are perfect for stashing dry shampoo, diapers and wipes.
The Nolita resident believes that, like a pair of mock-leather Alala leggings, a pretty gym bag is a form of motivation. “When I get a new workout [bag], I feel great,” she says.
Still, some MZ Wallace bags may be losing their insider status — their rising popularity “isn’t my favorite thing,” Steiber admits — prompting her to covet more under-the-radar styles.
Jennifer Bandier, founder of high-end workout-wear retailer Bandier and its in-store fitness space Studio B, says fashion-forward gym bags from Transience ($295) and Dagne Dover ($155 and up) are particularly hot sellers.
“[Our customers] don’t want to sacrifice style for practicality,” Bandier says.
Still, regular old designer bags still reign supreme at Studio B classes, where clients casually toss grungy gear into their Guccis without a second thought.
“It looks so chic when they do it,” says Bandier. “I’m always like, ‘You’re so fabulous, when you’re throwing your sneakers in there’ — it looks effortless.”
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