Mixing wellness with lifestyle: How Activewear Became a Breakthrough Fashion Category
Mixing wellness with lifestyle: How Activewear Became a Breakthrough Fashion Category

Activewear is becoming the hottest style statement in the world of fashion as consumers increasingly seek comfort with style both at the workplace and at home. Growing awareness around healthy living and leading an active lifestyle is motivating people at large to incorporate wellness routines into their everyday lives. 

Further, the outbreak of Covid-19, too, has accelerated the adoption of activewear. The pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns brought back consumers’ focus on staying healthy and active by taking to sports, practicing yoga, or taking up other fitness activities.

Together, evolving lifestyle and fitness preferences are driving the demand for activewear in India and globally. According to various industry reports, the Indian activewear or activewear market is estimated to grow from $ 411 billion in 2021 to $ 793.46 billion by 2028. The market is expected to grow at a 9.9 percent CAGR from 2021 to 2028.

In the next few years, the growing tribe of health-conscious consumers and the increasing disposable income are further going to give a boost to the activewear market in India. Also, the increasing participation of women and kids in sports activities and promotion of activewear as casual wear by big brands, and the debut of young direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands in this segment bodes well for the growth of the activewear market in India. 

Lastly, the growing popularity and increasing penetration of e-commerce in tier-II and tier-III towns are playing a big role in expanding the market for activewear, making products accessible and available to a larger section of the population. 

Activewear: Marrying comfort and fashion

For today’s globally connected and fashion-conscious buyers, comfort is synonymous with the latest designs and styles. 

So, even as consumers, particularly millennials and Gen Z, pursue an active and healthy lifestyle they are looking for clothing that is functional and fashionable. This holds true for activewear which is fast becoming a fashion statement on its own. 

In the post-pandemic period, people are increasingly sporting the activewear look as they work out and work from home all at the same time. While getting fit and being comfortable in one’s skin is the new-age mantra, staying fit and looking fabulous is also an opportunity for people to transform and showcase their new set of comfortable clothes which is activewear. 

And that explains the phenomenon of athleisure trousers such as jeggings and leggings replacing jeans as the main clothing piece in the closets of consumers who are pursuing a healthy and active lifestyle. Consumers today are more comfortable stepping into their living rooms in their gym pants straight after a workout. 

Brands in the market are aware of these changing consumer preferences and coming up with refreshing and innovative active-wear offerings that are multi-purpose, functional, and fashionable, all at the same time. 

Made-for-India brands

For a long time, the activewear market has been dominated by international and big brands such as Nike, Reebok, Puma, Adidas, ASICS, Decathlon, and others. 

However, with an increasing focus on an active lifestyle and a fast-expanding activewear market, a lot of home-grown brands have made inroads in the market. These young brands are targeting young consumers with activewear launches that are functional, durable, stylish, and yet affordable. Most of the home-grown brands have hopped onto the e-commerce bandwagon to make activewear more accessible to the masses, particularly those who cannot afford international brands that sell at a premium. 

Young home-grown brands such as Ochre Athletica, Tego, and Bliss Club are disrupting the market with their wide and innovative range of activewear. Most of these activewear brands are leveraging e-commerce and direct-to-consumer (D2C) platforms as the leading sales channels to reach out to activewear buyers. 

The growing prominence of activewear as the next big fashion category is also evident from the fact that established lingerie brands like Clovia and Zivame are now offering products in the women’s activewear category. 

All these brands are leveraging the reach and influence of online shopping channels to promote and sell activewear to consumers across markets. 

Celebrities and influencers are giving Activewear and Athleisure a push

As a category, activewear is being promoted as the next fashion destination by a host of Bollywood celebrity power and the growing breed of social-media influencers. 

Sensing the big business opportunity that the activewear market promises to be particularly in the post-pandemic era, big retailers like Reliance Retail and others have been proactive in leveraging celebrity power to promote and sell activewear. 

That’s not all. Celebrities, too, have turned entrepreneurs and are taking the lead in expanding the activewear market. For example, Bollywood actor Hrithik Roshan has a clothing line including activewear under the HRX brand. Other celebrities including actors Tiger Shroff and Jacqueline Fernandez have their own athleisure clothing brands.
Activewear brands are riding on this star power to reach out to more buyers. Youth who are seeking comfortable and fashionable clothing options are attracted to the actors' star power. And activewear offers them just that. 

Growing retail network spells boom for activewear

Sensing huge growth opportunities in activewear and athleisure, a large number of global as well as leading Indian retail brands are expanding their physical footprint. 

Brands like Decathlon and others have invested significantly in displaying a wide range of activewear products in malls and other shopping centers. Prominent visual display of activewear plays a significant role in getting consumer attention and driving conversions in-store in a market like India that is still growing and holds huge potential for activewear. 

Numbers speak for themselves. 

According to various industry reports, retailers are increasingly looking for larger spaces. Retailers have taken up one million square meters of floor space in shopping centers and high streets of major cities for the April-June 2022 quarter. 

Innovation to drive future growth

The Indian activewear market is choc-a-block with brands across categories and price segments. Yet, consumers continue to struggle to find the right product and fit for themselves. This has largely to do with the fact that most of the brands are offering regular products that lack innovation in terms of functionality, comfortable fit, and durability.  
Then there is the growing challenge of counterfeit products on the market.

Genuine brands need to guard against this as well. In the long term, brands will do well to recognize that young buyers are looking for products that support the multi-functional movement, are easy to maintain, promise high quality, and are pocket-friendly. 

The future growth of activewear and athleisure in the Indian market is driven by style, creativity, comfort, and innovation. 

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