Unpacking the Future of Activewear

Since consumer demand is at the heart of all trends, the hype (and growth) of the soaring activewear market is explained by major shifts in consumer behaviour. And since ‘Health is the new Wealth’ its worth spending a few minutes reflecting on why and how our global active lifestyle needs will continue to shape the athleisure market in 2019. 

Modern-day “wellness” refers to holistic healthy living characterized by physical, mental, social, and spiritual well-being — and the trend is gaining traction across multiple industries beyond apparel. That said, according to Global Industry Analysts Inc. sports and fitness apparel / clothing will reach $231.7 billion worldwide by 2024. 

Getting dressed is increasingly about wellness

When we get ready to work out, we choose an outfit that can transition from the gym to the rest of our day. Comfortable, flexible, durable clothing designed for workouts that can be worn in casual settings (like school, work, on the road etc) — is here to stay. And the ‘Fashion is Function’ trend has become ubiquitous as consumers seek to balance comfort and style throughout their days.

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STREETWEAR influences notions of luxury and cultural identity

As graphic T-shirts are beginning to hold a higher value than Italian leather, the definition of “luxury” has become an elusive concept. Streetwear is nothing new, but the reason this subculture seems to be experiencing its heyday only now is because we are living in the image-centric age of Instagram. Streetwear’s loud aesthetic allows the trend to make noise on social media. And as younger shoppers are beginning to favor uniqueness over craftsmanship, out goes the desire for traditional luxury.

We are living in the age of being vs belonging. Where unique, artful, participatory and personalized experiences are cultural currency.

Where inspiration (shared values) are more important than aspiration (pure image). Emerging research suggests that knowledge (being in the know) is more powerful than price in terms of what defines ‘new’ luxury. And what encourages a modern consumer to buy in. 


More than a quarter of High Snobiety readers are willing to spend more on an item if it‘s an undiscovered brand (26 %), the item has a history to it (28 %), or if it‘s a limited edition (37 %), while a paltry 6 % would spend more because others would know that it is more expensive - The New Luxury // High Snobriety White Paper

LOUNGEWEAR celebrates a casual coming of age

If you’re assuming ‘loungewear’ is fashion speak for “slob-out gear”, nothing could be further from the truth. Designers define the concept as “super soft fabrics layered in contemporary yet easy silhouettes”. Some experts explain the surge in popularity for lounge wear as a backlash against the digital revolution; increasingly busy lives, always online, connected 24/7. Our need to unplug. To power down to power up becomes a natural theme in our lives. And what better way to focus on it than have a uniform dedicated to relaxing in. Foam rolling and watching Netflix is now a thing you know. 

The amount of time we’re spending at home is another explanation for the growing popularity of loungewear. Online shopping has taken over visits to the supermarket. More people work from home (or cafes) than ever before. We share intimate aspects of our ‘downtime’ on social media. With the public and private spheres thus blurred, the pressure to up our downtime game is on.

WORKWEAR integrates comfort and style

The notion of being both comfortable while stylish is naturally extending into work wear as consumers seek to seamlessly transition from work to gym to other activities. The growth of the gig economy and flexible (round the clock) work life, enabled by the rise of the internet, means at-home working is increasingly becoming the norm, and with it, a more relaxed attitude to workwear. 

CEO’s of the future won’t be wearing suits. They’ll be wearing tracksuits.

Brands are integrating technical and performance fabrics into ‘workleisure’ lines and sharpening communication around the benefits of health and wellness in the workplace. Design becomes more about longevity; shifting from seasonal, to seasonless and ultimately towards specific limited story drops or capsules. Corporate wellness packages continue to be a major attraction for top talent and fitness brands will work into this niche as partners and collaborators. 


TRAVELWEAR encourages fitness on-the-go

Athleisure is also extending into the travel industry to make it easy for travelers to work out while on-the-go. Travel training experiences, activewear rental programs, hotel partnerships and personal training services on the road are all exploding. 


Though this isn’t a new concept, such programs are being extended to other parts of the travel journey such as airports. Airlines could begin to offer similar services to encourage traveler comfort and overall wellness. Such programs could also help hotel brands increase customer loyalty and better compete with Airbnb.

Athleisure is essentially converging ‘Made to Move’ lifestyle themes

From wake-up to work-out, to working and winding down… the way we live our lives (and the things we buy) today are more seamless and transitional than ever. The boundaries are blurring and the brands that accept and embrace these ‘Made to Move’ modern lifestyle cues will be the ones to enjoy the continued growth momentum of a healthy activewear market. 


If you’d like to discuss this, share your POV in the comments. I love to hear your views and perspectives on the future of the industry.


Andrew O'Sullivan, Head of Brand @casall.