Athleisure Fashion

The Rise of Athleisure

Trends and fads have dominated the fashion industry for eons. Trends usually last over some time while fads are famous for a short span and end as quickly as they rise. Fashion trends are also renowned 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 defines 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 worn in non-athletic settings. Simply put, Athleisure is a form of hybrid clothing that fulfils multiple needs for the consumer. From wearing it at school, the workplace or other settings to being ready for sports or athletic activities.

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

How it began..

Some experts have highlighted how the popularity and rise of exercise and workout videos in the 1970s in the west are how the whole athleisure movement was born. While the term was first coined in 1979, it was used to describe the product’s consumer as athletic more than it was used to workout in. However, with the craze of these videos and the experts performing activities only growing more prominent, the athleisure movement also became that much bigger and stronger. In our globally connected world today, the term and the industry have evolved exponentially to become one of the most booming 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 relaxed 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 need was growing before the pandemic, the lockdowns only seemed to further the need. Consumer behaviour towards their everyday lives and health changed drastically in days to weeks. This included their spending habits, preference for 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 relatively resilient sectors compared to others in the industry.

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Specific 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 for Athleisure.

The mega retail chain from US, Target, had launched its new active line right before lockdowns and reported close to $1B in sales. This just adds to the point of 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 most significant revenue share reaching near to 41% in 2020, reflecting the increasing participation of women in sports and fitness.

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


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Another important figure to note is how influencer marketing has grown exponentially over the past two years. It has been noted in their research by GVR that influencer marketing increased by 198% in 2020. Many brands use social media to impact their products and services. 70% of the brands used Instagram influencers in their marketing initiatives. 

In social media, one of the most popular hashtags connected 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 most significant product category. Also suggesting how popular sneakers have become over time. 

These numbers of the global athleisure market indicate 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. In recent decades, celebrities and the music industry have been some of the strongest influencers in promoting athleisure brands. 

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

Celebrity endorsements are not new; however, the way the athleisure industry utilizes and optimizes influencer and celebrity marketing, no other sector has been able to capitalize the same way. From working with sports megastars like David Beckham, Brett Lee to picking out popular Instagram influencers who maintain an active lifestyle, athleisure brands have built their niches. They are becoming dominant players in 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 athleisure brands. While some have launched them on their own, many have also partnered with leading brands like Puma, Adidas, and Nike to launch limited edition collections that carefully weave together the celebrity/ sports personalities’ image into the design. 

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The music industry is known to intertwine with the fashion sector more often than not. The most sought-after singers in pop and rap have been 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 music industry’s impact has been even more significant, especially on the athleisure sector. The opportunity for impact has been more excellent with the globally connected world on social media. Famous singers like Drake, Rihana, Pharrell Williams and Kanye West have risen to unimaginable heights over the past decade and have an immensely loyal fan following. It is no surprise that they are also the faces of some top-tier athleisure brands today.

Adidas is known to work with leading sports personalities to celebrate sports and use them for significant global advertisements. From David Beckham sporting an Adidas pair of shorts to Ranveer Singh as the brand’s Indian ambassador, the brand has nailed the fine art of using famous cultural figures to its advantage. Adidas built 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 these partnerships that cemented into a profitable long-term collaboration focused on all genders across streets and sports and offers apparel, footwear, and accessories. 

Nike works on building community and picking local influencers across the globe that are directly connected to their potential or current consumer base. Nike uses these influencers to promote their limited edition lines, promote new collections and, at significant, produce original content for social media platforms that would otherwise require their content team on the ground. 

Brands like Puma and Under Armour are also using the power of celebrities to make their brands stand out. 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 relatively 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 are willing to change the way the world sees them. These reasons should easily compel you to consider influencer marketing in this industry. 

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Brands at the top of the Athleisure ladder

While many new players in the market are 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, some have become leaders in the market for athleisure. These brands include some that joined in with introducing one line and moving ultimately 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, and young adults and an exclusive range of footwear, these brands have figured out what works the best, built a profitable segment, and led 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, and Nike to the upcoming ones like Under Armour, the majority of brands are using famous cultural figures and athletes as influencers and celebrities that represent youth, fit and hip culture. These influencers are known to gravitate their immense following towards the brand and its collections. Brands use limited-edition supplies to collector’s 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 capitalises on the fitness and health-conscious trend. This trend became a lifestyle choice for the global population during the pandemic. Most brands are seen to promote gear suitable for cycling, running, hiking, biking, yoga and sports. Pushing their agenda for sales while also recommending to people what is ideal for wearing in a particular activity. Promoting two main aspects, looking good and feeling comfortable while performing any activity, leading to enhanced performance. 

Building online communities: Brands realized quickly during the 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. The 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 are building a youth-centred product line, working on social media campaigns and tapping into the world of the metaverse. Promoting their brands via online gaming and virtual gear, helping them in developing a new revenue stream. 

One reason 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. Athleisure offers precisely 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 types of denim, dresses or otherwise.

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As brands globally strive 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 product lines, limited edition collection, and more, health and wellness are likely to remain critical focal points for consumers and ensure 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 will surely take your career in Fashion to a new depth. The course provides you with 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