“Leggings are the new denim.” Proclaims Nike CEO Mark Parker at the Women’s Innovation summit in New York City.
Whenever the fashion set is told that anything is the new something, ears perk up.
Wearing gym clothes beyond the gym has never looked more appropriate.
Yoga pants are no longer restricted to yoga class; instead, they’re worn with a fancy fur vest for lunch with friends or a visit to the supermarket. Sporty moisture-wicking zip-up jackets are layered between wool coats and cashmere sweaters. Even at fashion weeks, Nike’s woven Flyknit running shoes, paired with trousers or flippy skirts, are amongst the most popular accessories in sight.
Even high fashion brands from Cynthia Rowley to Chloe are embracing this new “Haute Casual” way to dress. Stella McCartneny has collaborated with Adidas in the past and Tory Burch has expressed her desire to launch an activewear collection which would fall under the “accessible luxury concept.”
Over the course of this extremely well-documented cultural shift toward casual dressing, gym-to-street clothes evolved as an official clothing category, and yet, no one is quite sure what to call it.
Ïts really based on the trend towards activewear as daywear and weekend wear, which we’ve seen as a fast growing theme on the runways for the past few seasons,” says Sheila Aimette, VP of North American Content at trend forecasting firm WGSN.
Beyoncé’s new line for Topshop, for example, which will “encompass clothing, footwear, and accessories across dance, fitness, and sports categories. It will have technical performance characteristics as well as an athleisure side, targeting women who go to yoga or the health club, as well as those who just want to look as if they do,” according to WWD. What the hell is athleisure, anyway? It’s a term that both the media and fashion industry have started to use without hesitation, but its root words, athletic and leisure, are in fact polar opposites.
“With more consumers adopting this trend, it’s natural for many labels to create a product that speaks to what consumers want and are wearing.”
In line with that thinking, a number of traditional ready-to-wear and accessories brands have added an activewear category to their offerings in recent months, with H&M, Old Navy, Juicy Couture and Free People among them.
In the 1980s, the aerobics craze spurred people to sport sweatbands, bodysuits and legwarmers outside of class. But this time around, the rise of the post-workout look reflects a more fundamental shift. “This is not a fashion trend, it’s a lifestyle trend,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at Port Washington, N.Y.-based market research firm NPD Group. “The difference here is that there’s functionality mixed with fashion, not just solely fashion.”