SoulCycle Co-Founder Julie Rice: How I Shop

The fitness pioneer and longtime fashion fan shares her shopping habits, as well as her many tips for mixing "athleisure" with designer pieces.
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Alyssa Vingan Klein
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The fitness pioneer and longtime fashion fan shares her shopping habits, as well as her many tips for mixing "athleisure" with designer pieces.
Photo: SoulCycle

Photo: SoulCycle

We all buy clothes, but no two people shop the same. It can be a social experience, and a deeply personal one; at times, it can be impulsive and entertaining, at others, purpose-driven, a chore. Where do you shop? When do you shop? How do you decide what you need, how much to spend, and what's "you"? These are some of the questions we're putting to prominent figures in the fashion industry with our column, "How I Shop."

If you've ever taken a class at SoulCycle, odds are a notable fashion person or two was in the room with you. The industry's fixation with fitness, along with the exponential growth in the high-end "athleisure" market — has steadily increased over the past few years, but the boutique cycling studio was at the forefront of it all when it opened its doors on the Upper West Side back in 2006, immediately drawing an obsessive fan base that included the likes of Mickey Drexler, Linda Wells and a bevy of supermodels. Since the beginning, co-founders Elizabeth Cutler and Julie Rice made fashion an integral part of the brand, first selling apparel inside the studios before expanding into e-commerce in 2010. Now, its in-house label of clothing, accessories and lifestyle items produces 12 collections per year, with a team that pays meticulous attention to current runway trends and what's going on in the streets. 

Rice, who has a hand in developing each month's offering, says she's been a fashion fanatic for much of her life. However, as an entrepreneur in the fitness space, her day-to-day wardrobe is centered around activewear and casual basics that can take her from an early morning class to meetings at the office, which has a dress code that can best be described as "sporty chic." (Read: lots of leggings, sweatshirts and trendy sneakers.) But not having to dress up every day does have its perks, especially considering that Rice has an affinity for unique statement pieces that can punch up even the simplest post-workout ensemble. Plus, with studios in the country's top shopping cities — New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago and more — every business trip is an opportunity to explore the best new retail spots. 

We sat down with Rice to discuss her seasonal shopping habits, her tricks for mixing ready-to-wear with workout gear and whether designer athleisure items are really worth the splurge.

"I do a lot of shopping when I travel. I have little kids, so I won't often take a Saturday in New York when they're around to go and shop. But when I'm in other cities and I don't have my children with me, it's actually a much better time to shop, believe it or not. I do a lot of shopping in LA. I love Maxfield. Elyse Walker is a friend and I buy a lot from her as well. I love going out to Hirshleifer's on Long Island. I actually think she could possibly be the best buyer in the country. People are like, 'What are you going to do for your birthday?' And I tell them I'm going to Americana Manhasset mall to shop there. It's such an incredible combination of cutting-edge streetwear and high-end couture in a way that's so doable. Barneys is really good for staples, too.

I like things that are a bit more avant-garde. I do a lot of Comme des Garcons, Rick Owens. One of my favorite pieces ever is from Alchemist [in Miami]. It's from the Japanese brand Undercover. It looks almost like a proper Chanel jacket except the whole collar is safety pins and it weighs maybe 20 pounds. I also really love a lot of the streetwear that's trending: Hood by Air, Off-White. In terms of athletic wear, I mix a lot of Nike and Adidas into what I'm wearing.

It's funny because I don't love getting 'dressed up' as much as I love shopping for it. [My job] makes it hard to justify shopping, because sometimes I think to myself, 'Will I ever wear this?' I pretty much wear sneakers and love to be comfortable. Yet I like to buy pieces that I imagine that someday I'll have the glamorous life to take out somewhere. My closet is mostly black — everything goes with everything. 

I think designer activewear is worth the splurge. I think it's great to put some sort of a neoprene top with thumbholes and a hood underneath a cool jacket. I think it adds so much currency to what's going on. Investing in a couple of nice activewear pieces, whether they're Stella McCartney or Lululemon, is really worth it. Both jackets and shoes are a good splurge because you wear them over and over. They're really versatile and you can build a whole look around them. I tend to save money on T-shirts and jeans — I'm not a huge designer denim person. 

I've learned that you should never wait until you need something to buy it. I've found that on the days where I went into the world desperately needing a dress for an event or a jacket to speak in, I never find them. Even though sometimes I think, 'Oh no, I don't have the money to buy this right now. I can't imagine when I'm going to wear this,' I find that when I'm really in love with something, it's always worth putting it in the closet. Two summers ago, I left a Valentino dress that I loved on the rack in LA. They had one left in my size and there was no way that I could justify spending that money. I had nothing to go to. But then there must have been seven occasions last year where I [could have worn it]. I went online searching for it and I tried to have it shipped from other countries. I just couldn't make it happen and I'm a crazy Internet shopper. There's almost nothing that I can't find. It was tragic.

I think that I've sort of 'figured out' my personal style. I'm picturing so many different styles I've done in my life. I'm thinking about my work in Hollywood when we represented Jennifer Lopez and I used to dress like her. I'm talking about when she was 'Jenny from the Block,' you know? Orange Chanel sunglasses that I saved for six months to buy. I don't think you ever stop changing. I think that if you're a person who loves fashion, you go with the ebb and flow of what's on the runway, but what ultimately happens is that you become more confident in the way you carry things; so you begin to trust yourself more in terms of the way you could wear them. I think what's happened with my personal style is that there's more freedom to play around. Whereas I used to feel much more... when I took a risk, I used to be self-conscious about it.

I am not an impulse shopper. I try to organize my wardrobe at the beginning of the season by what my three or four statements pieces are going to be, and when I find them, I leave them on hold for 24 hours and if I can't live without them, I go back and get them. I do very little sale shopping. I used to do tons of it — I was the sample sale queen. But now I pick out exactly what I want and then I really don't shop again until it's time to refresh for the new season, and I find that I spent less money that way. I'm also a total purger. I grew up with a mom who was an antique dealer, in a house that was clutter on top of clutter. In my house and in my closet, nothing stays. I feel like everything looks nicer in the closet when you only have things that you really love and wear. 

I once saw Cindy Crawford when she was on a morning show and she was packing to go to Russia. She fit all she needed for day to night in this one little suitcase, and I remember thinking, 'If you're not going to put it in a suitcase to go away for two weeks, you probably don't need it at all.' I always think about that. I travel a lot, and I feel like if [a piece] doesn't make it into my bag for 7-10 days in LA, maybe let go of it."