This week, a look at how the athleisure trend is impacting the fashion industry at large.
In 2021, high-end fashion brands followed the crowd of DTCs and mass brands that expanded to the activewear or athleisure category in 2020. The evolving mindset and style of their current customers motivated their moves, as well. as an opportunity to attract a new buyer during a period of prolonged instability caused by the pandemic.
Starting in January, Anine Bing launched Anine Sport with a range of leggings, sports bras and bike shorts priced at $ 59- $ 149. In October, Roland Mouret, who was acquired this week from Self-Portrait founder Han Chong, released a ready-to-workout Body collection. The same month, now-public Zegna presented an Outdoor Capsule Collection of “technical trousers”, caps and skis. Finally, in mid-December, New York designer Adam Lippes announced a new active line, nicknamed “Franger”, consisting of joggers, tracksuits and pieces that are perfect for tennis.
Even the best luxury brands are testing the waters of activewear, arriving a little late to the party, true to form. In November, Hermès brought hers HermèsFit a pop-up experience in Brooklyn, which hosted yoga classes that incorporated the brand’s signature scarves, as well as “kickboxing with bracelets,” positioning her bracelets as weights. Although the space featured branded kettlebells and punching bags, the equipment was not available for purchase. Meanwhile, in January, Dior plans to launch pop-ups and pop-ins for its new Dior Vibe collection of sports bras, boxers and gym equipment, in cities from Shanghai to Beverly Hills.
The new brands that produce sportswear describe their offerings as “Athluxury” and “Luxe-leisure”. However, many are selling the styles at a lower price than their ready-to-wear counterparts, based on the design.
Patricia Bonaldi, founder and creative director of Brazilian fashion brand PatBo, said that when her brand launched its first sportswear collection earlier this month, the goal was “to reach a wider audience and present the brand to a new audience “. The styles included, created in collaboration with yoga studio Y7, are priced at $ 128- $ 178. PatBo suits start at $ 550.
The strategy worked for Anine Bing. According to the brand’s namesake founder, “AB Sport has expanded Anine Bing’s appeal and exposure.”
“Our data shows that new customers overindicate in this category,” he said.
Adam Selman entered the sportswear category early, pivoting across his entire business in 2019 from focusing on the ready-to-wear collections shown at New York Fashion to selling only performance styles, under the Adam Selman Sport label. After seeing “big growth,” the brand announced this week the imminent launch of a seamless sportswear category on January 4th.
“We were able to reach a wider audience through a more varied product type, more accurate pricing and a wider range of sizes,” said Selman. The styles from the new seamless collection are priced under $ 100 and are available in sizes XS-XL.
Offering functionality, instead of just a trendy look, is key for these brands, particularly as they aim to adapt to changing consumer behaviors.
“Fitness and health come first for many,” Bonaldi said. “So for me it was important to master the technical aspects of sportswear.”
Each of the 20 pieces in PatBo’s sportswear collection are made with recycled fabrics and designed to wick sweat away. They are produced in one of the “leading sportswear factories in the industry,” he said.
For his part, Lippes said in a press release that Franger is “destined to encapsulate the ever-changing lifestyle of the modern woman, from tennis to brunch.”
To convey the same message, Anine Bing regularly features dresses on her e-commerce site that mix AB Sport styles, like a pair of leggings, with pieces from the brand’s main line. Think: a menswear-inspired blazer, Bing said.
Similarly, Selman said: “We always talk about doing [styles that are] functional for the gym, but designed for life. “
He added: “Life is a sport, right?”
Perhaps as a game of credibility, one theme among these brands is naming their new sportswear styles as famous athletes. For Franger, Adam Lippes paid tribute to Naomi Osaka, Simone Biles and Mia Hamm, among others. And Roland Mouret’s styles include the Flo-Jo body.
Regardless, the luxury trend shows no signs of slowing down. Last week, Philipp Plein announced that he is bringing back the Plein Sport brand, “to meet the demand for luxury sportswear products,” according to the press release. The brand originally debuted in 2016, but was suspended in 2018 “due to strategic decisions”. It will be available for purchase via a “metaverse-oriented e-commerce” site in April.
Meanwhile, Patrick Henry of Richfresh, which he claims to have coined the term “luxe-leisure” is set to release a full ready-to-wear line next year. And brands that are currently experimenting with activewear with collaborations, such as Maje with Varley, are the ones to watch.
As for PatBo, it seems like a safe bet that the brand will leverage the teachings of its Y7 partnership to go all-in on activewear soon.
“It was important [first] understand how my customers would respond [to PatBo activewear], “she said.” But they love patterns and fits. “
Bing is also seeing a great response to its debut in sportswear. He said AB Sport’s sales have steadily increased each season and the brand expects the same growth to continue throughout 2022 as it expands the assortment. An AB Sport bag, called the Alex tote, will be launched in January.
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