In less than a decade, athleisure has traversed the world of fashion trends to become a product category in its own right. The ongoing health and wellness movement backs the trend completely, transforming it from a fad to fortune.
While the younger advocates of athletic apparel might be following this trend for its social media credit of ‘fitspo’, the segment’s rise can also be ascribed to the increase in casual workplaces and a growth in the number of people working remotely, or from home.
Further, fuelling the athleisure fire is China’s newfound love for toned and athletic body-type. The seismic shift is driven by young celebrities like Yuan Shanshan and Zhang Jingchu, who continuously share their workout regimens on social platforms like Sina Weibo and WeChat, to their millions of followers. In addition, data from Euromonitor states that China’s fitness boom is expected to help the sportswear market overtake its luxury counterpart within the next two years.
From Tory Burch and Versus Versace to Lululemon and H&M, every fashion brand or retailer, from top to bottom, wants a piece of the athleisure cake. As a result, athletic-mix clothing is now readily available at every price point for every buyer’s choice. High-fashion designer brands like Alexander Wang, Balenciaga, Vetements and Emilio Pucci, to name a few, are all referencing sports infiltrations through silhouettes like sweatshirts, tracksuits and puffer jackets.
While the hoopla around athleisure’s future is endless, the trend will continue to flourish as a segment just like denim, rooting itself in the idea of comfort and functionality.
For men’s fashion, ‘function is always placed over form’ and will continue to be so. Florence’s Pitti Immagine Uomo, a premier men’s fashion and lifestyle trade fair, also plans to direct its attention towards athletic bent labels for 2018; the show even announced a special collaboration between activewear labels and innovative fabric mill Reda.
The market is flooded with brands that have an urban/streetwear bent, if not aiming at the complete concentration on performance clothing. Womenswear is still highly trend-driven. On the other side, street/sportswear labels have to keep a track of sub-trends like fem-leisure, a pleasant mix of athletic and ultra-girly clothing, showing a different eye to the fickle market.
Interestingly, as a term, ‘athleisure’ might have actually topped this year, but the essence of sporty-luxe clothing will hold sway. People aim for comfort, but particularly for women, the focus is slowly moving towards athleisure’s elitist cousin, ‘athluxury’ or clothing with a sportswear nod that remixes extravagance with utilitarian comfort.
Looking ahead, functional details and performance fabrics will definitely drive global growth. People now choose to dress smart and go beyond the basic serviceable idea of the regular, ‘covering your body in striking outfits’.
Sports and Outerwear Buyer for Canadian retailer Harry Rosen, Belinda Yu clarifies, “Performance wear extends across categories. In outerwear, we see stretch nylon down jackets and fabrics that keep your body at a consistent temperature as well as improve water resistance, memory yarns and ventilation. In suiting, we see performance fabrics that wear comfortably on long-haul flights, which can also be folded and still look impeccably professional upon arrival.”
According to Euromonitor, performance wear was valued at the whopping US $ 78 billion in 2016. The category has superseded the fashion and accessories market with a 27 per cent rise in full-price activewear sales.
Another report from Morgan Stanley Research states that the US activewear market could see more than 30 per cent growth in sales by 2020, whereas, in Europe, a 5 per cent growth in average annual sales is expected in the next five years.
The idea that you can have clothes that will do more, last longer, are trans-seasonal and can be worn socially as well as in the comfort of your home, is an idea that sounds like a trend which is here to stay. As we move ahead, designers will fine tune their primary collections to have an active twist, and value addition will often come in the form of elevated functionality.
Athluxury aims to sell a way of life to people. This modus operandi essentially brings us back to the aspirational side of fashion. In this case, aesthetic is just as important as functionality. Sports brands are, hence, calling in fashion designers to give their products a trendy mainstream touch. Stella McCartney and Yohji Yamamoto’s Y-3 for Adidas set examples on the same.
An interesting driving force in this segment are the well-marketed celebrity collaborations like that of Rihanna for Fenty Puma, Heidi Klum for New Balance and Behati Prinsloo for Juicy Couture. Celebrities are even launching their own athleisure brands like Kate Hudson’s Fabletics and Beyoncé’s Ivy Park to capitalise on the insatiable hunger of this market.
As influence peddlers like celebrities and bloggers continue to advocate for the growth of athleisure, the ‘smart sports meet luxury’ market is only going to get more lucrative in the coming years.