Athleisure: What is it and Why it's Here to Stay

In the 2020 digital world we're encouraged to roll with a 'hustle mentality' - we're constantly on the move and running straight from work to the studio or vice-versa which demands clothing that makes it easy to move between the two.
While activewear or sportswear used to be reserved exclusively for athletes or a sweaty gym, in 2016 Merriam-Webster added a new word, 'athleisure' to the dictionary - defined as 'casual clothing designed to be worn for both exercising and for general use' and it's taken the world by storm since.
Athleisure has gone from a trend to a movement, and it's now shaken up the entire global sportswear industry to become a staple part of the wardrobe. From the signature Lululemon yoga pant which rose to fame in 2015, to Kanye's Yeezy and Kim Kardashian-West's latest lounge wear brand SKIMS, there's no denying that athleisure is here to stay.

Now, with the increase of people working from home due to COVID-19, athleisure styles are booming.

Loungewear, leggings and sweatpants are quickly replacing workwear, as people lean to more comfortable styles they can do everything in - from work, to a work-out and lounging around the home.

Kanye West Yeezy Line
Randy Brooke/Getty Images for Kanye West Yeezy
So, What is Athleisure?
'Athleisure' can be traced back to 1989, the year Vogue released an issue which talked about the frequent use of activewear fashion worn casually. They wrote that the result of designer and sports brands creating "body hugging action wear" was "a whole new category of 'Athleisure' dressing that's not just for exercising."
Five years later, in 1994 Vogue declared again, "The fitness revolution not only wrought better-looking, higher-performance workout wear, but it also sent sports gear out of the gym, off the hiking trails, into the street, and, recently, onto the runway."
Things were quiet until 1997 which was the birth of the highly coveted Lululemon yoga pants. The pants were so comfortable that women were seen wearing them throughout the day, making them the most prolific item in Athleisure's recent history.
Women in sports bra and legging athleisure doing Yoga for Luluelemon Campaign
Image: Lululemon campaign
What's Driving Athleisure?
The rise of health and wellness lifestyles over the past 10 years is the key factor for the continued growth of the Athleisure market. Millenials have prioritised comfortable fabrics and versatile designs which work with their lifestyle, over sporting performance. As such, sporting giants such as Nike and Adidas are capitalising off the trend.
“The adoption of the Athleisure trend is here to stay and going to accelerate,” said Adam Goldenberg, CEO of Los Angeles-based TechStyle Fashion Group, in a recent interview. It’s about “being more comfortable. There’s a trend toward wellness. We couldn’t sell leggings in France three years ago. But now it starts to pick up.”
Boutique studio fitness options such as Class Pass, Soul Cycle, Crossfit, F45 and Barry's Bootcamp have gained popularity in recent years, and so too has the desire for consumers to look and feel good in the studio and at brunch straight after.
What makes Athleisure even more unique is the range of styles being born from the category itself. From loungewear to shapewear and more, the common thread is the versatility and comfort of garments. Big brands aren't the only ones capitalising either; with the global fashion industry becoming accessible to everyone, it's now easy for anyone with an idea to start an Athleisure brand.
Celebrities have jumped on the Athleisure band wagon and seen great success, some of which include; Rihanna with Fenty Puma for streetwear styles, Stella McCartney with Adidas for ethical Athleisure options, Beyoncé with Ivy Park for limited-release collections Kate Hudson with her subscription service Fabletics and Kim Kardashian-West with inclusive shapewear called SKIMS.
Kim Kardashian SKIMS
Kim Kardashian West in SKIMS by VANESSA BEECROFT
High-profile influencers have also realised the power of their influence and opportunity to capitalise on the Athleisure market, and have created or collaborated with large fashion houses. Examples are: Sarah's Day with White Fox Active, Emily Ratajkowski on Inamorata and Whitney Simmons with Gymshark. Read more about influencer brands in 2020 here.
Whitney Simmons in activewear for Gymshark campaign

Whitney Simmons for Gymshark campaign
Athleisure Market Sales
According to a recent report by data and analytics firm GlobalData, the worldwide Athleisure market will rise by 9 per cent this year,  outpacing the total clothing and footwear market beyond 2023. The study showed more than two-thirds of consumers wore the activewear clothing they bought both for exercise and for eating out or shopping.
“Consumer desire for a multifunctional wardrobe (is) set to drive the Athleisure market,” the report said.
The Athleisure market size was valued at $155.2 billion in 2018 and is expected to reach US $257.1 billion by 2026, registering a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 6.7% from 2019 to 2026 according to a report by Allied Market Research.
The AMR report also details the global sports and fitness clothing market is expected to be valued at US $231 billion by 2024.

Macro Athleisure Trends
At Slyletica we're always watching the latest fashion trends. There are macro trends within the industry to consider such as sustainability, eco-friendly fashion and ethical manufacturing alongside inclusivity and diversity. However, in terms of style trends within Athleisure, below are a few we're looking out for in 2020/2021.

Woke Luxe
A massive Athleisure trend embraced by brands such as Kanye's Yeezy, MadHappy, Kith, Acne and Nike - Woke Luxe looks to shift sportswear into a restrained form, working towards a neutral, trans-seasonal, genderless space that welcomes any niche from gym to urban Athleisure.
Muted, organic colour palettes paired with clean, relaxed silhouettes cut through the noise to stand out. This is an anti-statement towards the modern and an embrace of more simplistic, natural living.


Driving function and performance back into activewear, Tech-Tility advocates for empowering, supportive and clever pieces. This tech-glam trend showcases innovative, smart fabrics and purpose driven design paired with a futuristic colour palette.

Think surface details like laser cut, mesh, seamless jacquard knit lace, and silicon prints. Sheer, reflective and metallic fabrics further push texture through layering.
It's the combination of performance apparel and modern Athleisure that captures our constant need for newness.


This is the ultimate Athleisure trend dominating our social feeds right now. Popular due to brands like Kim Kardashian- West's SKIMs, bathleisure breaks down your wardrobe into key pieces that work harder for you. This trend is about slowing down the pace around you, with a focus on quality and multifunctional purpose.⁠

It's minimalism reimagined, and explores the juxtaposition of loose silhouettes, nano-fabrics and functional form.
Given that bathleisure combines leisure x active living to create a slow-paced, recreational lifestyle, it makes sense that it would look to incorporate spa fabrics such as waffle, linen, towelling, and jerseys. Imbuing with active components such as anti-odour and quick drying.
To read more about Bathleisure click here.


Other Athleisure trends 

In 2020, more so than ever we're seeing Athleisure styles incorporated in most fashion collections shown at fashion week, which infiltrates down to influence smaller, more affordable brands such as Girlfriend Collective, Outdoor Voices and KITH. Styles such as capes, bodysuits and tracksuits have gained popularity among the celeb 'it' crowd with models such as Gigi Hadid, Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid and Hailey Bieber influencing consumers.

Luxury fashion brands such as Tom Ford, Balmain and Rick Owens showed capes in their collections at New York and Paris Fashion Week and we are definitely predicting a massive surge in smaller Athleisure brands jumping on this trend in 2020.
Olivier Rousteing's Balmain supermodel army graced Paris Fashion Week with dramatic statement capes ⁣which centred around an equestrian theme, with horse blankets being transformed into capes with black piping. The stars of the collection were definitely the silk capes that flowed effortlessly to the floor though.
Many of us have become accustomed to the rise in popularity of giant puffer coats in Athleisure fashion, and whether it's out of necessity or more of a couture look, the trend has gone viralIn his show at Paris Fashion Week, Rick Owens took the trend to another level, showcasing puffer capes in black, blue and silver. The cape is essentially a puffer blanket you can throw on to add instant cool to any look


The Athleisure trend emerging that may jeopardise leggings' long-standing reign as the staple studio-to-brunch piece is bodysuits.
Rising to popularity largely due to the increase in lounge wear styles emerging, the celebrity crowd has taken to wearing bodysuits in place of their leggings and the trend is transforming the industry.
Just throw on a pair of sneakers or slides and tie a sweater around your waist, and you have yourself a winning Athleisure outfit.

Statement Tracksuits
The days of rocking Kappa and Juicy Couture matching tracksuits are back.⁣

It’s an 80s and 90s retro revival and everyone from Gucci to Champion is bringing you new ways to wear a full set.
Celebrities such as Hailey Bieber, Rihanna and Kim Kardashian are well-known to rock the trend, and it shows no inclination of slowing down.
To read about more Athleisure trends click here.

As the market continues to grow as predicted, both smaller companies and larger brands will continue to expand their Athleisure offerings. Smaller brands such as sustainable and body-inclusive Girlfriend Collective, Outdoor Voices and Nimble Activewear and are wildly popular, while larger retail giants such as Nike, Adidas and Lululemon are capitalising on consumer's interests in health and wellness and catering Athleisure pieces to satisfy these desires.
So what does that all mean? The verdict is in, and Athleisure is here to stay. To chat Slyletica - an award-winning fashion agency about your ideas for an Athleisure brand click here.