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Athleisure: The Activewear/Daywear Hybrid

25 January, 2016

Wiink BCN / Wiink BCN

The line between daywear and activewear gives rise to ‘athleisure’, a trend that “is here to stay”.

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Brides sporting trainers, executives shod in sneakers and directors wearing track pants would be extreme examples of what is known as ‘athleisure’ and which we can see in store windows and on catwalks. This trend posits sports-inspired designs in contexts completely unrelated to physical exercise. A few years ago, we would have considered them unfeasible combinations, but they are now increasingly common among the collections of designers and labels. “Just a few seasons back it was called sports-deluxe, in the same way that running used to be called jogging. We are talking about clothing with a sports-like cut and a touch of design, which can be worn in daily life or at the gym,” is the definition given by fashion designer Krizia Robustella when we ask about the trend. Her collections have always been based on what is now known as athleisure and which is booming, thanks partly to the rise in fast-fashion brands. Indeed, its popularity is growing so much that trend expert and Activewear Manager for trend forecasting firm WGSN, Clare Varga, says, “Nearly every day I get asked about athleisure’s potential as a global trend and about how long it will last. Of course I say yes, it is a global trend. In fact, everything points to it continuing to grow, and to grow strongly, over the next five years”. This will of course have the support of consumers who, according to Varga, whether they have an active, sporty lifestyle or not, “will get behind this trend because it involves functional, comfortable clothing which is elegant at the same time”.

 

Why athleisure is taking off

Beyond the extreme examples listed above, athleisure is in fact the definition “of a lifestyle” rather than a fashion trend. Varga says the reasons it came about and its popularity lie in a cultural sea change. “Society is moving towards a healthier lifestyle and that has led to a desire for functional, contemporary clothing.” In this regard, the designer and creator of sportswear brand Wiink, Mariaclara Liquori, agrees. “This trend is not a fleeting fashion and has all the features that suggest it is here to stay” and become another defining element of daywear.

The WGSN Activewear Director says the word ‘athleisure’ was coined in 1976 and it is only in the past three years that it has become such a popular term in the fashion trade. So great is its current social repercussion that the Merriam Webster dictionary recently decided to include it in its pages. Varga, with more than 16 years’ experience in product design and creation, says that the importance and appeal of comfortable clothing explains the trend’s success. “People like to dress elegantly and at the same time wear functional clothing. We shouldn’t underestimate this combination’s winning ability!”

 

Local designers get in on the trend

“Seven years ago, when I started designing and showing, I was already basing my work on, for example, designing clothing in fabric used to make tracksuits – comfortable fabrics,” Robustella says, who appeared at last summer’s 080 Barcelona Fashion with a collection based on sports fabrics, irreverent patterns and bold colours set off with matching-toned customised Reebok high tops.

Also at the last 080, WGSN said in its trend report that the most popular hashtags used on social networks in recent months had included words associated with fitness and a healthy lifestyle, such as #belfie, #fitspo o #healthie. Another reason for the popularity of the athleisure trend is the important role of collaborations between major labels and sports firms that have come about in response to growing consumer demand. Examples include the firms Adidas, Stella McCartney and Alexander Wang.

 

Who buys it

According to Varga, customers who choose clothes that could be part of this trend can fit into four or five different categories. The fashion expert explains that brands must understand there is no one customer for athleisure fashion, but various. She gives the following examples. “We could talk about the ‘active all day’ people, i.e., those who choose to wear this sort of clothing for any occasion. Then there are people dubbed ‘fash-leisure’. They blend fitness apparel with other fashion items. The key for the future of this trend is to understand all these ‘tribes’ and their consumer needs.” In fact, to properly understand what each of these customers wants, Liquori says, “it is very important to boost the comfort of fitness wear” whether it is combined with daywear or not. “Although they were a little slow on the uptake, chain stores have now understood the public need to work out and have clothes that match their fashion preferences,” the Wiink founder says. “It is essential to know the demand and needs of the people who will wear this apparel. Above all, it is important to prioritize comfort,” explains this businesswoman who launched Wiink, currently operating out of an online store, in 2015. Liquori says that American, Canadian and Italian brands are good benchmarks within this trend. Varga narrows her selection down further and references the firm Carbon 38, which has just launched its first athleisure label on the market. Also abroad, Tory Burch, with the collection Tory Sport, is a good example of sports-inspired clothing which the WGSN expert says can be worn both inside and outside of the gym. In Krizia Robustella’s opinion, one notable designer is Britain’s Ashish Gupta. And here in Spain, Varga likes the work that Mango and Oysho are doing to understand the needs of this new lifestyle which is penetrating the fashion market with increasing spirit and making ever-more headway.

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