The activewear world is getting a little more formal.
Gone are the days of wearing leggings with a little cropped top and some sandals.
The current activewear wardrobe is moving in a versatile direction, where ultra-luxurious fabrics and more structured pieces take people from a yoga workout in the morning to an informal afternoon meeting and then home again.
The recent West Coast show, held Aug. 23 and 24 at the seaside Paséa Hotel just steps from the Pacific Ocean showcased 60 brands in the active, athleisure and active accessories categories, said Devon Ranger, associate show director. Some of those brands included Sweaty Betty, Spiritual Gangster, Volcom, LNA Clothing and Frankies Bikinis Active.
This is still far from the show’s pre-pandemic days when more than 200 brands participated in the show held at the much larger Anaheim Convention Center. Active Collective, and its sister trade show Swim Collective, are owned and organized by Emerald Expositions based in San Juan Capistrano, California.
Some 400 retailers from mostly California registered for the show, Ranger said, but there were visitors from Colorado, Hawaii, Florida, Canada and as far away as Australia. They represented all kinds of activewear enterprises such as sporting goods outlets, yoga and Pilates studios, gyms, resort-centric outposts and online ventures.
The show floor was filled with looks incorporating knit varsity jackets, wider-legged stretch pants, knit blazers, dresses with shorts sewn inside and skorts.
More luxurious and heavier fabrics were also making an appearance with standouts such as ribbed textiles and eyelet fabrics. Designs printed on knit fabric were among the latest trends seen at the show as consumers tire of basic solid colors. Colorblocking was also a new look, and bright colors were a must.
“Things have shifted in the last two years,” said Angi Hart, a sales representative for Z Supply, a Southern California brand known for its soft dressing. It just entered the activewear market this season. “It is more fashion.”
Hart pointed to a knit two-tone varsity jacket for women that looks like a softer version of the traditional leather style. There is also a quilt-panel jacket with a printed pattern that matches a rib bra.
Another popular Z Supply pattern is an indigo and navy-blue check print that comes in a matching wrap tank and legging. On the flowery side, there is a floral bike short with a bra top that can be paired with a pink sweatshirt.
Z Supply’s first activewear collection has 60 styles, which complement the company’s selection of T-shirts, tanks, sweaters, pants and joggers.
More dressed-up looks were seen at Koral, a Los Angeles activewear company with glitzier creations. The brand is known for its shiny fabrics that can be worn to the gym or dressed up with heels for a night out on the town. “People like to combine. They like to make it useful for multiple occasions,” said Sarah Choufani, vice president of sales, noting that consumers want to be comfortable when they dress up.
Choufani pointed to a top-and-bottom set made of a lavender eyelet fabric, which is perfect for going out to lunch or meeting friends after a workout.
For evenings, there was a one-piece spaghetti-strapped jumper in a shiny blue material for hitting the nightclub scene. “Post pandemic, we are trying to make everything very efficient and useful,” said Choufani, who noted that the L.A. label was acquired early this year by Global Brand Partners in Singapore.
Different silhouettes for leggings is a major change in the activewear scene. Lynsey Cole, vice president of sales for Beyond Yoga, said bottoms are coming in wide-legged shapes with drawstrings, boot cuts and flares. “We have definitely seen a shift from your traditional legging aesthetic to fuller legs,” Cole said. “Then skirts and dresses with shorts sewn in are also popular.”
Tops with a shelf bra are becoming more common as women seem to be spending more time playing tennis or golf. Pickleball enthusiasts are also shaping activewear looks with dresses and skirts with sewn-in shorts to go from courtside to coffee time.
Bright colors such as orange, green and blue are making an appearance on the activewear scene. Neons are back after a few years’ absence. “Blue is one of our highest volume colors that we sell,” Cole said. “You can never go wrong with blue.”
Retailers in the activewear category were relatively optimistic about business but realistic that this year’s sales won’t be anything like last year’s.
Brittany Van Domelen, owner of O2 Aspen, a yoga and Pilates studio in Aspen, Colorado, saw exceptionally good revenues last year. “We had a big year last year because no one in the U.S. traveled outside of the U.S. They came to Aspen for the summer,” Van Domelen said. “This year, everyone went to Europe.”
During the pandemic, she sold countless numbers of lounge suits. Now everyone wants to dress up.
She was looking for activewear that was a little more dressy, something that was fun, such as a knit short with a cabbage-leaf ruffle at the hem or matching sets.
Anna Bazalar, the owner of Barre Soul Kauai in Hawaii, was in search of lifestyle clothing that could be worn all day long. In particular, she was searching for cargo pants with a zipper at the bottom and longer tops that could be knotted in the front. “I love the ribbed fabric collection of pants,” she said. “It’s a little different.”