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From Lifting to Lounging: How Athleisure is Making its Mark on Fashion
Free Enterprise Staff | February 11, 2016

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Whether for running to the gym or merely running errands, athleisure attire has become many a woman’s go-to wardrobe staple. Defined as workout gear that can also be worn in non-workout settings, the athleisure concept has caught fire in recent years. In fact, it’s become so popular that the apparel has replaced many women’s on-the-go outfits (this hilarious video shows just what we’re talking about!).

While Lululemon, known for its high-end yoga and performance gear, sparked the movement, dozens of smaller brands are looking to make their mark on the ever-expanding industry. At a time when the activewear business is booming—the $270 billion market is expected to grow more than 30% in the next five years—we took a look at six brands capitalizing on the athleisure trend, from established companies to popular newcomers.

The Original: Lululemon

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Since opening its first store in 2000, Lululemon essentially created the athleisure market. With everything from rain jackets to scarves to their signature luxury leggings in all shapes, textures and sizes, the retail giant appeals to a “a sophisticated and educated woman who understands the importance of an active, healthy lifestyle.” Proof that shoppers still love the brand? Lululemon amassed almost $700 million in net revenue in the final quarter of 2015, up 15% since 2014.

 

The Best of Both Worlds: Athleta

Athleta is also an established member of the athleisure market, having been purchased by Gap Inc. in 2008. The brand skews heavily toward fitness gear, but it also offers a wide variety of items perfect for lounging at home, from cotton-blend skirts to relaxed cardigans. Athleta’s also got moms who want their mini-mes to match their athleisure-chic look covered: The brand is launching a girls’ clothing line this summer.

 

The Boutique: Bandier Fit

What started in 2014 as a pop-up shop in Southampton, New York, has quickly morphed into an athleisure boutique like none other. With five brick-and-mortar stores, and more in the works, Bandier Fit offers dozens of luxury and mainstream athletic wear lines—from well-known brands such as Reebok to designer collaborations like Adidas by Stella McCartney. Founder Jennifer Bandier says she strives for a “fitness-meets-fashion” aesthetic, telling Racked that active consumers could feel comfortable wearing anything in her store either to a heavy workout or a lunch out with friends.

 

The Loungewear Line: Lou and Grey

 Selling everything from loose, cotton dresses to velour joggers, Lou and Grey takes street-friendly activewear to a new level. Spun off from Ann Taylor Loft, the line has differentiated itself by focusing less on hardcore gym gear and more on gym-inspired loungewear – think heather grey slim knit sweats that are perfect for yoga and a brunch date. Ann Taylor’s success in creating a line within a line has inspired the likes of Tory Burch, whose Tory Sport line recently launched, and Cynthia Rowley, who created her activewear line last year.

 

The Millennials’ Choice: Outdoor Voices

 Despite having only two locations (in New York and Austin, Texas), Outdoor Voices is making waves. Founded in 2013 by designer Tyler Haney, the company has risen to success by targeting the millennial consumer. Through key partnerships with celebrities, popular blogs, and retailers like J.Crew and a more subtle sense of style (hold the neon and vertigo-inducing patterns, please), OV has created a loyal customer in young shoppers looking for a clean, modern aesthetic.

 

The E-tail Subscription Club: Fabletics

Best known for its spokesperson Kate Hudson, Fabletics is an online retailer and activewear subscription service that focuses on high-end gear for a fraction of the cost. What makes Fabletics different is its VIP membership program, which boasts around 250,000 members: Shoppers fill out a survey and are offered an assortment of personalized workout outfits starting at $49.95, then are reminded on the 1st of each month to “shop or skip” their choices. The clothing ranges from true gym-gear to more casual sweater dresses and wrap tops.