Target has announced yet another collaboration with a high-end brand—the brand, in this case, being SoulCycle. As part of the partnership, Target stores will offer not just co-branded workout gear—t-shirts and sweatpants and the like, festooned with both SoulCycle spokes and Target bullseyes—but also, at select locations across the country, SoulCycle classes. “SoulCycle’s signature studio cycling classes are a rising trend,” Target declares, noting that “the 45-minute, high-intensity workouts (complete with candlelight and rocking music) have already captivated fitness enthusiasts in several U.S. cities. Now, we’re broadening the program’s reach to give even more guests unprecedented access to this highly sought-after experience.”
Which is … actually pretty weird. Target, as a gym! The big-box store, selling not just paper towels and light bulbs and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese at low-low prices, but also “energizing new experiences”! And yet the weirdest thing here isn’t Target’s positioning of itself as a mass personal trainer. It’s what its collaboration with SoulCycle suggests about the future of fashion.
The SoulCycle partnership, after all, is only the latest of Target’s high-end collaborations—which have, up to this point, involved clothing. While many other brands have teamed up with high-end fashion houses (see: H&M and Balmain, Macy’s and Giambattista Valli, JCPenney and Charlotte Ronson, etc.), Target has become particularly known for such collaborations. Mizrahi in 2002. Rodarte in 2009. Lilly Pulitzer in 2015. The retailer, ever since Michael Graves introduced his Target-ed teapots to the store in the 1990s, has made a canny branding strategy out of its “[designer] x Target” capsule collections, helping to transform its stores from mere big-box outlets—uncool, drably pragmatic, dully Walmart-esque—into places that are, in their way, fashionable. Target became Tar-JAY. (Or, if we’re being phonetically accurate about it, Tar-ZHEY. Or maybe even better yet, Targé.) Target stores, under the marketing regime of the late ’90s and early 2000s, were bathed not just in fluorescent lighting, but also in the warm glow of cultural aspiration.