While it used to be that everyone wore blazers and khakis to work, today we’re dressing to feel good about ourselves in comfortable, casual wear. This has led to the rise of athleisure, no longer a passing trend, but a here-to-stay lifestyle movement – with apparel that functions for daily activities, work, exercise and more.
The global athleisure market size hit a cool $306.6 billion in 2021, and is forecasted to rocket to $662.6 billion by 2030. Part of the rapid growth of the athleisure segment is attributed to an increasing interest in sports and outdoor recreational activities. The yoga apparel product segment will likely expand at the fastest pace over the next eight years, as the enthusiasm for mind-body fitness continues to grow.
Top athleisure brands include Hanes Brands, Under Armour, Lululemon Athletica and Patagonia. It’s also expected there will be more buyer interest in the sustainable athleisure market, forecast to hit $117.4 billion in 2027 – made popular by younger consumers who want sustainable clothing manufactured using environmentally safe practices.
“It’s about learning your customer’s audience and supplying them with what they need and want,” says Andrew Gilliam, CEO of Crypto Boxers. “It’s about finding the issue and solving it for the buyer, who in turn becomes your long-term customer.”
So, What’s Athleisure?
Athleisure, which became even more popular during WFH, is comfortable and designed for sports and exercise, but also fashion-forward enough to wear for other activities. In other words, it’s clothing you can wear from day to night, to work, to the gym and even to evening functions if the style’s luxe enough. Athleisure collections include t-shirts, workout dresses, hoodies, pullovers, jackets, leggings, joggers, shorts and sneakers. Improved fabrications make this sportswear more versatile and appropriate for a wider array of occasions.
Today’s athleisure looks are sleek, elevated, sporty and effortless: Imagine wearing yoga pants with a bulky hoodie and platform sneakers, or throwing on an oversized matching hoodie and joggers with chunky socks and loafers. End-users want to create personalized looks that express their individuality. Many offerings are made from eco-friendly performance materials.
“Think of today’s athleisure looks as going from the street to the gym, and back to the street,” says Roy Harper, designer at Ade Koya 1994 (@royharper4955). “When you need to change your look for effect with little effort to suit the occasion a three-piece ensemble gives you an edge. Try a mixture of an animal print and solid colored top and pants, accented with a jacket that pops. This look works when you come from that workout or if you’re just out and about, to make you a pretty hip standout.”
We’ve rounded up 11 trends in athleisure – from bright matching sets to cottagecore prints – that you should be selling now.
11 Athleisure Trends to Watch
Here are the top 11 trends we’re seeing in the athleisure space:
- Bright, matching sets: The enduring ’90s trend of matching tops and bottoms is still going strong. This season though, expect to see matched hoodies with joggers or shorts in brighter jewel tones, like purples and emeralds.
- Half-zip pullovers: Street-style sportswear has been trending, so add half-zip pullovers to your list of styles to pitch to clients.
- Unexpected necklines: You’ll see more nontraditional necks, like scoop necks, sweetheart necklines and one-shoulder shirt styles in athleisure collections.
- Workout onesies and exercise dresses: You’ll see “workout catsuits” that fit in the yoga studio, and then look great with an oversized hoodie post-workout. These catsuits also fit into this season’s dance-inspired trend, so don’t be surprised to see them paired with off-the-shoulder tops and leg warmers. Exercise dresses are also a thing, so that you can hit the gym and then the streets, looking equally fly. Abercrombie is one brand that’s released an exercise dress in lots of popular hues.
- Textured fabrics: As in seasons past, you’ll notice ribbed fabrics, suede finishes, faux leather and other tactile surfaces that add to athleisure’s wide appeal. Extra points for a textured matching set!
- Interesting bottoms: Rather than a standard legging, yoga pant or jogger, you’ll probably see flare or split-leg pants that are perfect for work or special events.
- Cottagecore: We’re talking about prints that incorporate florals, greenery and other countryside-inspired elements.
- Eco-friendly fabrics and materials: As more and more consumers want to buy from sustainable apparel brands, you’ll see athleisure made from recycled materials and unused yarns. These materials usually translate easily into performance fabrics that take a print well.
- Athleisure accessories: Tech hats, other headwear and socks top the list of accessories that pair perfectly with an athleisure look. “Masks and bandanas have come into vogue due to the pandemic as a welcomed accessory,” Harper says. “Create these pieces with a cut-and-sew method in a luxury fabric or graphic print to complete a look.”
- Contrasting colors: You’ll see bold color combos, like subtle earthy hues paired with pastels. As more designers send athleisure down the runways, you’ll notice the unconventional color contrasts you can imitate with wholesale apparel.
- Layering: While layering can include an oversized hoodie over leggings, you’ll see more 2000s influences like shorts over leggings. You can also layer a vest in a contrasting color over a long-sleeve performance tee in another color.
How to Decorate Athleisure
A hallmark of many athleisure silhouettes is minimalistic, clean lines and a simple color palette, of one shade or color blocking. Many athleisure head-to-toe looks start with foundational black, gray, white or other neutral-toned pieces. Then, a pop of color or layer of color blocking adds interest and style to the look.
Right now, athleisure decoration and graphics follow that lead: simple and minimal. “We’re seeing designers lean toward minimalist designs and text-based statements, only because simple is best and the buyer’s now making their own outfits from multiple pieces,” Gilliam says
Who Wants Athleisure Styles?
The great news is that the market for athleisure styles has a large range. Here are a few types of buyers and end-users who want stylish activewear that performs.
People who want apparel that combines comfort and style- With remote work being the norm and the casualization of the workplace, athleisure is the perfect day-to-night apparel. Today’s athleisure styles meld comfort and fashion, so this apparel is appropriate for work meetings, sporty activities and even social gatherings. Companies can use branded athleisure apparel as part of new employee welcome programs, for holiday gifts and employee appreciation events. They can also stock these items in a corporate store to earn or for purchase.
Who to pitch:
- Health and wellness
- Gyms and yoga studios
- Corporate stores
- Team wear
- Collegiate and sororities
- Festivals and events
People who prioritize health & wellness- After the pandemic, 80% of adults across the U.S. said they intend to be more mindful about practicing self-care regularly. As people of all ages choose healthier lifestyles, exercise and mindfulness activities, many companies are promoting health and wellness programs. Logoed athleisure apparel is great as part of wellness program starter packages – and for milestones along the way to mark commitment to different wellness activities. If wellness program participants feel comfortable and confident in the apparel, they’ll wear it out and about to spread brand awareness.
Who to pitch:
- Gyms/yoga studios
- Athletic teams
- Corporate wellness programs
People who are interested in upstyled performance items- We’ve watched luxury brands like Gucci and Stella McCartney enter the athleisure space. They design their own performance lines or collaborate with sportswear brands to launch capsule collections. If your clients are outfitting upscale events or providing swag, brand-name performance wear is an ideal option. “Luxe” athleisure is great for employee or client gifts.
Who to pitch:
- Luxury apparel brands
- Corporate gifts and stores
People who care about sustainability in their activewear- Many buyers and end-users want athleisure options from sustainable, ethical brands that use recycled materials. For example: t-shirts made from polyester spun from water bottles that would have ended up in landfills. Or, joggers made from organic cotton or other plant-based materials like bamboo or Tencel, which comes from eucalyptus. Earth-friendly athleisure that’s also stylish performance wear will be a big hit with companies and end-users who want to support environmentally friendly brands.
Who to pitch:
- Food delivery and restaurants
- Alternative energy companies
- Outdoor lifestyle companies
- Tech companies
- Companies with a sustainable mission
“It’s really about finding the apparel that fits the end-user, and there are so many niches of people who’ll wear athleisure,” Gilliam says. “There’s plenty of room for you to find the right buyers, if you have the right products picked out for them.”