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Apparel Insights

Apparel Insights

Insight | Culture

Cultural shift drives leisure apparel growth

Five years ago, when athleisure gained traction on the runway, it was identified as a new trend. Three years later, people began to wonder if athleisure was actually a trend, since it wasn’t fading away. We’re seeing now that athleisure is not a trend, but an aspect of a cultural shift that idealizes wellness. There are trends within athleisure—color preferences and patterns that change, for example. But the broader idea of dressing for comfort and being able to dress the same for workouts and work is a cultural shift, and it’s rooted in modern American values. This shift is tied to the health and wellness phenomenon and the growing perception of health and wellness as luxury. Not everyone can afford to buy boutique workout classes, expensive juices and superfood lattes, and healthy organic produce. These signifiers of wellness, along with athleisure, have also become signifiers of social status and luxury.

Anu Lingala

Senior Consultant

Kantar, Consulting Division


Insight | Growth

Brands pursue opportunities for retail growth

The apparel category is being disrupted by direct-to-consumers brands, which make it easy for shoppers to try and keep new outfits or return them without having to visit a physical store. That said, there are opportunities for growth for retailers that operate smaller store formats (think 20,000 sq. ft. vs. your traditional 200,000 sq. ft. department store) and leverage their physical locations as an extension of their online presence. Finally, consumers relate better to ads that feature people like themselves rather than models. Aerie, ModCloth and Lululemon are examples of brands that embrace all three trends outlined above.

Emmanuel Probst

Vice President, Media & Content



Insight | Logos

Logos reflect the wearer’s personal values

Logos are becoming less of a badge and more of a mirror, reflecting what people believe in and stand for. People are less interested in putting on a shirt with a big logo and saying, “I buy into this brand”. Instead, people are buying into brands that are more a statement of their personal values. However, the athletic brands in the BrandZ apparel ranking have a lot of significance behind the logo because health has become a status symbol. Just wearing these logos, having Lululemon on your leggings, for example, says something about you even when you’re not in a gym working out. In other casualwear the brands matter a little less and the logos are not as front and center on the clothing.

Heather Granger

Consultant, Strategic Consulting

Kantar, Consulting Division


Insight | Exclusivity

Halo products create demand for full range

There is a massive trend toward exclusivity in fashion and sportswear brands. It is a luxury strategy that certain mass sportswear brands execute well. They generate hype and drive brand awareness and desirability by creating limited runs of products that people almost have to research and fight to access. It’s the opposite of saturating the market and giving everybody what they want. The brands can rely less on data and knowing their customer deeply because they are releasing less product than they have demand for. The difference between mass and luxury is that in luxury scarcity creates demand for a brand, while in mass scarcity creates demand for a particular product, for example a certain model of adidas or Nike shoe. The halo product helps raise the brand profile and drive volume in the mass part of the range.

Lucca Bergallo

Account Director, Client Services



Insight | Utility

Apparel must serve multiple daily activities

There is a trend toward blending elements of your life, specifically squeezing workouts in during the middle of the day, both weekdays and weekends. There are emerging activities, like barre classes—a combination of yoga, ballet and pilates—that provide a good workout without requiring a shower afterward. If you have a casual office environment, a work-from-home day, or a busy weekend day, you can put on your athletic gear in the morning, break for workout during the day, and return to your desk without skipping a beat.

Marisa McMahon

Senior Vice President, Business Development, Strategic Client Partner



Insight | Trends

People seek performance comfort, style

Consumers want cute, attractive clothing that also offers solid performance. Think about the Kate Spade athleisure line or the British fashion brand Asos, which now has its own workout line. People using the clothing for athletic purpose are not willing to compromise on performance. They want breathability, sweat technology, but they still want it to look good. The brand messaging needs to tell both stories. The clothing needs to be fun and it also needs to work as athletic gear. People want to feel comfortable and not look sloppy. This trend includes aging boomers who want to maintain an active lifestyle but don’t want to wear clothing that would make them look like stereotypical seniors. More fashionable clothing for older people is a big opportunity.

Whitney Krause James

Partner, Analytics Practice