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Industry Talk

Athleisure is here to stay

A mix of cultural, social, and fashion factors led to the birth of athleisure, and these forces are still driving it.

28th November 2018

Innovation in Textiles
 |  Halifax

Sports/​Outdoor, Clothing/​Footwear

The ASBCI’s Athleisure conference on 14 November in Nottingham took the trend from the macro to the micro, examining the origins and future direction of what has become a cross-generational lifestyle shift before drilling down into the minutiae of the fibres, technologies, and testing processes required to optimise garment comfort, fit, quality, and speed to market.

A mix of cultural, social, and fashion factors led to the birth of athleisure, and these forces are still driving it. The health and wellness trend shows no sign of abating, exercise has become aspirational, and everyone from A-listers to work colleagues are posting their #fitness selfies on Instagram. Dressing down is the new dressing up, but Athleisure isn’t just about looking good while working out, it’s also about feeling good.

The importance of comfort was mentioned again and again. “Customers are not prepared to sacrifice their new-found comfort and they are willing to pay more for it,” said Jutta Vo Quang from Freudenberg, as she outlined the performance characteristics she believes are here to stay, all of which are designed to enhance the comfort of the wearer. And it is in functionality that one of the great opportunities of athleisure lies, both in communication and innovation.

Performance meets design

“At what point does a polyester jersey become a running vest?” asked Helen Colebourn from Bureau Veritas. The answer is the point at which the retailer promotes it as such by highlighting its performance properties, whether these are inherent or engineered. Making technology visible through design features, co-branding, or point-of-sale marketing helps the consumer understand how a garment will enhance their life, and that’s what athleisure is all about.

The Athleisure conference speakers. © ASBCI

But that doesn’t mean design has no place. Athleisure is where fashion and function meet and the convenience of the wear anywhere legging is matched by the desire to buy into the latest mini trend or capsule collection. “It’s hyper consumption v hyper collaboration,” said Terence Senford, head of men’s Athleisure for Boss Menswear. “One thing is fuelling the other.” Product cycles are shorter, production runs smaller, and product is more customised.

Agility and adaptability

In such a dynamic marketplace, agility and adaptability are more important than ever, and the brands that can pivot in new directions as the opportunity arises will be the real winners. “Speed is the name of the game,” said Jovita Balseviciene from Lectra. “Being the first to market with a wide range of quality products, priced right, is the key to success.”

The Athleisure conference was hosted by Dr Julie King, head of fashion for Northampton University and ASBCI event director, and was sponsored by Bureau Veritas, Lectra and Freudenberg. The full speaker line up included: Graeme Moran from Drapers, Terence Senford from Boss Menswear, Jutta Vo Quang from Freudenberg, Jovita Balseviciene from Lectra, Helen Colebourn from Bureau Veritas, Angela Cody from M&S, Claire O’Neill from Lycra, and BBC presenter Anne Davies.

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