Keeping Pace with Athleisure Suits

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Out of the Gym

Denim has always been a key indicator in where shoppers are spending their cash. With jean sales on a noticeable decline, especially among teens, it would seem the canary has sung. Activewear and all its component—sportswear, loungewear, yoga gear—has quietly crept out of the gym and onto the streets, gaining speed. And, with Gap’s 2008 acquisition of Athleta, self-described as a premiere fitness fashion brand, it would appear athletic-inspired dress is no longer restricted to the treadmill.

athleisure2.jpg Outdoor Voices Hoodie via J.Crew, $85

Though the term may recall blue, ruffled leisure suits meets gym class uniforms, Athleisure is anything but stiff polyester and yesterday’s oversized tees. This multi-purpose, typically androgynous style is rooted in streetwear ease and athletic functionality, and has more and more people opting to wear hoodies, neutral-hued basics and even sweatpants beyond the gym and into the office, while running errands and, of course, while reclining on the couch—because what is Athleisure without, well, leisure?

Key Players: Big Brands and Yogis Unite

A big instigator of the Athleisure movement has been, without a doubt, the booming yoga industry. With an estimated worth of nearly 30 million dollars, yoga is headed for a total workout takeover and has brought its unofficial uniform of stretchy capris along for the ride. Lululemon has been at the forefront of promoting workout gear as daily wear while other retailers scramble to get on board. Following in the Gap’s footsteps, J.Crew and Ann Taylor’s Loft have added Athleisure-focused shops to their collection with Outdoor Voices and Lou & Grey, as well as Urban Outfitter’s latest Without Walls.

athleisure3.jpg Lou & Grey Hazystripe Tunic via The Loft, $44.50

Still, don’t count the original yoga pants trendsetter Lululemon out of the game with Kit and Ace, coincidentally owned by wife and son of Lululemon’s head founder, Chip Wilson. Strut-This, also rooted deeply in promotion of healthy living and an exercise-focused lifestyle, is another example of keeping Athleisure all in the family, created by two mother-daughter teams. The end goal for all of the players is a return to comfort, effortless ease and the unspoken understanding that these crossover pants, tops and jackets are as appropriate for the gym as the every day.

Sustainable Sweats

In addition to the added comfort and a more utilitarian style of dress, this shift in dress code subtly promotes not only awareness of health and body—its glorified gym clothes people—but also a focus on product accountability. For some companies, it would seem Athleisure and the sustainable fashion movement go hand in hand. By using organic cotton, ecologically sound farming practices and local manufacturers, a few Athleisure companies are holding themselves accountable for what it takes to produce these hoodies and t-shirts.

athleisure5.pngPhoto via @victorathletics

Just take a look at apparel newcomers: Victor Athletics, who not only became the sixth most successful apparel campaign on Kickstarter, raising $123,002, but have also recently launched their website and will begin shipping orders late July. Victor’s clothing and aesthetic not only hit the key tenets of the Athleisure look—comfort, ease and cotton, cotton, cotton—but Victor also stands for American-made quality, as well as organic and sustainable manufacturing practices. Victor hopes to promote a slow fashion mindset with their vintage vibe and #changethetrend campaign. With hoodies, tees and high-quality, well-made sweatpants, Victor is not only changing the game with their activewear style, but highlights a growing undercurrent in the fashion world: sustainable fashion.

Needless to say, updated sportswear is officially no longer a trend on its way out. Denim will always be an American wardrobe staple, but, as stretchy yoga pants and homegrown cotton tees grow in popularity, blue jeans may just have to make some room for the comfier leggings and sweatshirt style, because Athleisure and all its gradients are not going anywhere, any time soon.

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