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How Alo Yoga Became an Instagirl Favorite Without Really Trying

The Los Angeles-based activewear brand has a strict yogis-only social media strategy.
Gigi Hadid in Alo Yoga moto leggings in May 2016. Photo: Robert Kamau/Getty Images

Gigi Hadid in Alo Yoga moto leggings in May 2016. Photo: Robert Kamau/Getty Images

Like many brands, Alo Yoga might be on your radar due to the fact that the Jenner/Hadid crew are oft photographed in the brand's leggings and ab-baring athleticwear. (The leather-esque moto-leggings were a particularly photo-friendly celebrity favorite.) But despite a potential audience of 210 million-plus Instagram followers — Kendall, Kylie, Gigi and Bella, combined — the Los Angeles-based yoga wear brand doesn't ever feature any of the Instagirls (or other celebs, even if it's Taylor Swift or proto-influencer Olivia Palermo, in Alo) on its own feed. 

Despite not capitalizing on the opportunities that many social media marketers would jump on, Alo Yoga has quickly grown its Instagram following to over one million in just two years — and those followers are real and committed. This year, digital marketing agency Stylophane ranked the brand as the 46th most engaged fashion brand on Instagram — ahead of Alexander Wang (49), Marc Jacobs (66), Lululemon (86) and North Face (88). 

A perusal of the label's feed reveals gorgeously shot images of physically fit and Alo-outfitted yoga practitioners effortlessly performing anything from a perfectly aligned warrior two to a seemingly impossible eka pada sirsasana (or some sort of acrobatic group situation) — always against an envy-inducing, picturesque backdrop.

Danny Harris, CEO of Alo — an acronym for air, land, ocean — points out that the brand's IG feed is an extension of the company philosophy of being "mindful," a term he threw around more during one interview than my yoga instructor in a month of classes. (The 'grams are also accompanied by on-brand inspirational quotes, like, "Soft, yet fierce. Sensual, still spiritual. Simple, and divine. Grounded, but free. I am a woman of many shades. Who I am is for me to define" by Danielle Doby.)

"We practice yoga daily. We eat organic," he says, about the impetus for founding Alo Yoga in 2007 with partner Marco deGeorge. "We're about minimizing social and ecological footprint. [We're] about this whole mindfulness, whether it be meditation or presence." He emphasizes that the company walks the talk: The Beverly Hills flagship store and the headquarters both incorporate solar panels for clean energy, plus the (not very) corporate offices feature an organic green garden, electric car charging stations, tea bars and group kitchens (instead of cafeterias) to foster community, and, obviously, a yoga and meditation studio. 

Alo spreads its "mindful" messaging and builds brand awareness through a community it likes to call the "Alo Family," consisting of over 4,000 yoga pros and teachers. Harris and his marketing team work with their yoga collaborators to shoot the dreamy Instagram images in the L.A. area. The feed also includes on-brand regrams from other practitioners in the fam. "I think [our philosophy] has attracted the likes of some of the most real and authentic yogis that have committed their life to their practice," explains Harris. "Which has made them want to not choose the conventional brands — which I won't name — [and] made them really want to choose and work with a brand that was line with their values." 

Plus, plenty of these yogi-celebrities — or influencers — have fairly impressive and engaged followings in their own right: Sjana Elise Earp (1.3 million), Ashley Galvin (446K), Koya Webb (269K) and Dylan Warner (425K) are a few examples. Those numbers may not be Jenner-Hadid-level, but that's the intent.

"We try to keep everything very consistent, branded and very true to yoga," says marketing director Amanda Porter, about the Instagram strategy. "Making sure we're mixing it up and using different people and really showcasing the yoga community." The aspirational tone of the brand's Instagram comes from combining a superhumanly bendy compass pose in some fabulous locale, like the beaches of Porto Cervo, all while wearing high-performance yoga gear — as opposed to looking camera-ready in athleisure on a Monica Rose-styled Starbucks run.

"We have a Gigi Hadid or Kendall Jenner or these other people wearing the Alo brand, but we still are very true and authentic to who we are," Harris says. "We really are just about yoga and it's neat that our community is inspiring these people to wear our clothes. Normally it's the opposite. Normally it's the celebrity inspiring the other people to wear it." 

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Although, that's not to say that the company doesn't disseminate Alo celebrity sightings to the media. Just this month, I received four press releases from one of the brand's PR agencies with alerts including Kylie wearing the "Sunny Strappy Bra" (below on her Snapchat) and "High-Waisted Airbrush Legging in Solid Slate Glossy" to the Westfield Topanga Mall and Selena Gomez leaving the gym in the "High-Waist Airbrush Legging in Black." 

Harris gives a cautious acknowledgement of intentionally featuring the Instagirls and celebrities as part of a traditional media strategy, while keeping mentions of Kylie and co. off the social media feed. "Uh yeah, maybe. I think [sending celebrity media alerts are] more so a part of our PR effort," he says, while also explaining that the company mission aims to continue spreading the gospel of yoga, especially to that coveted, fickle audience known as millennials. 

"If we just put our megaphone out into our yoga world, then how are we supposed to really expand the market?" Harris adds. "But Selena [Gomez] hopefully can get people to be interested in Alo and then when they come to our [Instagram] page and they'll see that it's very yoga focused." Plus, celebrity street style shots impart accessibility in a way that the lushly shot yoga images definitely do not. "Sometimes it can be a little intimidating to see Ashley Galvin doing her handstand or Dylan Warner doing his inversion," Harris says. "However we can get somebody into our world, whether it is through that celebrity, and get them to start following Alo, maybe we will inspire them to get into our world."

Kendall Jenner in her Alo Yoga Coast leggings in January 2016. Photo: Gonzalo/Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images

Kendall Jenner in her Alo Yoga Coast leggings in January 2016. Photo: Gonzalo/Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images

So far, the contrasting marketing strategies seem to be working. Alo Yoga just opened its second brick-and-mortar store in Santa Monica and is carried at top retailers, including Bloomingdales, Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue and Carbon 38, in addition to its own e-commerce. The brand also released two coffee table/how-to books — "Naked Yoga" and "Mindful Movement" — and is building its momentum (and community of yoga practitioners) through a YouTube channel, which launched in 2013.

But crucial question: If Kylie Jenner or Gigi Hadid posted a photo of herself engaged in, say, a handstand scorpion, would that hypothetically impressive pic ever be re-grammed on the Alo Yoga IG feed?

"Maybe...," Porter tentatively says.

"Probably... if they did... ," Harris interrupts. "If they inspired our community, then, yeah, we probably would." Your move, ladies.

Homepage image: Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images

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