There is no question that the biggest trend in apparel and footwear today is athleisure wear. It seems that for nearly every occasion, athletic-casual wear has become increasingly acceptable. Although major retailers known to be powerhouses in apparel have taken a dive over the last year, young people have been spending more on athletic brands like Nike and Lululemon. The athleisure wear market is estimated to be an $97 billion dollar market and growing. In order to survive the shift, major athletic brands are all adapting accordingly, adjusting their products to appeal to a market who wants to live, work and play in their athletic wear.
“This arguably means that young people — who apparently aren't willing to invest in much — are willing to invest in something: their wellness, which isn't a fad...it's a lifestyle.” - Business Insider
So what does the athleisure trend mean for footwear brands and how can brands capitalize on this trend? Lets first dive into the the core characteristics that define this category of footwear.
Performance is Assumed: Because of the popularity of athletic footwear, consumers expect a baseline level of performance and comfort in most of the products that they buy. This means that an athletic midsole with plenty of cushioning is a standard. Performance is present, but not the focus on the product.
Styling is King: Flashy performance characteristics and features are no longer appealing. Instead, footwear in this category is trending toward simple design that allows for a multitude of materials and graphics to be applied to the upper. Materials such as lush leathers a woven knits will be utilized across product categories as the main materials of choice. Expect to see welded uppers in lieu of stitching. Styling is the new marketing trend.
Versatility: Athleisure is defined by the ability of a product to be multi-functional. Athletic yet casual. Footwear in this category must reflect this ethos. This is achieved by utilizing a performance athletic sole and a simplified upper to convey a relaxed look, making it appropriate to workout in and wear around town. By adopting this trend, consumers aspire to be perceived as an individual who is intelligent, active, and productive.
You might be asking yourself, is this trend is just a fad or is it here to stay? At Concept 21, we believe it is here to stay. Bill Bowerman, Nike co-founder, said it best: “If you have a body, you are an athlete." The millennial generation is particularly keen on health and wellness and this will be a lasting value they uphold. Besides, who doesn't like wearing comfortable shoes all day?
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