What do we want? Athleisure! How do we want it? Well, according to the latest report from Trendalytics, published in June 2017, we have some defined needs and wants. Which, as a designer, is great news. While locally produced athleisure is sparse on the continent, many designers may have their reservations on branching into athleisure. After all, there are several reports indicating that the athleisure industry is oversaturated –with over 900 and 500 brands in Womenswear and menswear respectively.
Granted, competition is fierce, but reports show that this trend / lifestyle has no intention of slowing down. Even the jeans industry is adapting to it and releasing denim designs that incorporate new stretch fabrics and fibres. Seriously, Euromonitor International says jeans with effective sweat management is a reality. An article by the Business Wire pegs this to its evolution into a sophisticated trend that impacts multiple industries and categories. So what exactly is keeping it going in 2017? Here are some of the findings highlighted in Trendalytics’ annual report – Athleisure Pulse Check – to help inspire and shape your brand.
Most Shopped Items
The IT items of this trend are sneakers and sports bras. In the last year, the search from sneakers has grown by 18% and in particular Stan Smith collaborations with Pharrell Williams and Colette has hit 304% since 2014. White sneakers seems to be enjoying increased popularity, with brands like Cole Haan, Greats and Adidas Gazelle reaping the rewards. It has also made its way to high-end designer market with Fendi and Balenciaga offering sneakers priced as much as USD $1,500. The searches for sports bras went up by 15% last year, with emphasis on seamless, breathable sports bras.
Core categories that saw a surge in searches were tracksuits, hoodies and of course leggings. Interestingly, the search for ‘joggers’ is higher than sweatpants by 61%. While Athleisure has inspired offshoots of the trend that are making their way into active essentials. There’s athluxe which exists for the women looking for more than a necessary budget buy. These are the fashion statements that can ran at over $100 for one pair of pants, all in the name of luxury.
Then there’s ‘femleisure’ which has embraced a more diverse and embellished range in athleisure. Think lace and mesh. You can thank the runway for making mesh a staple fabric, with searches for mesh leggings going up to 63% in 2015. The runway is also responsible for trends such as the “oversized hoodies”, dad hats (which are the new baseball caps) and “bow slides” made an IT item by Rihanna’s Fenty x Puma. In addition, it became in vogue to pronounce your brands insignia proudly on the apparel. Gucci and Ivy Park are just a few of the brands who’ve embraced this Logos and Slogans theme on their products. With top influences wearing these branded items, could this be marketing within marketing? Market-ception?
As mentioned in previous posts, this trend is selling an emotion and experience. Thus, the content has to resonate with consumers in some way. One key way is emphasising on movement and activity. According to Trendalytics, when Carbon38 marketed their product with fitness pros in active poses, they witnessed 70% sell-through rates. When they just used passive models, they only saw 30% sell-through rates. Its thoughtful campaigns that touch on consumer’s habits and behaviours that rope them in.
An effective method of getting this curated content to your consumers is by working with ambassadors such as collaborators and influencers. Consumers are responding best to individuals who they find relatable and interesting. This could be fashion bloggers, fitness instructors and celebrities; if it’s outside the norm, aka athletes, it’s catching people’s eyes. For example, Kyle Jenner’s collaboration with Puma saw an average Puma post receive 20k likes and comments. That’s 25% more engagement! On the continent you can see Blogger Lulama Wolf partnering with Lulo Urban Culture (L.U.C.) for their Autumn/Winter 2016 campaign. There’s also the Swazi-born South African actress and influencer, Amanda Du-pont, whose posts have helped to popularise the trend.
The Consumer’s expectations today have essentially changed. They demand more from their clothes and the accompanying products. Apart from wearable tech, the beauty industry has tapped into the trend. The gym-to street aspect has seen cosmetic companies release their own athleisure collections.
For example, Sweat Cosmetics is a high-performance cosmetics brand that offers makeup that’s workout, meeting and date-night proof. In other words, its makeup that designed to enhance your beauty while keeping you flawless on the go. They had Olympic female athletes test in out to prove that you could get your sweat on without smudging your makeup. In fat, 83% of women reported that it survived an hour-long workout. Apart from being sweat-resistant, they say its all-natural, hypoallergenic & cruelty-free cosmetics with SPF protection.
The Path Less Travelled
Some of the rising bands you’ll see this year, stand out from the 900+ brands by capitalizing on the underserved communities. Yoga and running are areas in athleisure that are already spoken for. However the speciality areas of athleisure, also known as the white space, are less saturated. By identifying the gap in your region, of underserved sports and new fitness trends, new products and brand opportunities will be open to designers looking to get into the athleisure action. For example, Tapout responded to the rising popularity of intense workouts such as Crossfit and MMA (Mixed Martial Arts).
On the other hand, Rapha targeted the cycling community. By starting a clubhouse, they created a shopping destination that cyclists could buy their gear, as well as grab a coffee and a bite to eat with fellow cyclers. They even host regular events that draw in some of the biggest names in the sport.
That leads us to an alternative way of breaking into athleisure. The reinvention of retail space has proved a successful elements for fitness brands. It’s no longer about opening a store to sell clothes, it has to be an experience. One of the first brands to change their approach was Lululemon, which offers complimentary classes in their stores.
Today’s consumer has the advantage of unlimited knowledge via the internet. It isn’t just pro-athletes that are educated n elite technical product anymore. And they aren’t just reading up on it, thanks to curated content, they are actively seeking it. Thus, Athleisure remains relevant by focusing on innovation that appeals to the consumer’s lifestyle technically or aesthetically.
Areas of peaked interest include compression Activewear, which saw the searches reach 22% from last year. Consumers have also expressed an increased consciousness on sun care. Thus there’s been an increasing trend in apparel to incorporate UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) elements. For example, Lily Pulitzer has a UPF 50+ collection that works with weave technique, fabrics such as nylon and polyester and darker hued fabrics for increased such protection.
Nothing gets consumers buzzing like brands breaking tech barriers. It could be with traditional sportswear brands use tech to take their brand to the next level. Under Armour produced the first 3d-printed midsole in 2016 that sold out in 19 minutes. Bolt threads, a San Francisco-based company, announced in 2015 that it was developing a spider silk protein into yarn. Spider silk is stronger than Kevlar and beats the durability Lycra. According to Forbes, it aims to bring products to the market in 2018 and already has a deal with Patagonia.
With the wearable technology industry estimated to be valued at $34 billion by 2020, non-traditional sportswear brands are pushing barriers to merge tech with their apparel for the ultimate athleisure. This includes wrinkle-free work wear made of performance fabrics that are moisture wicking by Mizzen and Main as well as Gant Tech Prep Collection. Ralph Lauren released a PoloTech shirt that tracks the wearers health data via embedded sensors, while, Chaotic Moon Studios – a software firm – developed a sensory tech tattoo that monitors body vitals via electro-conductive ink.
As highlighted throughout this series, understanding and responding to consumer behaviour is what keeps a trend alive. This may be an established trend, but finding your USP and your white space will help your band stand out; even in the event this trend should phase out. Athleisure still remains area that’s yet to be fully embraced on the African continent, with a huge demand from athletes and everyday consumers alike. It’s an opportunity designers shouldn’t overlook nor fear to add their own creative voice to. In the spirit of athleisure future, we’ll leave you with Louis Vuitton Cruise ’17. Their vision of futuristic athleisure and the art of holidaying in Brazil was showcased at the Niteroi Contemporary Art Museum in Rio de Janeiro. What does your African athleisure future look like?