In 2016, Nike CEO – Mark Parker – made a bold declaration that “Leggings are the new denim”. And who can discredit that fact? Somehow this style paradox, that combines relaxation and activity, has become popular across the board. Everyone from traditional sportswear houses and reputed retail stores to celebrities are rushing to have a stake in the genre. We’ve already discussed what athleisure is, but now it’s time to understand why this trend has enticed the world.
It’s a Lifestyle.
You are what you wear. In essence, fashion reveals a lot about what a generation values. Unlike the formal past that required a tailored suit to uphold public decorum, there have been a couple of shifts in lifestyle perspective. The millennial generation, which currently makes up the largest segment of the workforce, has been moving towards a healthier lifestyle. What successful athleisure brands have perfected is their ability to create an emotional connection between the customer and the product. They’re not only selling the items but the idea of the lifestyle they represent.
Then there’s the fact that social conventions on clothing has been steadily decreasing. From the classroom to the boardroom, the rules in appropriate formal wear have become more flexible. This is because millennials are placing more emphasis on comfort and increased functionality. People have things to do and places to be; being weighed down by wardrobe decisions is not part of the schedule.
It’s worth mentioning that there is a percentage of this trend’s demographic that ascribe to it for conservation purposes. Some conscious consumers opt for athleisure to invest in a few quality pieces so as to own less, without compromising on comfort, flexibility or appearance.
The Social Gen.
Since we’ve already established that millennials affect the spending culture, it’s important to note that their spending gravitates more towards shared experiences than the acquisition of things. It’s the reason why the wanderlust bug strongly encourages them to splurge on activity-packed extravagant holidays. The kind that require comfort and stylish functionality.
It’s also the reason why they are social in their fitness activities as well. Young adults, particularly female millennials, interact more with other fitness enthusiasts than the previous generation. In fact, they’re attending more class-based programs to purposely workout with others; even on Fridays! Don’t forget the other spectrum of being social; aka social media. It’s not a secret that everyone is basically addicted to it. So, as they share their experiences with their followers, gym related or not, they want to do so with aesthetically appealing apparel.
Inclusive is its Mantra
While traditional sportswear brands continue to expand into athleisure, a lot of niche and luxury brands have joined the bandwagon. What’s great about this is that these brands have come into the industry to satisfy the garment demands for consumers across the board.
It has led to celebrities releasing their stand alone or collaborative lines, high-end retailers such as Net-a-Porter creating a designated sports channel and Haute Couture houses releasing collections dedicated to the trend. Even traditional sportswear companies are collaborating with top designers for fresh takes on ready-to-wear collections. For example, Adidas and Yohji Yamamoto or Nike and Balmain’s creative director Olivier Rousteing. There’s really something for everyone, whether you like mainstream or niche products.
One theory suggests that as the jeans-trend began to fade, Nike released an assortment of sneakers in new colours. This addition was met with positive monetary, proving that the market was craving apparel that wasn’t neutral and limited diversity. The results inspired other retailers to do the same in both footwear and apparel. Now designers are playing with different materials, textures and patterns to provide a more eclectic offering. Think Donna Karan and here cashmere leggings!
But they aren’t stopping there. The past few years has seen the inclusion of cutting-edge technology integrated into timeless aesthetics. Brands are investing in research and development to create products that exponentially improve functionality, fit and performance. The industry has even taken existing tech to repurpose and integrate into lifestyle via athleisure and its accessories. And the more tech that goes into construction and the fabric used, the more it can be justified as a premium luxury item.
With apparel trends typically lasting around 10 years, there’s unquestionably opportunities in designer athleisure. It can be argued from a practical and emotional perspective. The former being that it looks at what target markets/audiences want and supplies the demand while fitting into their lifestyle. The latter, motivating consumers by the perceived lifestyle benefits of the clothing. Ultimately, as a designer, it’s a field worth considering.