Athleta, a division of The Gap, has revealed a long-term partnership with Simone Biles, the most decorated gymnast in World Championships history. Athleta will be Biles’ exclusive apparel partner, Sportico sister publication WWD reports. Her sponsorship deal with Nike has ended.
The 24-year-old Olympic gold medalist joins Athleta in a wide-ranging partnership with a particular focus on Athleta Girl — encouraging millions of girls to pursue their potential. Athleta Girl, which was launched in 2016, targets girls from six to 13 years old, with the core being between ages eight and 10.
Biles will collaborate with Athleta’s design team in the development of signature products for aspiring athletes, including plans for multiple capsule collaborations for Athleta Girl. Athleta will co-create Biles’ own signature activewear line, which will be introduced in 2022.
“Using my voice has been very empowering for me and I’m grateful to embark on this new journey with Athleta to inspire young girls and women to do the same,” Biles said. “I admire Athleta for their commitment to recognize and support women’s individual and collective strength and, together, I believe we can help girls to confidently and passionately take on the world in their athletic endeavors and beyond.”
Widely regarded as one of the greatest female athletes of all time, Biles will connect directly with girls through Athleta’s community to inspire conversations and help develop programming focused on supporting and lifting up young women and girls.
Jana Henning, chief product officer of Athleta, said, “Simone embodies our brand through her advocacy, mentorship and work in the community. Our team is looking forward to working collaboratively with her to bring the same elements of confidence, strength, and grace she demonstrates on and off the mat into future collections for girls.”
In an interview with WWD, Henning said, “I think at the core of it is that we share very similar values. In a world that really challenges women’s and girls’ confidence, Athleta’s mission is to empower women and girls. We’re not just supporting Simone as an athlete, but we’re trying to support her as a person.”
She said the efforts will focus on Athleta Girl, “which is a huge business for us and it’s growing very quickly.”
There are about 200 Athleta stores in the U.S., with plans to add an additional 20 to 30 stores a year. Athleta Girl is in all of them.
Henning said they will develop a Simone by Athleta signature product collection that will be focused on performance-wear and lifestyle products. “We’re still in the early stages,” she said, noting the exact label hasn’t been decided. “We have a highly engaged community base in both our stores and through social media. The goal is to really put Simone in the center of that, and allow her to tell her story and provide her vision and instill confidence into that group of girls and invite more girls into the brand,” said Henning.
This is the first time Athleta, which was founded in 1998, has tied in with a gymnast. Athleta has successfully supported Allyson Felix, the most decorated woman in U.S. track and field history, in her advocacy efforts. “It will be exciting to see them head off to Tokyo [for the Olympics this summer] and see what happens,” said Henning.
Henning said Biles will be involved in what the line looks like. “She has lots of ideas. She’s passionate about the Athleta brand and we’re looking forward to her input,” said Henning.
Born in Columbus, Ohio, Biles was the first woman to capture five All-Around World Championship titles. She has won 25 medals overall (including 19 gold), and is a five-time Olympic medalist (four gold).