How Athleisure Became The New Casual

How Athleisure Became The New Casual

By Kexin

How Athleisure Became The New Casual

Being seen in your gym attire is no longer synonymous to being seen in your pyjamas. 2017 definitely saw many girls rocking stylish athleisure pieces all year round, especially for the working class female who is always on-the-go but still wants to keep in trend. With workplaces today adapting to a more casual dress code, it’s no surprise that some girls would rather trade in their pencil skirts for a jersey and a pair of statement leggings anytime.

Then comes athleisure, fashion’s new casual where running errands in colourful leggings is no longer a faux pas today. But the question remains. Will athleisure fall into the same inevitable demise of certain trends and fads or is it here to stay? Here, we try to gain insight to why athleisure has been taking the retail world by storm and to what extent.

Maximising Functionality

In 2017, the UK sportswear market saw an estimated increase by 8 percent to 2.5 billion pounds, with athleisure being a major source to this increase. Athleisure may be derived from sportswear but that does not necessarily mean it is only subjected to the gym. The entire purpose of athleisure is versatility and comfort for daily dressing. Modern technology has made athleisure more comfortable and convenient with properties like wrinkle-free and “dri-fit” materials. Deidre Clemente, a history professor University of Nevada, told Business Insider “People want less maintenance of their clothes. Technology is such a pervasive part of our lives. To want it in our clothes is simply natural.”

The Millennial Cultural Shift

Love it or hate it, millennials are in fact a driving force behind the athleisure market, making up a significant amount of the workforce with an estimation of a 75% increase in 10 years. With the rise of trendy startup companies and workplaces run by millennials, it is apparent how strict and formal dress codes are slowly diminishing, prioritising comfort to help boost one’s mood and creativity. Melissa Gonzalez, the founder and CEO of the retail consulting firm, Lion’esque Group can attest to that. “Being comfortable keeps my energy more open to idea generation,” she said.

More Affordable Fast Fashion Alternatives

Fast fashion brands like Topshop, Forever 21 and H&M are following suit when it comes to the popularity of athleisure, releasing (or expanding ) their sportswear lines.This gives consumers more options in both variety and affordability. And it’s not just a basic sports bra in multiple colours and black leggings. Sportswear collections from fast fashion brands are giving the likes of Nike, Adidas and Reebok a run for their money by introducing athleisure clothing with influence from current fashion trends (mesh, colour blocking, statement prints, etc).

For example, the chart above displays the average price point for each brand’s activewear category. The first three brands (Forever 21, Shein, H&M) are fast fashion brands with the average price point being below RM100.00 whereas the remaining three brands (Adidas, Reebok, Nike) are traditional sportswear brands with the average price points between RM100 to RM200. The average price point for Nike is a stark contrast in comparison to Forever 21 or Shein, both of which are almost a quarter of Nike’s cost.

The table above also provides a clear comparison between two fast fashion brand’s activewear range (H&M and Forever 21) and two established activewear brands (Nike and Reebok) from August 1st 2017 to February 28th 2018. The high sellout rate of the first two brands reflected the high demand from buyers, specifically H&M which showed an impressive 87.50% sellout with an equally high replenishment rate of 79.60%, indicating the brand’s efficiency of replenishing popular items.

Additionally H&M’s activewear observed no discounts, meaning a large amount of consumers were purchasing those items at full price while Nike had a below average sellout rate at only 26%, which is only about one third of the former brand’s sellout rate.

Celebrity Collaborations

Image Source: Highsnobiety

Nothing sets trends more than pop culture. Celebrities and pop stars have contributed tremendous influence towards the increasing popularity of athleisure, proven by skyrocketing sales.

Puma is a great example of the merge between pop culture and fitness wear.  Notably R&B sensations like Rihanna and The Weeknd injected their renowned urban and street style into the brand and released a  new line of apparel. As a result, Puma saw a 92% income jump to a staggering $54 million in just the first quarter of 2017 alone, proving the success of the campaign.

Another example would be Ivy Park, Beyonce’s own line of athleisure clothing with British fast fashion label,Topshop, offering a range of jersey tops, pullovers, sweatpants, crop tops, leggings and more. Think activewear with an urban street twist. Kickstarting their first ever athleisure collection in collaboration with Beyonce in 2016 was a genius marketing strategy given the pop star’s fame (113 million followers on Instagram!) and her iconic title in today’s world of pop culture. Needless to say, the anticipation and response to the launch of Ivy Park was impressive, crashing Topshop’s online store during its debut and everything was sold out within days.

According to Omnilytics data from  1st August 2017 to 28th February 2018, it showed an above average 64.4% sellout rate for Ivy Park products from Topshop, which is more than half of the line with only discounts on 39.5% of the items.

Although there is no concrete answer, it is safe to say athleisure has definitely found its way into the hearts (and wardrobe) of many. An estimation predicted that year 2020 will see a 30% increase to the US$270 billion spent on athleisure alone in 2016. Marshall Cohen, the chief industry analyst at The NPD Group, Inc claimed that “This is no longer a trend – it is now a lifestyle that is too comfortable, for consumers of all ages, for it to go away anytime soon.” To that, we can rejoice and add yet another pair of leggings to our shopping cart. After all, with the shift in fashion, it is safe to say a girl can never have too many pairs of leggings.

Want to understand your consumers and tap into the fast fashion industry for your activewear collection? Drop us an email at and we’ll be in touch!


The data above were obtained from Omnilytics, real-time retail data platform. The numbers and statistics may vary, as the platform is updated everyday. The time period of the information taken were between 1st August, 2017 to 28th February, 2018.

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