New York Fashion Week, traditionally a place for glitz, glamour, sequined dresses and silk separates, is set this year to feature lines of comparatively humble items: fitness wear.
So called “athleisure” apparel, which includes yoga pants and tank tops, has moved from the health club to the streets, opening up big business opportunities. As companies like Lululemon Athletica Inc.
have grown in size and profitably, labels and designers on the higher end of the fashion spectrum have begun to get in on the action.
That has brought some new combinations of brands and items to Fashion Week, which began Thursday.
Tory Burch, who recently announced a Tory Sport label, will have a pop-up store during Fashion Week. Derek Lam joined with Athleta earlier this year on an athleisure line. And Calia by Carrie, launched by country singer and “American Idol” winner Carrie Underwood and sold at Dick’s Sporting Goods
, had a fashion show and pop-up store on Thursday.
“It’s a very strong trend that’s still early in its growth potential and will be here for years to come,” said Andrew Burns, a research analyst who follows active lifestyle brands at D.A. Davison & Co.
Athleisure is already opening the door for pricey garments that were once simply items tossed inside of a gym bag. Lululemon is selling the “Speed Tight IV” pants, made out of “smooth, sweat-wicking Luxtreme fabric” for $108. Nike Pro Floral Dot training tights are $130. And the Leather Lane Tank from the Derek Lam collection for Athleta sells for $198. Many Athleta tanks outside of this collection go for less than $50.
Burns, who says comfort and innovation are driving growth and customer interest, believes the trend will to spread across the fashion spectrum, from value brands to premium labels. Athletic footwear comprises more than 30% of the annual footwear spend, but athletic apparel is just about 5%.
“There’s a large shift in apparel where consumers will spend more of their annual apparel budget on athletic apparel,” he said. “It is a growth opportunity for every brand that can make relevant products in this space.”
Some trend watchers, however, believe the trend suggests underlying problems in the fashion industry. Paula Rosenblum, retail analyst at Retail Systems Research, sees it as an indication of a lack of innovation in fashion.
“I think we have a real fashion problem (and this is coming from someone who is a dedicated casual dresser) and there’s just not enough risk-taking,” Rosenblum said in an email. She hopes its impact on Fashion Week, meanwhile, will be minimal.
“I am hoping it has very little impact on Fashion Week, as I just don’t see it as true fashion,” she wrote.