Athleisure Fashion

The Rise of Athleisure

Trends and fads have dominated the fashion industry since eons. Trends usually last over a period of time while fads are famous for a short span and end as quickly as they rise. Fashion trends are also famous for changing constantly. While change is the only constant in the fashion industry, Athleisure has sure made its mark over the past decade. The sector has seen tremendous growth globally and only continues to grow.

What is Athleisure?
The cambridge dictionary define Athleisure as follows:

‘A style of clothing that is comfortable and suitable for doing sports, but also fashionable and attractive enough to wear for other activities.’

The combination of the words ‘athletic and leisure’ refers to athletic clothing and accessories that are also worn in non-athletic settings. Simply put, Athlesiure is a form of hybrid clothing that fulfills multiple needs for the consumer. From wearing it at school, workplace or other settings to being ready for sports or athletic activities.

Street Style fashion has been largely noticed to be the flag bearers of athleisure for a few years now, the way style on these streets have changed with women wearing leggings and crop tops paired with sneakers more often to men wearing casual sweatpants, hoodies and sneakers. Bringing to limelight the one essential and key takeaway – consumers do have a need for comfort clothing.

How it began..

Some experts have been noted to highlight how the popularity and rise of exercise and workout videos in the 1970’s in the west is how the whole athleisure movement was born. While the term was first coined in 1979, it was used to describe the consumer of the product as athletic more than it was actually used to workout in. However with the craze of these videos and the experts performing workouts only grew larger, the athleisure movement also became that much bigger and stronger. In our globally connected world today, the term and the industry, both have evolved exponentially to become one of the most successful sectors that also grew during the pandemic and acquired new customers. Athleisure now denotes casual clothing that makes you and your body feel at home in any outdoor setting. A strong combination of being athletic as well as enjoying your casual leisure time is all this trend is about. Comfort is the highlight of this sector.

Pandemic’s push on Athleisure

For over two years now the world has witnessed first hand how everything else can take a backseat if  health comes to question. This sure did push the demand for health and wellness based products/ services. While the demand was already growing before the pandemic, the lockdowns only seemed to push the demand further. In a matter of days to weeks, consumer behavior towards their everyday lives and health changed drastically. This included their spending habits, preference of brands, how they spend their time and more. With this urgent and needed shift towards making health a priority while the world population stayed at home, exercise and workout services saw a high rise, and so did the need for comfort wear and at-home workout gear. The activewear segment came across as one of the strongest and rather resilient sectors when compared to others in the industry.

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Certain market research and reports have also shown that while certain sections of the world are opening up to work from offices, the population coming out of lockdown to everyday life ( similar to pre-covid days) is still seeking comfort in their clothing and not willing to compromise on the same. Only indicating further how the pandemic has only pushed the need of Athleisure.

The mega retail chain from US, Target, had launched its new active line right before lockdowns and reported close to $1B in sales for the same. Just adding to the point how people are seeking to stay fit, active and comfortable. 

Let’s Talk numbers..

As per Grand View Research (GVR) the global athleisure market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 8.6% from 2021 to 2028 and is expected to reach close to $549.41 Billion in 2028.


GVR also mentioned how the women segment accounted for the biggest revenue share reaching near to 41% in 2020 reflecting the increasing participation of women in sports and fitness.


With lockdown affecting the retail sector the most, 2020 saw the largest sales from their online channels. The online segment led the global market in 2020 with a revenue share of over 55%.


Also Read: Louis Vuitton’s Historical Journey To Become A Luxury Brand

Another important figure to note is how the influencer marketing has grown exponentially over the past 2 years. It has been noted in their research by GVR that influencer marketing increased by 198% in 2020. Increasing number of brands used social media to make an impact for their products and services. 70% of the brands used instagram influencers in their marketing initiatives. 

In social media world, one of the most popular hashtag used in connection with Athleisure on Instagram is #Fitness – this saw close to 347 million posts worldwide. #Athelete and #Athleisurewear were close runners in the number game.
Footwear owns nearly 30% of the sportswear category – making it the largest product category. Also suggesting how popular sneakers have become overtime. 

These numbers of the global athleisure market give us a strong indication on how the sector is set to grow further, expand its customer base ( new customer acquisition) and use the fast growing social media space ( built resilient online platform) for impactful statements for their brands. It has been noted in the past couple of decades how celebrities and the music industry have been some of the strongest influencers in promoting athleisure brands. 

Brands, celebrities, influencers and music industries impact on athleisure..

Celebrity endorsements are not new, however the way the athleisure industry utilizes and optimizes on influencer and celebrity marketing, no other sector has been able to capitalize the same way. From working with sports mega stars like David Beckham, Brett Lee to picking out popular instagram influencers who maintain an active lifestyle, athleisure brands have built their own niches and are becoming dominant players of the sector who can bring in a new change in trends with their pick of influencers and celebrities.

On the other hand, leading pop singers and celebrities have established and kickstarted their own athleisure brands. While some have launched them on their own, many have also partnered with leading brands like Puma, Adidas, Nike to launch limited edition collections that carefully weave together the celebrity/ sports personalities image into the design. 

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Music industry is known to intertwine with the fashion sector more often than not. The most sought after singers in pop and rap have known to be the faces of activewear brands for decades. Over the past decade where music has become more global and localized at the same time, the impact of the music industry has been even bigger especially on the athleisure sector. The opportunity for impact has been greater with the globally connected world on social media. Popular singers like Drake, Rihana, Pharrell Williams and Kanye West over the past decade have risen to unimaginable heights and an immense as well as loyal fan following. There is no surprise how they are also the faces of some of the top tier athleisure brands today.

Adidas is known to work with leading sports personalities to celebrate sports as well as use them for major advertisements across the globe. From David Becham sporting a Adidas pair of shorts, to Ranveer Singh as the brand’s Indian ambassador, the brand has nailed the fine art of using popular culture figures to its advantage. Adidas further went to build one of the most significant partnerships in the athleisure world with a non-athlete, Kanye West. Yeezy – Adidas and Kanye West made history by signing a close to $10 million deal in 2013 for a transformative new partnership.  Yeezy is a product of this partnerships that cemented into a long term profitable partnership and focuses on all genders across street and sport and offers apparel, footwear, and accessories. 

Nike works building community and picking local influencers across the globe that are for them a direct connection between their potential or current consumer base. These influencers are used by Nike to promote their limited edition lines, promoting new collections and at large producing original content for social media platforms that would otherwise require their content team on ground. 

Brands like Puma, Under Armour, are also using the power of celebrities to make their brands stand out as well. Puma, for example, recently announced the mega pop-star Rihanna as their creative director. Puma is working with the singer’s edgy sense of style and a rather loyal fan following.

The fast growing world of athleisure is rather diverse and inclusive, they are eager to make strong statements, take a stand and willing to change the way the world sees them. These reasons should be easily able to compel you to consider influencer marketing in this industry. 

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Brands at the top of Athleisure ladder

While there are many new players in the market making waves with their niche product lines, targeting concentrated segments and leading with their sharp, crisp and clear marketing campaigns optimizing the popular culture movement, there are some that have become leaders in the market for athleisure. These brands include some that joined in with introducing one line and moving completely towards athleisure products while others in the activewear and sportswear industry pushing the line with their exclusive celebrity endorsements and partnerships. This sector has seen it all and is only expected to keep the momentum going. While you can certainly enjoy comfortable clothing during your workouts, the true purpose of athleisure products is fulfilled when you actively wear them outdoors for your everyday activities. Here is a list of some leading brands globally in the athleisure sector: 

  • Alo yoga
  • Lululemon
  • Adidas
  • Nike sportswear
  • The girlfriend collective
  • Athleta
  • FP movement
  • Outdoor voices
  • Myles Apparel and more.

    From focusing on overall genders and sizes, to niche apparel for men, young adults and exclusive range of footwear, these brands have figured out what works the best, built a profitable segment and are leading the same. 

Trends in Athleisure
Some of the top trends businesses are tapping into within the athleisure sector are:

Optimizing influencer marketing: From the top athletic gear brands like Adidas, Puma, Nike to the upcoming one like Under Armour, majority of brands are using popular culture figures, athletes as influencers and celebrities that represent youth, fit and hip culture. These influencers are known to gravitate their immense following towards the brands and its collections. Brands use limited edition collections to collectors items in promotions via such influencers to encourage a call to action and play the cool quotient. 

Promoting active and fitness conscious lifestyle: The burgeoning athleisure market is capitalizing on the fitness and health conscious trend. A trend that became a lifestyle choice for the global population during pandemic. Most brands are seen to be promoting gear that is suitable for cycling, running, hiking, biking, yoga and sports. Pushing their agenda for sales while also recommending to people what is ideal to wear in a particular activity. Promoting two main aspects, look good and feel comfortable while performing any activity, leading to enhanced performance. 

Building online communities: Brands realized quickly during pandemic how it was essential for them to keep their consumers engaged and the only way possible to do so was by building online communities. These communities are built for engagement and not to sell anything directly. The best word of mouth marketing a brand can ask for is when its loyal consumer base eagerly participates in conversation and their journeys of using a particular brand. Main aim of building a bond, having open lines of communication and pushing the fact that a brand is always ready and willing to speak to its customer base. 

Other trends brands are tapping into is building a youth centered product line, working on social media campaigns and tapping into the world of metaverse. Promoting their brands via online gaming and virtual gears, helping them in developing a new revenue stream. 

One reason why experts have noticed the rise of athleisure is its multifunctional use. Consumers are always in for spending money one time and gaining the most out of the product or service. Athlesiure offers exactly that; comfort, style, and performance in one product, encouraging consumers to invest more in activewear products for their wardrobes that are paired easily with their denims, dresses or otherwise.

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As brands globally are striving to re-open doors and function as per pre-covid norms, it will be interesting to see how brands across sectors tap into the activewear segment to accelerate their growth and expand their product lines. Whether brands focus on partnerships with other leading brands, celebrities or athletes, or launch their own product lines, limited edition collection and more, health and wellness are likely to remain key focal points for consumers and make it certain that the rise of athleisure is here to stay. 

If you have a keen eye for fashion and sports, a career shaping you for the fast growing and profitable athleisure industry would be your ideal go to. MBA-ESG offers an MBA in Fashion and Luxury Management that is sure to take your career in Fashion to a new depth. The course offers you an overall learning opportunity including learning from experts in the industry on niche topics, working on real time projects and understanding how different sectors influence each other. 

Read More: Why join a B-school?

Author: Mankiran