There was a time when sportswear and casual dress were categorically different, but in the modern environment, designers and retailers are looking for more ways to blend athletic gear and everyday garments into one new offering, Athleisure.
It makes sense that with the rising gym culture, customers are going to demand more fashionable options, but the trend has moved beyond the gym and perforated the loungewear market.
“These days, activewear doesn’t just stay in the gym, it is being worn outside the gym as well. The sales of workout apparel such as; sweatshirts, yoga pants, and leggings has risen 13% within the year and now account for almost 17% of the total clothing retail market,” said Linda Huang, designer, Lasculpte.
Athleisure has become so big that retailers have begun launching new categories, for example the Net-A-Sporter spin off website dedicated to luxury gym gear, not to mention the influx of new brands built specifically around the trend.
“With more companies popping up every week, there is now a huge amount of competition offering a wide range of options from low to high end. As the Athleisure market grows people are becoming more accustomed to comfortable and high tech casual wear. This won’t just affect activewear companies but also other clothing markets,” said Gregory O’Connor, founder, Morfa.
O’Connor spoke about how athleisure has introduced new technological focussed design processes that take into account the engineering of fabrics and cut in order to achieve new and practical purposes, for example anti-bacterial fabrics to combat body odour.
However, the trend extends further than the typical gym pants and top. The industry has cast its gaze on workout accessories as well, for example the yoga mats coming out of New Zealand brand MuMu.
“Our goal is to be in a yoga class and be surrounded by beautiful yoga mats. All women need a beautiful yoga mat,” said Lara Jane, designer, MuMu.
Taking everything into consideration, it is no surprise then that the share price of Lululemon rose 20 percent in the three months leading up to February 2016.
“Sports brands focusing on women such as Sweaty Betty and Lululemon have helped redefine the female sports market by selling fashionable and feminine gym and yoga clothes that are comfortable,” said Amanda Lintott, Mintel.
The trend also falls in line with studies that suggest millennials are looking for function in their purchases. A Mintel study suggested that there needed to be justification for the higher price point, otherwise the age group was less inclined to give the product any value, and justification came in the form of additional performance.
Chain brands have come on board as well, with retailers including Marks and Spencer, Gap and H&M all introducing their own sports lines in competition to the small boutique brands.
“The athleisure trend towards sporty style is not only influencing what we wear at, and to the gym, but is also having an impact on our everyday wardrobes,” said Soozie Jenkinson, head of design, Marks and Spencer.
Jenkinson explained how yoga pants and tights are becoming an attractive alternative to the skinny jean, which has long been the go to staple for a multi-functional wardrobe.