d+k active activewear

While the coronavirus has wreaked havoc on most of the fashion industry, there’s one clear winner: activewear. 

“It’s been one of the best-performing categories since quarantine began,” Kristen Classi-Zummo, director of apparel market insights at The NPD Group, told WWD. “Whether it’s from a comfort standpoint, or working out from home, activewear has really fared better than other categories.” 

Lululemon activewear

Lululemon continues to innovate with new performance features.  Courtesy Photo

This, of course, isn’t surprising. From casual strolls through the city to weekend hikes in the mountains to bicycle meet-ups around the country, exercising has become the go-to pastime while restaurants, bars, museums and other social hubs remain largely inaccessible. 

There’s also continued work-from-home orders around the nation. Some firms have pushed back their return-to-office dates into 2021. Others have shuttered their offices forever. In the process, the need for tailored dresses and workwear have become a pre-pandemic memory, while comfortable chic has become the go-to look. 

In fact, the global activewear market is now expected to be worth nearly $547 billion by 2024, according to Allied Market Research. 

That’s why a myriad of companies and brands have been eager to tap into the growing activewear and ath-leisure markets. American Eagle Outfitters’ Offline by Aerie activewear line, Target’s All in Motion women’s activewear and H&M’s Cos activewear collection, have all launched within the last year alone. Slightly pricier activewear collections have been introduced from the likes of fashion influencer Danielle Bernstein, Gwyneth Paltrow and Ultracor x Christian Lacroix. There are also fan favorites, like Fabletics, Alo Yoga, P.E. Nation, Free People’s FP Movement and Outdoor Voices, all of which have doubled down on their efforts to bolster their activewear categories. 

We Wore What activewear

Danielle Bernstein’s We Wore What launched its first activewear collection in August.  Courtesy Photo

But all of these names still have to compete with athletic giants like Nike, Lululemon and Adidas, and the question is whether these smaller brands will be able to hold their own.

“The sheer number of established brands in the activewear space requires new players to have a differentiated offer to cut through the noise,” said Kayla Marci, market analyst at Edited, a retail market intelligence company. “Having the lowest price isn’t always the determining factor in a collection’s success, particularly within the activewear market where brands such as Lululemon have continued to excel by offering a higher-than-average price point that doesn’t budge during discount periods.”

What will potentially attract customers, however, are performance features, such as wrinkle-resistant and antimicrobial properties, fabrics that offer UV protection or sweat-wicking garments. Niche players, like D+K Active, offer maternity activewear options, while indie start-up Zise offers performance wear that doubles as dancewear.   

dplusK active

D+K Active offers maternity activewear options.  Courtesy Photo Katrina Parker

It’s about brands that make people’s lives easier, Classi-Zummo said. “It’s more for a convenience factor,” she added. “In order to attract consumers’ attention right now, the focus has been on comfort.” There’s even opportunity for companies and brands to expand beyond just activewear while still focusing on comfort. 

“Maybe I find out I’m working from home for the next year or indefinitely, [and] maybe I don’t want to get by just wearing my sweatpants like I’ve been doing,” Classi-Zummo said. “Now I want to invest in nicer apparel that is still comfortable.

“We’re seeing this trend even in the luxury sector,” she continued. “When we’re looking at luxury brands, all of the growth is really coming from activewear.”

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