Athleisure: The Latest Trend in Gym-to-Street Wear

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By Clare Harriman. You know the look, you’re probably wearing it right now: leggings, sports bra, breathable tee and track jacket? What has been uniform to the yoga gal and more over, the styled leisure woman, is becoming popular nationwide. So what do we call it? Activewear? Athleticwear? Sportswear? The latest word for this new trend in fashion is “athleisure,” a broad category of being appropriate for either athletic or leisure pursuits, or both.

Looking at the number of companies that have since announced they are getting into the game, it’s clear that "athleisure" is becoming bigger than a trend. Workout clothing now represents 17% of the total clothing market,The NPD Group, a market-research company, said.

Lululemon, a public company since 2007, dominates the athleisure market with its 289 stores. The company's net revenue increased 12% for the first three quarters of fiscal 2014. Gap's active brand, Athleta, also leads the field. In the last three quarters, the number of Athleta stores has grown by 28 to 92. Luxury versions of leisure clothes have occupied a niche of fashion for decades (Juicy Couture’s velour tracksuits were far ahead of this curve), and, of course, a good deal of these clothes are really no different from the Ts and sweats people have been buying for years, now just with better tailoring and excellent marketing behind them.

Despite the marketing appeal and catchy taglines, athleisure represents a bigger, and likely permanent, sea change in fashion. It has even started to appear on designer runways, including those famous couture sneakers from Chanel. The reasons are many, but the most obvious cause stems from people who are embracing healthier lifestyles, while also demanding more functionality from their wardrobes. The need for everyday comfort, too, plays a role, especially for anyone trying to work fitness into an already overbooked schedule. Who wants to haul an extra outfit to work?

So what is your take? Do you participate in the trend? Is athleisure here to stay?

See more on the research and background for this post on USAToday, InStyle, and Style.com.