A few thoughts on the current female activewear market.
It seems that 2015 has become ‘the year of the girl’… a stronger and more indestructible kind of girl. Throughout the ‘noughties’, slender, gaunt, stick-like creatures set a tone throughout female fashion industry, now in the ‘teenies’ it’s becoming more popular that women embrace normality and strive to portray themselves as stronger and more athletic… finally a break-through in attitudes towards the healthy female form.
This Girl Can
Last year Always launched their ‘like a girl’ campaign in 2014, aiming to boost women’s self-confidence in an attempt to remind them that there is no shame in acting ‘like a girl’. Later that year, Emma Watson played a huge part in kick-starting the debate on gender equality at the UN headquarters in NYC. Now in 2015, we witness the impact of lottery funded ‘This Girl Can’ campaign video, celebrating the ‘Women who are doing their thing no matter how they look or how sweaty it makes them.’ A video featuring women ‘shaking it, all of it’ to the grungy hip-hop baseline of Missy Elliott… it’s gritty, raw and has attracted over 7 million views on YouTube since launching last month.
Clothing is now designed to suit women of all shapes and sizes, not just the super skinny or athletic. Lululemon have even brought out ‘stink free gear’ for those who are put off exercise because it makes them smell… taking things a bit far perhaps, yet emphasises how activewear brands are bending over backwards to accommodate the boom of all female customers.
Healthy Role Models
Powerful images of Team GB’s female stars in the 2012 London Olympics have had a huge influence in boosting numbers of women taking up sport in the UK… Jessica Ennis, Rebecca Adlington, Katherine Grainger, Lizzie Armitstead, Anna Watkins, Saskia Clark and many more athletes have become strong role models for females all over the UK. Especially in this modern era where women are following their sports heroes day-to-day on social channels, and in doing so encouraged to desire the same looks that professionals are sponsored to wear by big apparel brands during training and competition.
UK activewear has landed
Australia has been leagues ahead for some time when it comes to fashionable female focussed sports apparel, the European women’s activewear market on the other hand has only just exploded. According to Euromonitor International, the UK is yet to see a constant value compound annual growth rate of 4%, especially now that high street giants such as H&M, YOOX.com and Topshop (amongst many other online retailers) and are bringing out their own lines of activewear at an affordable high street price. Even the more alternative bohemian fashion websites are jumping on board such as ‘Anthropology’ and ‘Freepeople’ – who have just this month, launched their activewear apparel range ‘Free People Movement’. It is clear that more and more online retailers are entering the ‘sportswear powered by fashion’ e-commerce arena in force – there appears to be no end to this activewear boom, it’s everywhere… and unlike many fashion movements, my money goes on that this one is here to stay.
Sports brands are already collaborating with high-end fashion designers – more famously Stella McCartney & adidas’s ongoing partnership with the GB Olympic team kit redesign. Now Riccardo Tisci is teaming up with Nike redesigning the ‘Air Force 1’, a basketball shoe that has been adapted for the street. Female athletes are launching their own brands – Venus Williams with her ‘Eleven’ collection, or Topshop’s new ‘Sno’ range by snowboarding athlete and model Charlotte Dutton. A great marketing ploy for any sports apparel brand by getting international athletes behind the products… the masses can seek confidence that they are purchasing a product that performs to an elite standard.
Female Hollywood stars are ditching the idea to bring out the ‘latest fragrance’ or cosmetic in their name, and instead cutting themselves a slice of the activewear market cake. Kate Hudson and her new online sportswear label ‘Fabletics’ is a complete sell out, using facebook advertising to launch and promote ‘a complete activewear outfit for £22.50’.
High performance technology fabrics are now easily available to girls for hot/cold, cool/warm and every other minor temperature fluctuation in-between. More affordable, high performance fabrics are not just available for professional athletes anymore, gone are the days of getting fit in an old pair of green flash, baggy shorts and a t-shirt… women now desire sports outfits that boast technology as well as prints and colours, enabling girls to mirror current fashion trends on the high street too… It could even be said that activewear is becoming more of an incentive for women to join a gym than the exercise itself.
Been around the block
Let’s not forget the pioneering style activewear brands such as Sweaty Betty, who have been representing and leading the stylish side of female sport for many years now, with stores in most major cities across the UK… but their presence has been diluted of late due to the influx of other labels saturating the market. Sweaty Betty might not be the most affordable option, but they have been around a while, and have offered women reliable garments with a guarantee of longevity that greener market entries lack.
Fashion Sportswear degree courses are now available to study at top universities such as ‘The University of London Arts’ and ‘Falmouth University’ amongst others. Additionally, Chichester University is investing annually in sports technology and equipment to help students study the intricate factors to making an athlete elite in their sport (studying stars such as Ronaldo and Pippa Wilson).
If the youth of today are investing in a career path specific to such an industry, surely the future of fashion activewear is bright. Fashion brands, athletes, celebrities and e-commerce sites that have not already considered investing in sport, here is your heads up.
Swimwear | Waterwear
Swimwear trends are going back to the 80’s and seeing a bright new facelift, especially in the wetsuit sector. The traditional black wetsuit is being replaced with bright, colourful, printed neoprene designs that are currently trending the surf and watersport markets. Brands such as GlideSoul are probably amongst the most radical of the designs to hit the market with their ‘Waterwear’ collection, incorporating neon and animal prints, giving women something to get excited about when on the water.
The more prestigious and established women’s wetsuit brands such as Roxy, O’Neill, Rip Curl and Billabong also offer women a more flamboyant, alternative choice to the traditional black suit. The variety of suit shapes and sizes ranging from neoprene bikinis, crop tops, jackets, leggings, full suits, short suits, sleeveless suits and the ever-popular ‘cheeky’ suit are enabling women of all shapes, sizes and individual watersport interests to be comfortable and confident.
The Future looks Strong
For so long now, sporty women in the UK have put up with brands applying the old ‘shrink it and pink it’ approach to men’s technical apparel, but now the choice of activewear available to women is endless from surfing or skiing or simply working out in the gym.
This is a perhaps a new generation of active and confident women, a healthier nation. All expanding female brands should grab the opportunity and cash in on this current booming market – women will always spend money on looking good, and I strongly predict the fashionable activewear movement is solid.
#strongisthenewskinny #thisgirlcan #likeagirl #coolerwomen