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“Wellness is the new black,” the fashion industry has proclaimed! No longer merely a lifestyle choice, wellness is now a significantly influential trend in global fashion. Activewear sales are booming, and active sports apparel is one of the fastest-growing categories in fashion today.
No surprise then that many main street and luxury brands are adding activewear components to their offering. U.S. designer Tory Burch is one of the latest to do so, along with more affordable brands such as H&M.
While new clothing lines are designed for activities such as yoga, they’re also intended to be worn outside the gym. Traditional sportswear retailers such as Nike are choosing to collaborate with luxury designers with the aim of offering fashion-forward performance wear that can be worn anytime.
It is an approach that has been so successful that some collaborations have turned into partnerships, such as Major League Baseball with Gucci.
It is not just fashion retailers that are moving into activewear. Gyms and other exercise providers are also starting to develop their own activewear lines. SoulCycle, the incredibly hip chain of spin studios out of New York, is just one fitness brand to do so.
Perhaps the key to this clothing is that it is extremely wearable. Although there is certainly an interest in and awareness of the importance of maintaining an active lifestyle, activewear pieces tend to be highly comfortable and practical for daily wear.
The growing informality of the workplace means it is now much more acceptable to wear casual clothing to the office. The new prevailing style is active and functional while still being fashionable.
Activewear and “athleisure” trends have influenced luxury fashion too, with brands such as Chanel, Dior, and Louis Vuitton offering their own take on sneakers. Brands such as Chloé and Hermès decided that designing their own clothing for exclusive winter sports such as skiing was the best way to produce luxury sportswear.
Other brands have used the casual sportswear trend to influence their streetwear designs, creating highly informal clothing inspired by sportswear styles.
Established luxury brands are smart to hop on the trend, as there are more and more new market entrants to contend with. Launched just 2 years ago, new market entrant Maia Active has been offering athletic clothing to Chinese women, designed specifically for the local climate and with their body type in mind.
So far the brand has grown quickly in China’s market. Other newcomers include fashion-conscious Koral, ballet-inspired StudiøGrand, and Lou & Grey Form—from Ann Taylor’s sister brand Lou & Grey—which focuses on offering super-soft fabrics.
Wellness isn’t just an influential trend in the West. Consumers in China are also taking an increasing interest in lifestyle and health. Although food safety and environmental health remain key areas of concern, there’s a developing interest in exercise and health.
According to a 2017 report by the Hurun Report and the Shenzhen Catic Wellness Group, Chinese families are spending up to a quarter of their income on healthcare and fitness, including things such as gym memberships and products including athletic equipment and functional clothing.
Middle-class families in China used to insist that their kids learn piano. Now wealthier individuals are encouraging their children into high-end sports such as rowing and horseback riding in the hopes of giving them a social advantage.
Interest is shifting away from luxury towards more practical fashion. Wearing athleisure has become a sign of social advantage and sophistication.
It’s a trend being encouraged by brands such as Lululemon, a Canadian athleisure brand with a heavy emphasis on yoga. Store placement (always a significant strategic concern in China’s market) is key to this trend. Expensive gyms and top-end athleisure brands such as Lululemon are opening in more exclusive shopping areas and malls.
Meanwhile, China’s top-end department store, Lane Crawford, is adding athleisure and sportswear brands to its roster. The store brand is actively courting Chinese apparel brands, encouraging young designers as well as adding established Western ones such as Adidas and Stella McCartney to its lineup.
Social media and what celebrities are doing, wearing, and talking about is every bit as influential in China as they are in the West. It’s certainly helping to drive an interest in wellness as a lifestyle.
Consumer analysts seem to believe this interest is generally sincere. Although Chinese citizens have been conspicuous consumers of high-end brands in the past, interested in an item’s status value rather than practicalities, contemporary Chinese consumers are taking a genuine interest in personal improvement and wellness.
That seems to be particularly true of younger consumers in China. Lane Crawford believes that this trend is being driven by social media and exposure to the health and wellness trend from international brands and celebrities.
As a result, the store is actively expanding its offering for brands that mix fashion with fitness to reflect a growing interest in the wellness lifestyle.
As trends go, wellness seems to be both profound and lasting. The most significant aspect of this trend is perhaps its reach: it is influencing markets right around the world and making its impact felt from low to high fashion. And it seems to be here to stay.