Fashion Meets Function: Athleisure takeover in the Sportswear Industry

Fashion Meets Function: Athleisure takeover in the Sportswear Industry

Sportswear has evolved to become the preferred attire for casual occasions– not only for sports.  Consumers want clothing that is trendy and breathable, where fashion meets function.Whether it's grocery shopping, lunch with friends, work, or lounging around the house, more people are looking for what the industry is calling “athleisure” clothing. 

The athleisure evolution has presented opportunities for the sports and outdoors industries. Instead of marketing athletic clothing for sports, many companies are showing it as everyday attire. This means a brand is able to target a variety of different audiences for clothing that is functional and fashionable. 

While this trend has created opportunities, it also has presented some challenges. One of the main challenges is that the competition has expanded. Now sportswear brands are competing with clothing brands outside the industry for a share of the athleisure market. 

Let’s take a look at what is athleisure, how it has emerged, and what marketing strategies are best for the athleisure market.

What is Athleisure? 

Athleisure clothing is athletic-style clothing that you can also wear casually. It’s essentially athletics and leisurewear combined. 

Athleisure defines where fashion meets function. This type of clothing is both functional and flexible, making it suitable for everyday wear and exercise. And, of course, it’s in line with the latest trends, so people aren’t afraid to post an instagram picture in it or wear it to social occasions. 

Additionally, athleisure fabrics are typically the same ones used to make athletic clothes. The difference between athleisure and activewear or sportswear is that you can wear athleisure for your daily activities, even if you aren’t working out. 

Some examples of athleisure wear are tennis shoes, yoga pants, leggings, and biker shorts. These clothes have transcended the sport they were originally made for. 

How did the Athleisure Trend Emerge?

It’s possible to trace the athleisure trend back to the 19th century with the invention of the tennis shoe; however, the trend really started to explode when Lululemon was created in 1997. 

Lululemon was founded as a yoga apparel company, but quickly evolved into an athleisure brand. People wear leggings, yoga pants, shirts, jackets, etc. as everyday wear, rather than to do yoga. 

The athleisure trend emerged partially due to the science behind the clothing. The moisture-wicking and sweat-absorbing fabrics are practical for everyday use. In addition to functionality, changing consumer wants and needs have also played a role in its booming popularity.

People want clothing that is comfortable and multi-use, while also stylish. When running from work to the grocery store and then to the gym, people don’t want to have to change their clothes for each occasion. Instead, they are opting for multi-purpose clothing that can be worn for all three outings. 

Examples of Athleisure Brands and their Marketing Strategies 

Lululemon: The Power of Three

Photo by Marco Tjokro on Unsplash

If you’re familiar with athleisure, there’s a good chance that lululemon is one of the first brands to pop into your mind– and for good reason. In 2019, the company announced a branding strategy called “the Power of Three,” with goals to double product innovation and Omni guest experiences and quadruple international revenue.

The strategy proved to be successful, as lululemon increased its revenue by almost $3 billion in three years and has evolved as one of the biggest names in the athleisure market. 

In 2022, lululemon announced a new Power of Three plan. By 2026, the company wants to double its 2021 men’s revenues, double its digital revenues, and quadruple international revenues.

Clearly, lululemon has found a successful strategy for creating a brand, style, and product that consumers love. The Power of Three has created measurable goals that keep the company expanding and dominating sales and shows the importance of a wide-ranging and strategic marketing plan.

Alo Yoga: Become a Celeb Favorite 

Image by Daniel Regen

Alo Yoga offers yoga clothing and gear for men and women with bestsellers like high-waisted leggings, caps, tanks, and bras. The company was founded in 2007 but has expanded rapidly in recent years, including a presentation at New York Fashion Week 2022, according to this article. 

One way that Alo has become so popular is through the use of strategic collaborations with celebrities like Kendall Jenner and Candice Swanepoel. The website even features a page titled “shop Kendall Jenner’s looks,” with links to over 30 products that the model wears. 

Other A-listers who have been snapped wearing Alo include Martha Stewart, Shawn Mendes, influencers like Teala Dunn, and more. While some shots are staged by the brand, lots of content is generated organically from celeb selfies, paparazzi, and conversations about trends in fashion news.

Girlfriend Collective: Prioritize Sustainability 

Image from Girlfriend Collective

As climate change becomes a growing threat, consumers are paying more attention to the choices brands make to produce and ship their products. When companies like Girlfriend Collective think green, customers take note. 

The brand uses eco-friendly materials to produce its products, uses 100% recycled packaging, and has its factories certified for wages and conditions. Another unique and sustainable opportunity that separates Girlfriend Collective in the athleisure market is its ReGirlfriend program. After buying a shipping label, customers can return gently worn and used products for in-store credit. 

The brand has also been praised for its size inclusivity with sizes that range from XXS to 6XL, showing that customers appreciate brands who care about the earth– and them. 

Gymshark: The Rise of Influencers

Gymshark is a brand within the athleisure market that is known for its trendy activewear sets, leggings, hoodies, crop tops, and other workout accessories. The company has successfully used the power of social media and platforms like Instagram and YouTube to grow a loyal following. 

The brand has focused on partnerships with influencers and rising stars, originally sending free products to fitness YouTubers Lex Griffin and Chris Lavado to get their foot in the door, according to this Medium article. Since then, the company has targeted social media metrics like engagement and created a strong online presence with countless celebrities and influencers who sport the gear.

As you can see, athlesiure has a variety of uses besides just providing comfortable gear for outdoor adventures– it’s now become a fashion statement. These four brands have provided an excellent example of marketing strategies that outdoor companies can use to make consumers feel and look good, where fashion meets function. 

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