The global athleisure market is not only moving on a promising trajectory in terms of size and volume but is also assuming new dimensions with offerings, shopping experiences, and social and environmental impact. This blog highlights some of the interesting features and developments concerning the global athleisure market.

Technology like Never Before

Talking about technology in athleisure, we are not talking about run-of-the-mill solutions like eCommerce platforms or inventory management software for athletic wear brands but visible and tangible product innovations.

Technology is influencing design, value, and delivery in athleisure fashion in many transforming ways. Here, we are not talking about back-end technological solutions like order fulfilment software or inventory management software for athletic wear brands but how value is created and delivered in athleisure. On the top of that list is smart clothing. These smart wears come with biometric sensors and trackers capable of reporting various body metrics in real-time. The infusion of technology at the level of apparel or footwear is a huge leap from the currently popular smart accessories like fitness bands. Very close to smart apparel and footwear is the creation and use of fabrics capable of regulating body temperature to a certain extent and self-cleaning features. This is another remarkable elevation to our evolutionary knowledge of the correlations between colour fabrics and body temperature control. For example, light colours and fabrics like cotton or khadi are always preferred for clothing during summer. But with technological innovations in textile science, we will be able to dress past beyond these barriers of colours and fabrics. Business owners, aspiring entrepreneurs, and other stakeholders thinking of venturing into the athleisure business line must stay updated on these technological developments as these can shake business models.

True Athleisure as Luxury

Currently, the element of luxury is inherent to true athleisure fashion and it will remain the same till value chains do not have access to economies of scale with mass-level popularity and demand for athleisure merchandise. The use of high-end fabrics and the novelty of design processes is another reason for the presence of the luxury element in athleisure fashion. Focus on ethical production and sustainability measures, something the fashion industry is subject to, also escalates the cost of production. These factors tend to bind athleisure fashion into the realms of luxury pricing. As a result, the target segments for true athleisure are limited. However, buyers in these segments are willing to pay premium prices if the standards of design and quality match their expectations and reasoning.

Big brands like Nike, Adidas and Puma as well as new premium players like Lululemon, Alo Yoga, and Athleta seeking to make their presence felt in athleisure markets around the world speak of their conviction in treating athleisure as luxury fashion.

Impact of Inclusivity

Athleisure is contributing to the unshackling of many antique ideals. Going by conventions, the standards of an ‘ideal body shape’ are dictated by fashion brands and models. However, several contemporary stakeholders in the fashion industry changed that perception for good. Today, it is rare to see mannequins in fashion stores. Fashion brands are represented by models with diverse body structures, abilities, and age groups. Although athleisure is not the harbinger of these changes athleisure begins from these standards. It is reflected in the essence of athleisure and the variance in size offerings of apparel which now ranges from XXS to 4XL. It is something that also coincides with common sense that if a product is intended for people aged over 40, why should it be promoted with models in their 20s.

The diverse functionalities or product features in athleisure merchandise are also enhancing their utility to attract different users with different requirements. Adjustable straps or magnetic closures are good examples here. Why should someone be bound to conventional product designs? Customers with more advanced and specific needs could relate to this.

Athleisure also coincides with the idea of ‘easy dressing’. The scope of athleisure has expanded to include product designs for a wide range of needs covering fitting comfort, space and breathability, flexibility in movement, and more.

Emphasis on Sustainability

Today, customers are more aware and conscious than ever before about climate and environment. Although this concern affects people from all age groups, the most active and influential ones are from Millennials and Gen Z. These two groups play a big role in driving economies. In retail, they represent the lion’s share of markets. Sustainability consulting experts in the athleisure industry are often found emphasising that athleisure fashion is also seen through the same lenses of scrutiny as for any other fashion sector. There are several aspects of athleisure value chains that attract attention on the standards of sustainability:

·         Sources of procurement of raw materials, quality of raw materials

·         Hazards in storage and logistics

·         Labour conditions across the value chain

·         Production facilities, energy efficiency, carbon footprint

·         Waste management, recycling programs

·         Marketing and promotional efficiency

Environmental activists also keep a vigilant eye on the production and distribution processes maintained by athleisure brands and their value chain partners.

Off later, social media platforms have started playing a big role in keeping people informed on global issues including corporate behaviour on the parameters of sustainability.

Governments around the world also realise the sensitivity of the issues concerning global climate and environment. This often results in the creation of a tight regulatory framework governing the supply chain activities of companies cutting across industries including athleisure fashion. Pressure from citizens and environmental activist groups also has a compelling force.

Experiential Retail

Athleisure is not yet a mass phenomenon at the global level but the level of competition is already intense in several promising and growing markets. There are already too many brands in such markets trying to impress a relatively small base of customers. This is where experiential retail chips in. The objective of experiential retail is to provide a memorable shopping experience to customers. It helps retailers overcome the limitations of the transactional nature of selling and shopping. By doing this, retailers are able to forge a better connection with customers. It enhances the scope of revisits and infuses brand loyalty. Some of the latest developments in this space are interactive product testing, community development, and the use of AR/VR.

In interactive product testing, customers can experience a simulated environment to test the features and functionalities of products. A simple example of this is the setting up of a rock climbing wall with adherence to all safety measures. It will help customers test the grip of footwear or the stretchability of apparel under staged but relevant conditions. Such simulation can also be provided with the use of AR and VR solutions depending on the products in question. Community spaces give customers with interests in similar sports or activities to come together and do more.

A Meeting Point of Physical and Emotional Fitness

From fabrics and design to technology and community, athleisure fashion provides a reason and support to kick-start our physical fitness and emotional well-being endeavours. In this context, athleisure is not just vogue but also a suitable fashion partner to work on our physical fitness and emotional well-being.

The fashion we don is also a mood enhancer elevating our self-esteem and self-confidence. For so many people, even planning about what to wear or what should be the appearance is an exciting enterprise. Athleisure adds purpose to fashion.

Many studies have found that physical and emotional states strengthen one another. For instance, after a stretch of swim, we tend to feel more active than before. Athleisure can also provide the much-needed nudge to get us moving. Even buying track wear can be the spark needed to start working on follow-up actions like finding a gym or finding a track for jogging. ‘New’ has immense power that gives us small spurts of energy to do activities that are good for our physical and emotional fitness.

Quick Recap

The global athleisure market is not only growing in terms of size and volume but is also assuming new magnitudes with offerings, shopping experiences, and social and environmental impact. It is important for fashion brands, retailers and aspiring retailers to stay updated on the trends and developments of the industry. Technological advancements in athleisure fashion design like smart clothing and fabrics that can regulate body temperatures more effectively are revolutionising athleisure merchandise values. In addition to technology, there are many other reasons why true athleisure is still in the realm of luxury fashion. The use of high-end fabrics and modern design processes is one of them. As athleisure is still not a mass phenomenon in terms of fashion evenly across the globe and a majority of countries, the benefits of economies of scale and proof-of-concept business models are yet to arrive. Athleisure is also unshackling many traditionally held notions of ideal body shapes and structures, the definition of fashion models, the universality of user requirements, and so on. However, even though athleisure might not yet be as popular as any other conventional fashion customs, the competition among fewer brands for a small base of customers is already intense. This is making fashion brands and retailers turn to the aspect of service and customer experience in wooing customers. These characteristics and developments in the global athleisure fashion market also partially explain the growing demand for athleisure brand marketing and advertising services. Getting registered on any prominent B2B marketplace for athleisure manufacturers and retailers also helps learn more about markets, competition, offerings, and players. Fashion brands and retailers should also seek to attend athleisure trade shows and conferences and networking events for the athleisure industry. They need to also keep a tab on athleisure industry trends and reports.

For enquiries on retail and eCommerce solutions for athleisure retailers or to speak to one of our expert omnichannel consultants, please drop us a message and we will reach out to you.


How to maintain ethical sourcing for my retail athleisure business?

To ensure that the products you procure from distributors and suppliers meet the prevalent and required industry standards of ethical sourcing and sustainability, here are some of the recommended actions.

Establish the role, requirements and deliverables required from finalised suppliers and distributors in the value chain.

Maintain stringency in the selection of suppliers and distributors in terms of experience and expertise in the concerned value chain and all other criteria relevant to your business and industry. This should also cover all applicable legal and regulatory conditions. Look for certifications from recognised bodies and check for updated regulatory compliance from governing bodies.

Conduct physical audits of plants/factories, warehouses, logistical systems, materials, QA-QC measures, labour conditions, value-addition processes, energy efficiency, carbon footprint, waste disposal, etc.

Develop sound contracts and agreements to secure the desired performance. Be a process-driven enterprise by developing and implementing SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) for all business processes and operations.