fad (noun); A style, activity or interest that is very popular for a short period of time. – Cambridge English Dictionary
Oh hello there and welcome back Primetime peeps. Up for discussion this week is what can be defined as one of the standout trends of 2017, ‘athleisure’. But before we get into the nuts and bolts of this hybrid style let’s define exactly what it is we mean when we use the term ‘athleisure’. As you may have deduced from the rather obvious amalgamation of the two words ‘atheltic’ and ‘leisure’, this rather new age trend has emerged from exactly that, a combination of those who wish to appear atheltic or sporty in their appearance whilst maintaining a comfortable and leisurely fit. This has given rise to an explosion of new brands over the past few years looking to capitalise on the latest tracksuit trend. Athleisure Clothing generally combines cotton and poly-based textiles, coupled with tapered tailoring to provide a muscle-hugging yet comfortable look. Key features within athleisure ranges have been tapers, cuffs, distressing and heavy logo branding often in the form of letters or acronyms. Predominantly found throughout the UK and some parts of Central Europe the various key brands within the athleisure movement have experienced a meteoric rise to success capitalising on endorsement from muscle-bound pop-culture celebrities including reality TV stars and professional footballers alike. Now that we’ve sussed out what athleisure is let’s see can we decide whether or not it’s here to stay or if this will become nothing more than a fad that we cringingly look back at in a few years time.
(Pictured above; A Siksilk Retro L/S that was undeniably a standout piece from AW’17)
So as Marshall Mathers once said, let’s get down to business. Will Ireland still be going crazy for tracksuits and t-shirts that genuinely look as if they have been spray-painted onto the physique that wears them? Or will this subside as quickly as Kanye West’s leather jogging pants -> google.ie/search .Well let’s take a look at the evidence and see what conclusion we can come up with. Firstly to give credit where credit is due, on a whole the quality is pretty damn good. To the best of my knowledge market leaders ‘11 Degrees’ and ‘Siksilk’ are still using Turkish manufacturers which has helped to keep standards at a high level and ensure that the tailoring and fabrics used provide the fit that the consumer is looking for. Unfortunately the flip side of this is that any newer competitors entering into the industry may not have the capital necessary to maintain these high standards which will inevitably lead to cheaper Asian manufacturing and subsequently sub-standard produce. It is here that I see one of the first pitfalls for Athleisure as a trend. As the list of brands grow in what is already an oversaturated space the increase in competition could see a drop in quality across the board.
(Pictured above; The 11 Degrees zip-through Track Jacket from AW’17. Would love to see them try more varied pieces such a simple this)
Another worry I would have regarding the longevity of athleisure would be how apparently easy their style of marketing has made short term success seem. The tactic of leveraging extremely popular social media models and influencers may seem as if it is a surefire way to hit the big time and generate quick sales via linking and the ever ridiculed ‘discount code’ however it is simply not that easy. This perceived ease appears to have enticed a multitude of brands to enlist the local popular, tattoed muscle-man to take a few pics on Insta and bingo! Sit back and wait for sales to roll in, right?! Well if it truly is that easy what we are more likely to see is the inevitable over-crowding of this niche trend and the subsequent collapse due to essentially what is the same product being available from too many sources. What is ironic in this instance is that there is a very probable likelihood that many of these newly emerging brands are in fact having to use the same manufactures as one another which then brings the determining factor down to marketing spend and nothing more. That is dog fight I am certain a lot of these fly-by-night brands will simply not survive.
(Pictured above; Siksilk’s full Zonal tracksuit, an item that saw such popularity they opted to add it to their core range this year)
Fear not athleisure fans, all hope is not lost quite yet. One wise move some to market leaders (mainly Siksilk & Gym king) have made is alleviating the gender specificity within the trend by adding female lines. Whilst the designs and products themselves are still finding their feet somewhat in terms mass market appeal it is undoubtedly a step in the right direction and if executed correctly could lead to some real bedding in with both male and female consumers alike. Whether female consumers will take such a liking to the tight fitting, casual nuances of athleisure such as their male counterparts have remains to be seen but brands offering the option is a positive sign. I think solid execution coupled with more feminine designs could give these brands every chance of gaining some acclaim between both genders which would in turn potentially cement them much more as legitimate brands and dissipate any talk of a ‘fad’ which may still be lingering.
A final footnote that will be imperative to any form of sustained relevance will be the diversification of brands lines and ranges. The expiry date will quickly run out on continuing the same slim fitting tracksuit and tees in various colourways and it is at the point we will see which brands are willing to pivot and adapt and which will stagnate and perish. Some have already made leeway by expanding quickly into accessories, bags and jackets but time shall prove the ultimate test the these design teams and marketeers.
I think for 2018 and the immediate future athleisure remains safe enough for now however whether or not it has the legs to make its way to 2020 and beyond remains to be see. Although I’m sceptical to say the least it’s undeniable that this muscle-hugging trend has experienced an unprecedented rise to popularity with market leaders already genrerating millions worth of sales in what is a pretty brief period of trading. Whether they maintain their course of tapered t-shirts or pivot and reinvest their already generated income into a new venture will be something we shall watch with great interest over the next few seasons. So with the jury remaining unconvinced on this one I shall leave you with some wise words from none other than Mr.Tom Ford;
”Fashion is disposable yet repeats itself, so just don’t throw away anything…”
As always, peace and love,