You know the look, you’re probably wearing it right now: leggings, sports bra,
breathable tee and quilted vest? What has been uniform to the Pilates gal and more
over, the Colorado woman, is becoming more popular nationwide. So what do we
call it? Activewear? Athleticwear? Sportswear? Does anyone else think we need a
better word for the gym-to-street sector that has suddenly become the hottest thing
to cover two legs? The latest word for this new trend in fashion is “athleisure,” a
broad category of being appropriate for either athletic or leisure pursuits, or both.
Looking at the number of companies that have since announced they are getting
into the game, with clothes that are described as “après sport” or “studio-to-the office,”
it’s fairly clear that athleisure is becoming bigger than a trend.
The U.S. active-wear market hit $35.1 billion in sales in the 12 months ending in
October 2014, an 8% increase over 2013, The NPD Group, a market-research
company, reports. Workout clothing now represents 17% of the total clothing market,
NPD said. Sales of tailored pants and jeans have declined, NPD analyst Marshal
Lululemon, a public company since 2007,dominates the athleisure market with its
289 stores. The company’s net revenue increased $124.5 million, or 12%, to $1.2 million
for the first three quarters of fiscal 2014 from $1.1 million in the same time period last
Gap’s active brand Athleta, another early entrant into the athleisure market, also
leads the field. In the last three quarters, the number of Athleta stores has grown by
28 to 92 while the company’s core businesses — Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic
— are stable.
Luxury versions of leisure clothes have occupied a niche of fashion for decades
(Juicy Couture’s velour tracksuits were far ahead of this curve), and, of course, a
good deal of these clothes are really no different from the Ts and sweats people
have been buying for years, now just with better tailoring and excellent marketing
Despite the marketing appeal and catchy taglines, athleisure represents a bigger,
and likely permanent, sea change in fashion. It has even started to appear on
designer runways, including those famous couture sneakers from Chanel. The
reasons are many, but the most obvious cause stems from people who are
embracing healthier lifestyles, while also demanding more functionality from their
wardrobes. The need for everyday comfort, too, plays a role, especially for anyone
trying to work fitness into an already overtaxed schedule. Who wants to haul an
extra outfit to work?