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Editor's Comment: Athleisure is fighting fit and raring to grow

The athleisure sector is booming. A quick Google search reveals that the phrase “athleisure” was first used in 1976 on an advert for trainers. But in more recent years several factors have come together to accelerate this trend and push it to the forefront of the fashion industry.

As consumer habits have shifted towards more active and healthy lifestyles, exercise and wellness have become prominent social activities – fitness has officially gone mainstream.

The rise in popularity of reality TV shows such as TOWIE, Made in Chelsea and Love Island, often showing cast members working out and going out, has projected this image of fitness as aspirational, particularly to a younger audience. The continued rise of social networks, particularly Instagram, means everyone is on display, all of the time.

This combination of factors has helped boost the rise of athleisure. Items that were once focused on functionality for exercise have been given a fashion twist and allowed consumers to project the idea of being fit and healthy through their chosen outfit.

Back in 2014, Nike reported a 15% rise in revenues, highlighting the athleisure trend as contributing to its growth. The rest of the industry has rapidly caught on. The evolution into this sector of traditional sportwear brands such as Björn Borg, Champion and Diadora (its chief executive tells us all about its revival in this week’s Drapers Interview), has allowed them to engage with a new fashion audience. Meanwhile, new businesses such as Gymshark and Gym King have captured this new generation of social media driven, trend-led fitness consumers.

The innovative athleisure sector has also sat at the forefront of experiential retail. Retailers such as Sweaty Betty capture their customers’ attention and drive footfall via fitness classes in store. I recently attended the Lululemon Sweatlife festival at London’s Tobacco Dock, where attendees paid for two days of fitness classes – and the opportunity to shop Lululemon product of course.

Although this market will undoubtedly shift, and trends will evolve, there is still much opportunity to be had in athleisure, particularly in the menswear sector, which has yet to become saturated. The combination of athletic and leisure has become synonymous with everyday wear and is showing no signs of slowing down.

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