Bringing spandex back: Everything you need to know about athleisure
“Athleisure is not a fad, it’s a lifestyle. It is just going to continue to grow especially where activewear merges into streetwear”
What is athleisure?
If you thought lycra was something we left in the ‘90s then think again. “Athleisure”, which refers to the rise of comfortable, casual clothing that is also fashionable, has become such a big deal that the word has found its way into the Oxford English dictionary.
Leggings, and even jeggings, need no longer be peeled off after a gym session but can worn proudly to brunch afterwards — or even teamed with a pair of heels at the office.
Why has it become a “thing”?
The fashion business has caught onto the fact that men and women want to look stylish while they sweat.
How did they work this out? Well, Gigi Hadid, Beyonce and the Kardashian clan have gone a long way to promoting the cause by showing that loungewear worn creatively (paired variously with bomber jackets, sunnies, an oversized tee or some bling) can be seriously fierce.
The power of social media cannot be ignored when it comes to the rise of athleisure. Instagram influencers clutching green juices while wearing cutting edge activewear has fuelled the trend hugely.
Big sportswear brands have been quick to respond and so have the fashionistas, such as Givenchy’s Ricardo Tisci designing capsule collections for Nike and Stella McCartney’s continuing collaboration with Adidas.
Who’s buying it?
Gym bunnies aren’t your only potential clientele. The beauty of athleisure is that it is starting to extend into other areas of modern life.
So, if you have access to customers who are professionals, parents, bright young things or anyone who likes to look good while they race around at speed, then you should stock athleisure. Or perhaps even buy a range.
It is now a billion-dollar industry globally and is showing no sign of slowing despite having first emerged in 2014.
Last year retailers across the Britain and America increased their activewear offerings by 22 per cent, leading to a 27 per cent jump in full-priced sell outs, according to research company Edited.
Sales of trainers have already overtaken heels in the UK and athleisure is giving the (seriously bullish) denim industry a run for its money as consumers reject skinny jeans in favour of leggings.
Even China, a key market indicator for luxury, is going casual with sales of Adidas growing 38 per cent to $2.7 billion last year.
Will it still be important next year?
Yes, says Tully Lou, an Australian health and wellness blogger turned athleisure designer.
“Athleisure is not a fad, it’s a lifestyle. It is just going to continue to grow especially where activewear merges into streetwear,” she says.
“It’s comfortable and trans-seasonal so you get your money’s worth. I’ve also seen it slowly creeping into the workplace as well. Functional and stylish will be the way of the future.”
What products are going to be big in Spring/Summer 2018?
The industry is predicting that we will reach peak legging in 2017. But crop tops, trainers and anything in bright colours and zingy patterns will be a good bet to stock for next year.
“Expect more of a unisex vibe so you can throw on your boyfriend’s sweater but it still looks stylish paired with a pair of leggings, killer kicks and a leather jacket,” says Lou.
Self-styled “athleisure expert” and Instagram influencer Hope Allen agrees. “I predict that over the next 12 months we’ll see a shift from neutrals, earthy tones and monochrome colour schemes towards bold patterns and bright colours,” she says.
“Matching tracksuits and platform heels will also be making a comeback as a major trend.”
Don’t forget the men
While women undoubtedly dominate this sector if you’re buying a range you’d be foolish to forget about the men.
What will the boys be wearing? “A tailored pair of chinos and a really good quality slim tee in three no fail colours: black, white and grey/marle,” says Lou.
You can stay on top of the latest trends by keeping a close eye on Instagram and there are lots of other tips here . But this can be hard work and will mean the trend is already making its way to mainstream which leaves you rushing to place orders in time. A savvy option would be to check out the trade shows for a look at costs and styles whilst gathering as much free info as you can from trend forecasters like WGSN.
Pure is coming up in July and stocks a curated athleisure range. You can also attend free seminars at the show from WGSN which will cover next year’s trends in more detail.