Athleisure Wear: Is It a Fashion Trend or a New Industry?22.11.2021
Athleisure wear is a combination of functionality and a minimalist, sleek design. It has been a key part in the revival of sportswear on the fashion circuit. This trend supported “transition” moments by introducing leggings and other yoga pant that can be worn anywhere and anytime. It was eventually adopted by premium and luxury brands. Indie brands like Vuori Clothing and Alo Yoga are now disrupting the system and creating a niche within this market.
Athleisure’s links to the movement for health and wellbeing, along with a growing emphasis on inclusion, are clearly not at the end of their evolution.
Athleisure Wear: Fashion and health mixed together
According to the Global Athleisure Market Report by Allied Market Research athleisure is still on the rise.
The athleisure market was worth $155.2 billion in 2018, and it is projected to grow to $257.1 billion by 2026.
According to NPD Group, everyone from Primark to Eres have launched athleisure products to capitalize on the $44 billion US market. Athleisure is, according to many accounts, the most popular fashion trend of the 21st Century. This expression is a contraction of the words “athletic” & “leisure”.
Gymshark had a great year during confinement:
- US sales increased more than 150% year-on–year between July and August
- The US sales increased by 856% in the first week alone of July compared to last year
Gymshark was not the only athleisure brand that boomed. According to SimilarWeb, Alo Yoga, a Los Angeles-based brand, was the most popular activewear brand by web traffic in the US.
Athleisure is athletic apparel that can be worn in non-athletic settings. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, it was defined as “casual clothing meant to be worn both for exercise and for general usage”.
It symbolizes a decompartmentalization of sportswear, which, thanks to its elevated design, becomes an everyday outfit able to instantly enhance a look.
Sportswear is gaining credibility through fashion. Fashion is also giving sportwear functionality like sweating-wicking, odor resistance, or stretch texturing.
Athleisure wear: From feminine empowerment to an Instagrammable holistic success
Deirdre Cllemente, a professor of history at Nevada, said that athleisure mania is based on three long-term trends.
- Synthetic fibers are more flexible, durable, and washable thanks to technological innovations.
- Yoga pants have become a popular choice for “conspicuous consumption” due to their fitness-conscious look.
- It is becoming more acceptable to wear athletic-casual clothing in many social settings. Many clothes people consider to be work-appropriate now include sports-inspired fabrics like Lycra, spandex, and other synthetic fibres.
Lululemon was one of the first companies to target the underserved female population: the “super girls” who are athletic. In 1998, the company launched its first pair Boogie Pants. This marked the beginning of the Athleisure wear category. The brand considers itself to be a technical streetwear brand that does not compromise function.
Even though the Merriam Webster dictionary only included the term “athleisure”, it was first used in a 1970’s advertisement. The release of James Fixx’s bestseller “The Complete Book of Running”, which was a key turning point in American sports aesthetics, is often considered to be 1977.
The 80’s saw the rise of the health-conscious glamazon archetype. Christie Brinkley and other sporty beauties were a part of this. Jane Fonda’s exercise sessions and Olivia Newton John’s “Physical”, along with movies like Fame and Flashdance, fueled neon leotard and legwarmer trends all over the world. Sportswear companies began making clothing for athletes’ performance. Synthetic fiber clothing allows for greater movement freedom and performance, and significantly improves the quality.
In 2016, athleisure was popularized by Rihanna and Beyonce, who introduced it to mainstream culture with the help of Topshop and Puma. They also used Instagram to launch their commercial successes. Today, Beyonce’s brand of athleisure, Ivy Park, is the most followed in its category on Instagram. This was accompanied by celebrity-backed brands like Fabletics and Doyoueven.
Instagram turned a sporty trend into an integrated lifestyle. You will find tons of selfie-ready and kinetic details in “behind-the-scenes” contexts. Many celebrities and fitness experts began to mix and match leggings with other non-sportswear, which made their outfits more versatile and encouraged their millions of followers towards a more relaxed look.
The celebrities are open about their lives on social media and they also sponsor athleisure brands. Fabletics, an American brand, has a large number of celebrities and influencers who promote their products. These include Maddie Zeigler and Madelaine Petsch.
Indie activewear brands: Integrity and authenticity at the core of their brand
Traditional athletic brands were able to tap into the performance-only market, but new entrants are filling the gap with client-centric designs and merchandising rework. These Digitally Native Vertical Brands, or DNVBs, do not rely on celebrity endorsement and have little to no advertising. This helps them build authentic brands.
These brands are able to relate to clients by embracing real women’s bodies. They have been able to successfully market themselves as lifestyle brands and found niches that consumers can relate to, which has allowed them to thrive in a highly competitive market.
Product segmentation can lead to innovation:
1. Lululemon: Instead of traditional sizing, Lululemon has divided its yoga pants into different categories like “hugged”, “naked”, relaxed, tight, and held-in. Each serves a purpose in the customer’s journey.
2. Sweaty Betty. The British brand Sweaty Betty started as a solution to shapeless sportswear. It offered understated colors such as grey, or navy, and a high-quality, well-constructed product.
3. Wone: Kristin Hildebrand was the former Women’s Creative Director at Nike and launched a premium athleisure brand. Wone is the only female brand to use a fabric that is 35% lighter than other comparable fabrics, dries 75% quicker than others on the market, and can withstand 50,000 washes.
4. DAY/WON is a brand that makes size-inclusive clothing. The brand was founded by Candice Huffine, a body-positive model. After struggling to find athleisure, Candice Huffine launched her own activewear brand. Today, the brand is available for women of all sizes. The range is inclusive and includes sizes from 0 up to 32.
5. Boody: Athleisure is meant to last, and Boody represents sustainable fashion. Organic bamboo from China is used in the brand’s products. It is harvested with only water and no pesticides and dried to make usable fabrics.
Marshal Cohen, NPD Group’s chief retail industry advisor, believes convenience is the strongest ratchet effect in Athleisure.
“I am often asked if I think the athleisure trend will fade away. It is difficult to return to something else when you have comfort, function and fashion. Our AI solution analyzes millions of kinetic details from social media every day to enable any fashion brand to embrace the athleisure trend, and deliver the product design that their clients want.”