When sportswear meets fashion, stylish things happen.
Fashionbeans.com claimed that 2015 witnessed the beginning of an athleisure movement but that 2016 is the year where it will really become a thing.
Athleisure is defined as “casual clothing designed to be worn both for exercising and for general use” and apparently all the staff at Merriam-Webster dictionary are on board as the term is to become official.
Essentially, athleisure is the combination of athletic sports clothing and high fashion which can be worn to any occasion. Now, while the industry isn’t promoting head-to-toe tracksuits finished with shirt and tie to match, it is looking to fade the lines between traditional sportswear and high-street clothing. This has been demonstrated at fashion weeks across the globe as high fashion labels appear to be incorporating the look into their Spring / Summer lines.
The Wall Street Journal and USA Today reported that the athleisure market was worth a whopping $35 billion in 2014, and that athletic clothing apparel had a 17% stake in the American clothing market. Considering the size of the American marketplace, this movement has made a substantially large dent in traditional revenues with denim sales seeing a drop for the first time in decades.
NPD is a market research group and Marshall Cohen, their chief retail analyst, said that “For every pair of jeans they’re not buying, they’re buying two pairs of leggings.”
It feels almost like the beard phenomenon all over again where every male had facial hair, and lots of it. Now it seems like every male, and female, are professional sportspeople who have just returned from the track. While this is not the case, I feel optimistic about the trends ability to influence our thought-patterns.
But could this revolution signal the end of traditional denim jean?
A recent innovation, most notably promoted by Jack and Jones, has intertwined the ideology of jeans with the comfort of tracksuit pants, and quite literally too, with the introduction of their Indigo Knit jean. Simply put, Indigo Knit represents the agility and look of a fashion-fit jean with the capabilities of a pair of knitted tracksuit pants.
Manager of Jean Intelligence at Jack and Jones, Nicolai Thorup, explains that “You can wash and treat Indigo Knit like a pair of jeans and at the same time you feel like wearing a pair of sweat pants. Sport and comfort in men’s fashion is very important and, in the regular denim fabrics, we see a higher demand for stretch. Comfort is key for the modern guy and his approach to fashion.”
Indigo Knit jeans are cotton-based, maintaining the stability of the traditional jean. The fibres are then dyed a blue indigo colour and woven as normal. Synthetic materials, such as polyester and elastane, are added to the mix which allow the jean to stretch and move with the body while retaining the jeans natural shape.
And it’s amazing.
“The trick is to get a (traditional jean) look like this on a very modern fabric – a fabric with a lot of stretch in it” admitted Levi’s Senior Director for technical innovation, Bart Sights. The denim industry is changing and, as the number one jean producer in the world, Levi must adapt to survive. This new material blend, discovered and advanced by Jack and Jones, appears to be what Sights is hinting at. In an attempt to compete in an ever-changing market, athleisure appears to have just the right amount of stretch to run comfortably in front of the pack.
Wrangler is second largest jean manufacturer worldwide and Creative Director, Sean Gormley, believes that innovative strategies are the only way to combat the declining sales. “We will be launching a knitted fabric for women with 100% stretch in all directions. That’s closer to what you see in the athleisure world” and he noted that similar styles will become available for men.
All top brands are becoming increasingly aware of the athleisure trend and its paying off.
High street fashion has long been void of the ordinary man’s grasp. So it is refreshing to see that the momentum has returned to the buyer with leading brands now looking to the shopper for inspiration rather than the red carpet critic.