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Product Knowledge
January 2016

Athleisure will continue

to grow

The athleisure trend, where consumers dress active all day, is a global phenomenon that will continue to grow, writes RHIANAH RHODE

The global sportswear market — currently valued at $263-bn — is expected to grow 24% to approximately $350-bn over the next five years — with sales from active apparel expected to account for $178-bn of this, reports trend forecaster WGSN.

The trend is driven by consumers shifting toward a more active and healthy lifestyle and desire for comfortable clothing without compromising style, says Clare Varga, director of Active at WGSN. “While not all of us can include five workouts in our hectic schedules, we increasingly want to look like we can. Ultimately athleisure fills that need.”

Other factors such as constant developments, innovations, designs and technologies from the sportswear industry also help ensure continued growth.

From must-have sneaker drops, to cutting-edge wearables, to sci-fi fabric technologies … the renewal is constantly taking place, explains Varga.

Different style tribes

There are five clear consumer style tribes that have emerged from the athleisure trend and should be understood in order to be successful in this sector.

  • The AllDayActives, which consists of both men and women, lead busy lifestyles and want transitional active wear that offers a lot of functionality, without compromising on style.
  • These consumers want performance fabrics and are very brand aware. They wear stylish and contemporary performance apparel, which seamlessly integrates into their regular wardrobe — enabling them to move from gym, to cycle commute, to after work drinks.

  • The Protein Princesses, have emerged from the health and fitness boom and are female consumers in their early 20’s, who are all about aspirational fitness, lifestyle and looking good, explains Varga.
  • Working out five to six times a week is a part of their schedule and want active brands that offer a great deal of style. These ladies are constantly looking for the latest gym clothing.

  • The Ath-Fakers are the definition of athleisure and wear their active wear for every activity as a result of its convenience and their desire to be comfortable.
  • This woman is brand savvy, and prefers female-focused sports brands that offer flattering fits, comfort and style. “For every one pair of jeans this girl used to buy, she’s actually buying two pairs of leggings. So neglect this consumer at your peril,” adds Varga.

  • The Fash-Leisures are all about styling, look and labels. Fitness and an active lifestyle are not important in their choices and they see function and comfort as bonuses.
  • These female and male consumers mix premium sportswear and non-athletic items.

    Girls dress down using contrasting styles and textures to create quirky juxtapositions. Well-known sports brands are matched with limited edition products in this female consumer’s wardrobe.

    Boys, on the other hand, combine limited-edition and premium products into cool and relaxed urban sports looks.

  • The Ath-Luxers are masters of transitional dressing and have elevated sportswear to premium levels to the point where one wouldn’t even realise they are wearing sportswear, says Varga.
  • These consumers see a workout as luxury time and will be dressed for any occasion from working out, to the office or having drinks with friends. It’s all about balancing style, performance and comfort, and will ensure that everything is finished off with a key accessory — “be it the latest jewellery-like wearable tracker or a must-have beaker water bottle that is designed specifically not to leak in their Prada bag,” she says.

    Expectations for trend

    The trend is currently more popular among women, but is expected to grow among men, which will result in more dedicated men’s brands and retailers moving into the sector.

    The women’s fitness youth market could potentially flourish from targeting fashion millennials who grew up in the health and fitness era.

    A number of active-specific beauty products are being developed and designed specifically for use during workouts and busy lifestyles, which is expected to grow fast among the Protein Princesses and Ath-Luxers.

    Technology and innovations in textiles will become more important and new self-healing and intuitive fabrics that will look and feel like non-performance fabrics will be created.

    These will become the norm and be expected by the savvy tech consumer, says Varga.

    Other expectations include a shift towards stylish instead of overtly sporty product designs, which will help render the term athleisure obsolete.

    Basic sport styles being used as everyday wear will become a norm, with designs and fabrics improving to offer more comfort and functionality.

    Travel will become a part of design consideration, resulting in adaptable and convertible styles, products with stain-resistant anti-bacterial properties and self-powered smart accessories.

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