Athleisure trend continues to grow as fabrics become “smart”

Athleisure is a current fashion industry movement, enabled by global shifts toward a rise in interest in health and fitness, as well as improved textile materials allowing athletic wear to be more versatile, comfortable and fashionable.

A trend grown out of women wearing yoga pants everywhere (including fancy restaurants) as part of their everyday lifestyle, and prodded by businesses like Lululemon Athletica’s smart marketing campaigns, sportswear, once merely functional rather than stylish is no longer exclusively worn in gyms but everywhere else by millennials and other fitness-conscious consumers.

The athleisure market is characterised by continuous innovation and brand differentiation, with the global athleisure sector valued at over USD$270 billion with a 30% growth in 2020. This trend shows no signs of slowing down, and due to innovation in textiles and technology, improvements are constantly made in functionality to enable garments and footwear to become more breathable, lightweight and waterproof.

New fibres enabling greater odour reduction, sweat-wicking, stretchability to conform to the body’s shape, breathability to allow air in and out and protection from dirt, dust and viruses are the new standards as part of the athleisure movement. Technology embedded in fabrics (smart fabrics and wearable tech) are increasingly developed by start-ups and sought out by investors to commercialise products that address these functional needs. The athleisure market is clearly being driven by the very consumers who now rely on these smart apparels as their go-to gears, and apparel industry businesses would do well to tech up.