Activewear is one a one of the fastest growing segment in the apparel market. With the growing focus on health and wellness, as well as the rising awareness of lifestyle concerns, people are getting more conscious about their fitness regimes and workout oriented lives. Hence, running marathons, hitting the gym and practicing yoga are no longer niche.
Considering this need and demand, there is an existing gap that is created in the market for Activewear products. In India, the size of the Activewear market is dramatically evolving year on year.
Internationally, the influence of brands such as Lululemon, PE Nation, Kenzo, Off-White, that are represented by celebrities and through social media, have kept Activewear in the public eye, fuelling the rate of this progression.
The Activewear Segment
Activewear is utility clothing, which boosts the physical performance and eases body movements, as it enhances comfort while engaging in fitness and sports activities. Technical performance is the core to an active apparel.
Many brands are manufacturing smarter garments in a bid to provide the ultimate in comfort and utility for patrons at affordable prices. Take for example Van Heusen. Features like odour shield, swift dry, high stretch, media pockets, sound immersion docks and mesh ventilation a core part of Van Heusen performance line. High stretch helps in not restricting movements no matter how one stretches. Anti odour finish helps in preventing the stink that sweat generates and swift dry helps in faster moisture wicking from the body.
“The biggest strength for an Activewear brand is its performance that consumers experience after wearing it. If the product performs with him/her. They will become a loyal customer for a long run,” explains Shankar Chowdhury, GM – Design (Athleisure & Activewear), Van Heusen.
Shruti Behal, Head – Product Design (Lingerie, Nightwear, Swimwear & Activewear), PrettySecrets too believes that technical performance in Activewear is very important because it improves performance.
“For instance, if you are going for a run without wearing a sports bra you will feel the jiggle and it will make you feel conscious about how you might look, whereas if you are wearing a correct compression sports bra your breast will stay at its place, avoiding the jiggle, which will make you feel more comfortable while running resulting in improvement in performance,” she says. “So, people today are ready to spend on good Activewear for the value it provides.”
“Having understood the concept of Activewear as a lifestyle trend, technical fabrics play an important role as they enable one to easily adapt to different environmental settings, making it cross functional and long wearing,” says Sunishka Goenka, Creative Director, Myraid Activewear. “The textile industry is drastically shifting to futuristic fabrics which are not only functional but also focus on longevity and usability. Hence, Activewear brands have an upper-hand because their products are designed to perform, resist and sustain. Also, consumers have become more conscious and sustainable in their approach to invest in brands that offer products with longer shelf life.”
At Myriad Activewear versatility comes from sourcing advanced fabrics, which are then curated carefully for modern design. The technical performance textiles that are source are specially developed internationally from recognised manufacturers in Taiwan and China, who also supply to the big players in the Activewear market. The brand designs a plethora of active-, street- and athleisure-wear, which help them to explore a variety of fabrics ranging from nylon, polyester blends, polypropelene, tencel and breathable yet aesthetically unique meshes. Having Activewear as a major category, Myriad Activewear focuses on active properties such as dry fit, quick dry, high compression, sweat wicking and breathability to provide ease of movement for strenuous activities such as cross fit training, yoga, Pilates, gym, weight training, running, etc.
Sportswear Vs Activewear
Jiggy George, Founding Partner and Managing Director, Mojostar explains that a sportswear is performance oriented. It offers technical functionality to help improve performance. Activewear, on the other hand is designed for people with active lifestyles, there is functionality, but it also offers comfort and styling, such that consumers can wear it not only for fitness and exercise regimes, but also as casual wear.
Similarly, Sunishka Goenka says, “The differentiator between sportswear and activewear is the purpose of use and functionality. Sportswear is designed for a specific sport activity that demands comfort and at the same time high resistance and performance. For instance, a scuba diving suit is technically structured for performance and is not suitable for daily activities. While, activewear is curated to amalgamate an active lifestyle with a casual social life, which is rather more flexible and transitional. For instance, yoga wear can be associated with leisure wear for daily chores within a lifestyle.”
Hence, activewear serves the purpose of an active life mixed with a casual social life, it can be used for exercising and then transitioning into casual wear. Activewear affords more flexibility and style along with functionality and comfort, while sportswear is more focused on functionality and performance.
According to Rishabh Oswal, Executive Director, Monte Carlo Fashion Ltd., which launched its activewear brand ‘Rock It’ last year finds the concept of activewear to be comparatively new for India. “Today, a significant number of people are motivated by good health and a fit life drives on various platforms. The activewear segment has emerged and is potent to tremendous growth in the years to come. Growing at a steady CAGR of 23.7 percent, the segment took a leap from Rs. 24,000 crore to Rs. 37,000 crore between the years 2014 and 2016. According to forecasts, the segment will grow at a CAGR of 11.3 percent by 2021,” he shares.
Shankar Chowdhury says, “Organised Activewear is expected to be at Rs. 8,000 crore by 2020, this category is the next growing segment in apparel, with a large number of Indian consumers getting aware and conscious about fitness and wellness. It is expected to grow at a CAGR of 18 percent.”
Jiggy George, who partners with top celebrities to co-create authentic, high-impact indigenous brands such as Just F and Prowl observes that the activewear segment is vastly under-served, and with fitness trends growing by leaps and bounds in India, the head room for growth is massive.
The Consumer & The Market
Indian men and women are embracing the ‘stay fit and stay healthy’ lifestyle. “Men and women in the age group 25 to 35 are the biggest buyers of activewear. Women lead the market with a 60 percent share in this segment,” shares Shruti Behal. Jiggy Goerge states that there are more activewear brands for men and therefore the sales are higher. “However, there is so much potential for women activewear brands and with Just F, we are addressing this vastly under-serviced segment.”
Fitness as a trend is not just limited to metros. However, Rishabh Oswal feels that fitness movement is still an urban revolution and needs more to be democratised. “In Tier II cities, fitness awareness is sporadic but not completely missing. Women are reluctant participant in any workout, men comprise the majority in gyms. It is important to have a pan-India presence for any brand and as far as activewear is concerned we are hopeful to crack the walls through online presence,” he says.
Brands Just F and Prowl, promoted Mojostar focuses on Tier II and III cities in a big way. Jiggy George shares, “Just F with Jacqueline Ferenadez and Prowl with Tiger Shroff, have a massive fan following that is national and not metro centric. We are seeing this reflect in ours sales as well.”
Favouring online route over the traditional retail and standalone stores as the latter still do not service all towns and cities, he says, “Our consumers are everywhere and currently online is better suited to deliver than offline retail.”
Just F is available on direct to consumer website, www.justf.in,, while Prowl is available on website www.prowlactive.com. Both the brands are exclusively available on Amazon Fashion.
Shankar Chowdhury claims that online sales are fragmented. “There is no mid-priced player in this segment. You have the international brands selling at a premium and then you have larger mass brands where quality and performance are not at its best. But we believe that with proper communication this platform will mature,” he says.
At present, the online sales are appreciating at a great speed with alternative options of payments and easier movement of inventory. People have started trusting online sales and have greater confidence in purchasing through payment gateways. Online retailers are collaborating with brands to have greater visibility and brand diversity across channels of distribution. E-commerce players who have made activewear as a separate category are seeing between 20 to 70 percent growth in this segment. For example, Amazon India set up a dedicated activewear store and collaborated with global and Indian brands selling activewear.
Trends & Innovations
Activewear is not limited to gym and yoga studios, people are comfortable in wearing them for a quick catch-up with friends or hit the cinema theatre late at night. Apart from evergreen tees, track pants, joggers and tights, the segment is witnessing the emergence of new trends like sports bras paired with tights and jackets, similarly, crop sweatshirts paired with joggers/tights.
“Amongst the variety of activewear, mesh leggings, yoga pants, joggers and track pants are high on demand. Trendy, easy on skin and comfortable to wear these bottom wears can be easily teamed with tank tops or sweatshirts for both gym and a stroll through the park,” says Rishabh Oswal.
Sunishka Goenka also states that customers are looking at outfits that are designed for comfort as well as transitional wear with an aesthetic appeal as Indian consumers are perceived to be price value conscious and price sensitive. For instance, the market demands more than just basic to enable to move from Mat-to-Meetings. Activewear trends are being integrated steeply even in the cooperate world, like athleisure joggers and sports bras are teamed with formal blazers which sums up a look from Office-to-Crossfit.
“Activewear with power branding is constantly used to create a striking look with mass appeal which enhances a brand visibility and brand recall to add an essence of brand luxury,” she says.
“The bare necessities for the basic physical activities would be the fastest selling within the activewear category, such as yoga pants, leggings and sports bra. As casual culture continues further, leggings are becoming category crushers, replacing denim jeans. Sport bras are a vital part of this segment and have been one of the fastest selling products. Brands who expertise in sports bras have an upper hand as it is a technical garment with minimal costs and wastage, making it a profitable business with competitive price points,” says Sunishka Goenka.
Men focus more on bottom wear and shoes, while women stress on top wears as well. In men’s category the best sellers are training shoes, vests, track pants and in women’s category leggings, joggers, yoga pants, polo t-shirts, mesh t-shirts and sport-bras are trending the most.
This segment will be seen making its way to both fashion and function, as a result the opportunities for growth will be multiplied. With the increasing awareness in health and wellness, brands will continue to focus on performance and adopt seasonal trends.
“The key drivers that will outcast other categories would the influence of international fitness workouts such as bringing franchises of international gyms like Physique 57 (Barre Workout), decoding fitness futuristic fabrics that will optimise ones daily fitness routine and celebrating fitness events such as International Yoga Day. These realisations will bring a greater degree of acceptance to the market for activewear,” says Sunishka Goenka.
“Activewear is still treated as a luxury in India despite the reasonable price tags offered by various labels. Traditional wear is still used for multi-purpose activities, women not coming out of their silos and middle-aged consumer group yet not tapped are some of the reasons that activewear is still struggling in the age of fitness fanaticism,” concludes Rishabh Oswal.
(With inputs from Gurbir Singh Gulati)