PARIS — Signaling the strength of the active trend in fashion, one of the industry’s biggest online players is about to flex its muscles in the arena.

This story first appeared in the April 18, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

According to market sources, Net-a-porter will later this year unveil a new department grouping together several dozen brands that cater to devotees of yoga, spin classes and running — or for women simply smitten with the sporty look and shopping for great sweatpants and racer-back tops.

It is understood the active department won’t be a stand-alone entity, but rather embedded in the main site, telegraphing that today’s customer mixes designer duds with more casual fare.

“Net-a-sporter” is among names executives are said to be mulling for the project.

Reached on Thursday, a Net-a-Porter spokeswoman declined to comment.

Launched in 2000 by former editor Natalie Massenet and owned since 2010 by luxury conglomerate Compagnie Financière Richemont, Net-a-porter specializes in designer collections, selling cocktail dresses, coats, handbags and high heels from brands such as Valentino, Alexander McQueen, Isabel Marant, Chloé and Marc Jacobs.

The e-tailer already stocks a sprinkling of hoodies, track pants, leggings and sports bras from labels including Adidas by Stella McCartney, Spanx, T by Alexander Wang and The Elder Statesman.

According to sources, its new slate of brands includes some exclusives to build traffic and buzz.

Net-a-porter’s volley into the active universe is only the latest indicator of a buoyant sector poised for strong growth.

Tory Burch is to unveil her new activewear line next year, launching it in her Elizabeth Street location in Manhattan and online, with an initial focus on apparel and accessories for yoga, running, golf and tennis, plus casualwear for air travel and city life.

“I find a lot of women wear what they wear to go to the gym all day long,” she told WWD last month.

In 2013, activewear apparel sales in the U.S. gained 9 percent, while total apparel was up just 1 percent, according to data from The NPD Group.

Today’s sporty uniform increasingly doubles as leisure apparel, prompting an array of players to capitalize on a hot fashion and lifestyle trend. Specialist fitness brands such as Under Armour and SoulCycle are expanding their product offerings, while luxury brands such as Chanel and Dior have recently branched out into sneakers and the like.

Adidas, meanwhile, is ramping up its collaborations with fashion figures, revealing earlier this week that London-based designer Mary Katrantzou would collaborate with Adidas Originals on a long-term partnership that will consist of a women’s-focused apparel and footwear line. Pharrell Williams is also doing a capsule collection for Adidas Originals.

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