THE FITNESS EVOLUTION
FUNCTION MEETS FASHION IN HIGH TECH FABRICS AND NEW TRENDS.
Byline: Toni Lublin
Remember the fitness craze of the mid-Seventies? As fitness experts promoted the “no pain, no gain” philosophy and Americans became obsessed with exercise, a new category of clothing was born.
With the popularity of aerobic workouts, roller discos, skateboarding and exercise bikes came spandex leotards, footless tights layered with leg warmers and track suits. The Eighties saw the rise of aerobics and bodybuilding, while the Nineties brought a range of high tech fabrics and treatments to the scene, designed to wick moisture from the surface of the skin and provide maximum warmth at minimum weight.
These days, activewear is undergoing another sort of shift, one brought on by the consumer’s desire for activewear that’s appropriate for more than just athletic pursuits. “Women have discovered the multifunctional use of their activewear. It’s comfortable, economical and has style. For $100, the consumer can put together a top, bottom and jacket, while looking chic and casual. Now that it has more flair and versatility, activewear can be worn to lunch, a soccer game or shopping,” said Carol Hochman, president and ceo of Danskin.
Furthermore, the jarring events of Sept. 11 have stimulated a nationwide nesting instinct. Correspondingly, the demand has risen for comfortable clothes suited to lounging at home, but with a style and sportiness that doesn’t scream “coach potato.”
The comfort trend combined with a lifestyle function is what’s brought activewear to the next level, according to Maria Stefan, executive director and vice president of global business development at the Sporting Good Manufacturer Association.
“At the recent Super Show [held in Las Vegas in January], manufacturers showed activewear that is clean and tailored on the outside, utilized technology in the fabrication and had built-in accessories, such as cell-phone pockets,” said Stefan.
One company that’s in step with activewear’s lean toward lifestyle is Body Action Design, a New York contemporary sportswear apparel manufacturer that launched an active/streetwear collection called B-B-A-D in November.
“B-B-A-D is ‘carpool couture.’ It goes from yoga class to picking up the kids, to lunch or shopping with girlfriends,” said Michael Zobgy, sales representative.
According to chief executive officer Jeffrey Halper, B-B-A-D will represent $3 million in sales, or 25 percent of Body Action Design’s business by yearend.
“For fall 2002, our theme is based on the spa, with the main fabric being stretch French terry. We have used appliques, embroidery, varsity medallions, chenille adornments and badges on the bodies to make them pop,” said Halper.
Wholesale prices range from $28 to $48 for top and bottoms. Tops include logo muscle tanks, zip-front hoodies with crest emblems and sleeveless zip-front hoodies with the B-B-A-D logo. Bottoms include French terry capri-length pants and drawstring boot-leg French terry bottoms. Key fabrications are cotton/spandex French terry and cotton/spandex jersey.
Hard Tail, a nine-year-old Santa Monica, Calif.-based contemporary sportswear line, also addresses multifunctional apparel. “We consider the line a lifestyle brand. It goes from gym to grocery store and works for all types of activities,” said Kelly Bryan, Southeast sales representative.
Hard Tail is color-driven, with 71 hues represented in 90 percent of the line. Pant silhouettes include boot-leg flare, bell-bottom and leggings, roll-down waists, capri and pedal-pushers, with details such as low-rise flares, split legs, drawstring bottoms and zipper closures. Prices range from $19 for a pair of French terry capris to $45 for zipper-fly boot-leg pants in an indigo stretch cotton.
Other silhouettes in the top category include sleeveless hoodies, baseball tanks with raglan sleeves, crewneck T-shirts and fly-away tanks, which are split up the back. Prices range from $9 to $25 wholesale.
Hard Tail’s layering pieces include long-sleeved hoodies, appliqued jackets, and jackets resembling jean jackets, but made from stretch fleece. Prices range from $28 to $44 wholesale.
Some brands are equipping their activewear with high-performance fabrics and features, though the styling has crossover appeal. Carol Hanson, Southeast independent representative for Danskin Inc., said diversification is key.
“Major lines that are serious about activewear have apparel made specifically for yoga, karate, running and cycling. [But] fitness has become more a part of daily life, and wearing the right apparel for different activities is important for comfort,” said Hanson.
The yoga line offers three ranges in different fabrics: Seamless Apparel, Meditate on Cotton, and Om So Soft Terry. “This segment is add-on business for Danskin,” said Hanson. The department stores are committing floor space to fitness apparel. Marshall Field’s has added our yoga range to their health and fitness department for spring 2002.” A bestseller in the yoga collection is lotus pants, loose-fitting pants that flare from the knee. Unitards, yoga camis and seamless racer bra tops are also offered. Wholesale prices range from $17 to $21 for capri, boot-leg and ankle bottoms and $10 to $17 for racer bra tops, tanks and cap sleeve tops.
New silhouettes for fall include a seamless shell, which will wholesale for $17. “Danskin has technical fabrics in fashion-forward styles. You can work out and throw on a Danskin coordinating jacket and pick up the kids from soccer, even go out to meet a friend for lunch,” said Hanson. Supplex and CoolMax are the two primary performance fibers used in the line.
San Francisco Citylights, a San Francisco-based contemporary sportswear company, is also represented by Carol Hanson. Its City Tech collection uses technical fabrics like Meryl Nylon, a moisture-wicking microfiber, and Tactel nylon.
Wholesale prices in the City Tech collection range from $13 to $23 for cropped camisoles, tanks, cap-sleeved crewnecks and spaghetti tanks. Bottoms range from $23 for loose-fitting capris in a Tactel and Lycra spandex blend to $42 for Meryl and Lycra pull-on straight-legged pants.
Other bodies include flared leggings, tie-front pants and shorts. Hoodies, which range from $31 to $36, are offered in long sleeves with details such as side slits, zip fronts and racing stripes.