What is active wear?
Just in case you’ve been living under a rock, active wear has been historically defined as clothing for sports, exercise or outdoor activities. If you look back 10 years ago, or even further, you will find that traditionally active wear was for high performance athletes.
At first, it replaced the “long john” thermals for outside sports and exercise, and materials tended to be thicker and were focused primarily on warmth and comfort. However, soon it became about enhanced performance and breath-ability.
There’s still a huge percentage of the activewear market still focused on performance – and these can include several different aspects such as compression, moisture-wicking fabrics, and weatherproofing. These types of high-performance properties are touted by brands such as Nike, Adidas, Under Armour, Puma, and more.
But then something happened, especially for women.
Activewear got casual and cool.
And it went viral.
And not just in the US, either. Activewear has grown rapidly in Europe, Asia, and South America too.
In just ten years, the global active wear industry has grown from approx. $200 billion in yearly revenue in 2008 to over $300 billion today!
To give you an idea of how crazy that revenue number is worldwide, consider that the top three global social media platforms; Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, only bring in about $40 billion in yearly revenue.
Lululemon alone (which is a great barometer since they only sell primarily women’s active wear), brought in nearly $4 billion in revenue last year – that’s a lot of leggings!
And although active wear is showing some signs of market saturation, there is still tremendous GLOBAL demand in Asia and South America that is rising rapidly – globally, experts predict the industry could grow to $350-$400 billion in yearly revenue within the next 7-10 years.
No longer was activewear just for sports, exercise and outdoor activities – huge brands like Lululemon, Athleta, Prana, and more began to dominate the market and compete with the traditional powerhouses like Nike and Adidas by offering a combination of high performance, high fashion, and comfort. The perfect combination of look, fit, and feel.
But the big boys like Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour haven’t died….in fact they have flourished! Although these brands sell primarily to men and are not just in activewear (all three are huge on footwear, for example), their overall women’s apparel revenues have grown generously as well over the past decade, thanks largely to the tremendous growth of active wear market overall.
And while the overall fashion industry has grown as well in the last decade (as well as the stock market in general), the active wear market segment has been a particularly bright spot in both revenue and profitability for virtually all large players.
But here’s the fun part.
The success of high fashion and casual active wear led to an entirely new market segment being born – athleisure. Although somewhat of a cross between function and fashion, athleisure is more interested in look and fit than high performance.
Women are finding that rather than wearing baggy, unflattering sweats, you can have form fitting tops and bottoms that don’t sacrifice comfort. In fact, many women find active wear/athleisure even MORE comfortable than anything else in their wardrobe!
More often than not, when it’s a casual girls night, an outdoor bbq, traveling to/from a beachtown, or headed to the airport – athleisure have been the go-to outfits for women across the US and Western Europe. And as mentioned, the biggest spots for growth in this industry are in Asia, South American, and Africa – so don’t expect the althleisure trend to end as it has now become a wardrobe staple for hundreds of millions of women of all ages, nationalities, and ethnicities all over the world.
Today, especially for women, there are endless options to choose from – from $9.99 leggings to $150+ niche high- fashion leggings.
Continuing with the active wear industry’s beginnings, there’s also tons of choice in terms of high performance, exercise, and sports related functional clothing. With the exception of yoga and some of the newer athleisure brands (like Lululemon) that have managed to penetrate both markets, most of the high performance, compression, and outdoor active wear clothing (especially for men) has continued to be dominated by many of the older players.
In the more casual world of athleisure, although way more niche players and smaller brands, the market here is still dominated by Lululemon, Altheta, Prana – and the relatively new behemoth, Fabletics.
And yet the way the world shops is changing rapidly, and it continues to change in the world of fashion.
For so many younger millennial shoppers, more and more are making decisions on their smartphone.
With the advent of new exciting technologies like M-tailor, and app that can measure you through a smartphone and claims virtually 95% accuracy of an in-person tailor, fewer returns will be made from online sales than before.
In addition to increasing profitability for online retailers, less returns will increase shopper’s comfort with purchasing online without trying items on at the store first. And most smart online brands are already allowing free, hassle free returns – and in many cases, free delivery, too. (In case you didn't know, we offer FREE Delivery at L'Aquila Active anywhere in the U.S.!)
The bottom line? While all of the brands we mentioned are obviously already online, and many are direct to consumer retailers – both the athleisure and activewear market segments are growing rapidly across the globe with fierce competition and constant innovation.
So don’t be surprised if the brands that have dominated this space in the last 5-10 years give way to another star in this market tomorrow.
Because after all, in the world of fashion, and especially activewear and athleisure fashion – the only constant…..is change.