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The Rise And Rise Of The Athleisure Wave

Surely you must have gotten wind of fast fashion retailers giving sportswear brands a run for their money in recent times? Say hello to athleisure aka performance wear aka active wear lines! It is described by Wikipedia as ‘a trend in fashion in which clothing designed for workouts and other athletic activities is worn in other settings, such as during work, casual or social occasions.’

While I found it difficult to trace the roots of this trend, the 2012 Olympics and companies like Lululemon, a listed Canadian activewear retailer are said to have contributed to making athleisure popular amongst consumers in the UK and USA respectively. The trend can roughly be traced back to 2003 with sports brands like Adidas & Puma launching active wear lines in collaboration with high-end designers. Rising fitness consciousness, casualization of dress codes and increased comfort and functionality of sportswear are seen as activating factors to this trend. According to Morgan Stanley, the athleisure sector is currently worth over USD 270bn globally and is predicted to grow another 30% by 2020, especially in Asia and the US.

The widespread adoption of sportswear on a daily basis has resulted in a consumer base that has become accustomed to the comfort of stretchy materials and elastic waistbands. Consumers are not willing to sacrifice this new-found everyday comfort, nor are they willing to compromise on style. Apparel retailers (fast fashion, premium wear & high end) foresee a considerable opportunity to tap into consumers’ increasing desire for products that are both functional and trendy. By integrating these lines into their offerings, fast fashion retailers like Gap, H&M, Uniqlo and New Look are surely giving sportswear brands like Nike, Adidas & Puma a serious run for their money. The luxury segment is also aiming for a share in the leisure fitness pie with the likes of Alexander Wang, Louis Vuitton, Victoria’s Secret and Net-a-Porterlaunching lines in the category. Bridging the gap between fast fashion retailers and high-end brands are premium sportswear brands like Sweaty Betty, Athleta,Alo Yoga and Under Armour dedicated to active wear. Not to be left behind are denim companies like Diesel, Levis& Wrangler (to name a few) which are hopping on to the ‘soft dressing’ wave by shifting focus towards manufacturing lightweight knit denim. Many apparel retailers describe yoga as an inspiration for their merchandise.

Athleisureis largely popular in the UK & USA and was primarily dedicated to women, but in recent times, the focus has moved to the men’s category as well. Influencers to this trend include celebrities like Kate Hudson, Beyonce, Rihanna& Heidi Klum who have endorsed and some have even launched their own athleisure lines! Athleisure has only picked up in India in 2016 and has a long climb before the trend reaches the maturity stage. Several Indian fashion designers have launched lines inspired by the trend.

So much so, the word athleisure has even found its way to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary in 2016! Don’t breathe easy yet, because athleisure is already being touted to evolve to ‘streetnic’ which is described as technical, stretch and street wear with focus on technically advanced features, with design and aesthetics considered secondary.

This Article is written by Saroj Javeri PGPB Class of 2017

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