Activewear – Turning the apparel business in a new direction

Activewear is increasingly accepted as fashion wear and has led to the emergence of athleisure fashion trends. During the pandemic, leggings, sweatpants, and loungewear became part of professional wardrobes. After the pandemic, the practice still continued.

Today's winning brands understand their consumers and design specifically for them, offering the right performance, quality, and look. With a founder who played American football at the university level, Under Armour created the market for premium sports shirts before expanding into football boots. Other apparel brands that have changed the game in their niche include Lululemon in yoga, Rapha in cycling, Speedo in swimming, Picture in sustainable outdoor clothing, and Venum in combat sports. 

Fashion and luxury brands are seeking business opportunities with their own performance lines or through partnerships with well-regarded activewear brands. Notable collaborations, such as The North Face X Gucci and Prada X Adidas, continue to release new collections in response to intense customer demand.

Reason behind increasing the demand of active wear

After the COVID, sports and fitness activities are becoming more popular as consumers become more health-conscious and want to stay fit. True Fit’s Fashion Genome, which analyzes data from 17,000 brands and 180 million True Fit users, confirms that athleisure orders jumped 84% since the start of the pandemic.

Female participation in domestic and professional sports and fitness activities is also a major reason for activewear growth. The segment is booming because women like fashionable athletic clothes.

The majority of athleisure users are between the ages of 16 and 30. The region's market is being driven by China and India, which are home to more young people than the rest of the region. It is anticipated that Asia Pacific will grow at a rate of 8.1% between 2022 and 2028.

Because fitness is becoming more essential, a slightly older age group is still wearing athleisure. They want to buy either sporty or athleisure clothing. They look and feel younger while wearing it.

Further driving this market forward are celebrity collaborations with DTC and designer sportswear companies. In addition, they are thinning the distinction between work and workout attire, which is advancing this market.

Synthetic fibers that are used in activewear have also improved in terms of flexibility, durability, and washability. This makes items like spandex more flexible, durable, and washable than natural fibers. The sportswear market is witnessing growth in several sectors, including modest and adaptable clothing, maternity activewear, and sustainable activewear.

Yoga products increased by 55% YoY with seamless activewear cementing itself as the new loungewear.

Brand response to active wear demand

When the activewear trend first started gaining popularity a few years ago, many people questioned whether it would last. However, recent data suggests that consumers are becoming more willing to give up their high-luxury brand name in favor of an appearance that is more in line with their active lifestyle. Companies are adapting their product lines in response to this demand to offer comfortable, useful, and fashionable apparel items that can be worn to the gym and on a night out with friends.  This has sparked an entirely new category known as ‘athleisure’. 

 Many businesses concentrate on specific categories of athletic products and give highly valued attention to satisfied clients. Additionally, a lot of businesses offer customers specialized gear that is best suited for particular clientele, as well as qualified assistance to help them make the right decisions.

Adidas debuted Formotion in February 2021, a new line of sportswear for women of all shapes and sizes that is made to complement and support their bodies.

Marks & Spencer has made a significant entry into the quickly expanding sportswear industry with the launch of a new integrated hub on M& that features multi-brand apparel retailer The Sports Edit. The Sports Edit was purchased by M&S in March 2022. The company cited the platform's "proven capacity in brand curation and emerging brand recognition," as well as its "leading position in the sportswear category."

Gap, which owns both Old Navy and Athleta, is far from the only retailer benefiting from athleisure, which is more accurately referred to as a category of clothing that can be worn for both sweaty activities and casual wear. Customers were attracted to loungewear like leggings, pajama sets, and other cozy alternatives during the coronavirus pandemic, and retailers were aware of this. For instance, the Old Navy store changed its layout to reflect the fad and put certain things right by the entrance. It also bought more fleece hoodies, stretchy bottoms, and other products to make sure it had enough inventory before the holiday rush.

The North Face, Levi's, and Louis Vuitton are just a few of the companies competing for market share by releasing new products with stretchy fabric that can be worn for errands or on runs to the store.

While Target debuted All in Motion, a new workout label that had only recently launched before the pandemic, earlier in 2020, Kohl's introduced FLX, its own activewear brand, in 2021.

Product insight

The shirts segment held the largest revenue share of over 30.0% in 2021. The segment for yoga apparel, which had the second-largest revenue share in 2021, is anticipated to grow at the fastest rate. Yoga has become increasingly popular as a form of mind-body exercise, especially since COVID-19. This has resulted in an increase in the number of yoga practitioners worldwide.

Leggings also form an essential component of athleisure wear since they are multi-purpose and can be easily worn as active wear as well as casual wear. Leggings are anticipated to grow at an estimated 8.6% CAGR during the forecast period. They can be used while exercising, including running, cycling, Zumba, and calisthenics.

Reflective and high vis clothing is a safety staple for people who exercise on roads and in public spaces at times when visibility is poor. Have you ever wondered about the statistics and the science behind your favorite cycling jacket or running top?

With the pandemic spreading across the globe, consumers have become more concerned about their health and are adopting healthy life habits. Manufacturers are launching new products made using strong, durable, and quality materials. The availability of sports apparel with enhanced properties, including temperature control, moisture management, and other performance-boosting characteristics that prevent potential injury and discomfort, has captured consumers’ interest. With all of these unique features, consumers are willing to pay more for such additional benefits. This, in turn, has propelled consumer habits to wear athletic apparel during their leisure time.

Sustainability and activewear

Athleisure is now embracing sustainability, a long-standing fashion trend. Forbes reports that consumers continue to find and buy new products made of durable, high-quality materials and that many companies are attempting to bridge the gap between fashionable and cutting-edge functional designs. 50 textile, apparel, and retail companies agreed to take on the challenge of using 25% more recycled polyester by 2020. These businesses include Ikea, Gap, H&M, and Adidas. In 2018, they have actually exceeded it by increasing their use of recycled polyester by 36 percent.

After its invention in 1973, the packaging industry saw the PET bottle as a much more affordable substitute for glass bottles and as the first plastic bottle that could withstand the pressure of carbonated liquids. Every minute, 10 million bottles are sold worldwide. By recycling this bottle to make athletic wear, the environment will benefit significantly. Only 30% of these bottles are recycled in the US, while 97% are in Norway.

As cotton is a thirsty tree and to produce a single tee it requires more than 4000 liters of water, people are becoming more connected with recycled activewear tees as an eco-friendly product.

Technology and activewear

In recent years, activewear brands and manufacturers have incorporated cutting-edge technology into their garments to improve comfort, fit, and performance. Activewear is becoming increasingly popular with technologies like moisture-wicking, antimicrobial, and heat-retaining fabrics.

Thermocouples technology from Outlast, antimicrobial technology from Sciessent, and temperature-regulating fabrics designed by 37.5 Technology are all specialized fabrics and treatments designed to improve temperature regulation. These technologies have made activewear more efficient, comfortable, and long-lasting.

Janji, an activewear company with a focus on running, is experimenting with new material combinations, including volcanic ash. Volcanic ash particles are used in a number of Runterra's eco-friendly activewear products as odor and temperature regulators.

Technology integration gives brands like WearableX an edge, especially as more health-conscious consumers exercise privately at home instead of in a group setting.

Brands like Hexoskin now offer activewear apparel with built-in textile ECG & Respiratory sensors for real-time (and historical) reporting. This is an example of smart activewear with health-monitoring properties via tech integrations.

Elastique Athletics is another option; it provides a non-invasive, non-toxic wellness solution that is powered by the wearer's natural movement and sits on the body.

Battle of the brands and Gymshark's ascent

In the activewear market, competition is expected to increase as brands fight for more market share. The combined sales of Nike and Adidas in 2021 will exceed 68 billion dollars, making them the world's largest activewear manufacturers. Under Armour and lululemon, which were founded in 1996 and 1998, respectively, are challenging more established brands.

One of the most surprising addition is Gymshark, considered to be the UK's most successful start-up. The company was founded in 2012 by college friends Ben Francis and Lewis Morgan who were just 20 years old at the time.

The success of Gymshark can be attributed to their commitment to provide high quality, innovative apparel that meets the needs of their customers. Through social media and digital marketing, they have been able to reach millions of customers throughout the world with products that are both fashionable and functional. Also, they have been unabashedly original in their designs and have developed a loyal fan base through interesting activities and content. Ultimately, Gymshark has achieved success by sticking to its core principles and utilizing the most recent innovations.


Activewear clothing has evolved from sweaty workout clothes into a business. Global markets are changing and Athleisure trend are here to stay, and manufacturers need to adapt to these changes to stay ahead of the race. It is necessary to invest in man-made fiber spinning, R&D, and market research to take advantage of the athletesizer trend.