Carrie Underwood Shares the Inspiring Purpose Behind Her Calia Fitness Brand

Carrie Underwood
Carrie Underwood starring in a new ad campaign for Calia.
Courtesy of brand

Carrie Underwood’s hit-making ability extends beyond the music world. The seven-time Grammy winner has also proved to be a whiz in the sportswear business with regard to her long-term partnership with Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Together, they launched the Calia by Carrie Underwood fitness and lifestyle label in spring ’15 as an exclusive in Dick’s stores and online. And the line has quickly grown to be a top performer for the retailer.

In the firm’s second-quarter conference call, Dick’s chairman and CEO Edward Stack noted that Calia is now its third-largest athletic women’s label. “The brand has been a huge success for us,” he said. “We think that gives us the opportunity to move into other areas and other categories, and this is a longer-term play.”

The line includes women’s apparel, swimwear and accessories, and for fall ’18, it will introduce its first outerwear collection.

Carrie Underwood Calia Carrie Underwood in Calia gear. Courtesy of brand

The Calia team said sneakers are on their wish list, but there are no firm plans to enter the footwear category.

Underwood told FN during a recent visit to New York that launching shoes is an intimidating concept. “It’s all so personal and individual,” she said. “Personally, I’m a shoe nut in that there’s basically shoes that will make my knee hurt and shoes that will not make my knee hurt when I run.”

While she can’t yet don her own branded sneakers, the 34-year-old singer-songwriter is committed to the success of her brand and is handily its most visible ambassador. “In my life wardrobe, I live in Calia — I really do,” Underwood said. “I’m not one of those celebrities who makes something and you never see them wearing it.”

To develop the product, she works closely with designers Alycia Scott and Freddie McQueen. Scott said that their joint design process is highly collaborative — and for good reason. “We build on top of each other’s efforts to make sure that we’re thinking about every woman, whether she has a kid, doesn’t have a kid, what stage of life she is [at], her age. [We want to create] an ageless collection,” she said.

Calia Carrie Underwood At a NY event (from left): host Vanessa Lachay, Alycia Scott, Carrie Underwood, Freddie McQueen. Courtesy of brand

Since its inception, the line has bridged the athleisure gap between performance and style, featuring feminine colors and patterns, as well as modern silhouettes, equipped with high-tech capabilities.

“As a consumer, I noticed that [activewear] seemed to be either super-technical and really great in the gym but then everywhere I went for the rest of the day, I looked like I just came from a workout — or things would be really pretty but absolutely have no place in the gym,” said Underwood. “The people at Dick’s noticed the same thing. So we started talking about what we can do to get these things that are super-functional [to] also work with you [in your life].”

Dick’s CEO credits Calia’s strong aesthetic for its rapid rise in the market. “Our design team has done a great job from a pattern standpoint, performance standpoint, fabrication standpoint,” said Stack. “This is a brand that’s pretty hot in the marketplace for us right now.”

Carrie Underwood Carrie Underwood in a Calia ad campaign. Courtesy of brand

The Calia team has worked to differentiate the brand through its marketing campaigns, which are consistently built around a message of empowerment and headlined by Underwood.

“I feel like there need to be more things in this world where women can lift each other up and support each other,” said Underwood. “So it was important to us not only to make a great product but to also put good out into the world.”

She recalled that in early collections, the label included taglines such as “Stay the Path” and “Be Your Best Self” on the underside of the apparel.

“And then we thought, ‘Why do that?’ Let’s put it where everybody can see it, and maybe somebody will read it and think, ‘Yes, I am stronger than anybody knows,’” she said. “We want women to be inspired.”

Carrie Underwood Calia Carrie Underwood in a Calia campaign shot. Courtesy of brand