Athleisure is possibly one of the biggest trends to have hit the discipline of fashion retail till date. Think of women wearing yoga pants for a night out after work. There are CEOs donning yoga bottoms to board meetings. While some have downplayed the rise of athleisure as a passing fad, a sizable number of industry reports seem to indicate otherwise. Athleisure reflects a lifestyle shift, a growing trend of fitness consciousness that view athletics not only as a hobby but also as an all-around lifestyle. Hence, this relaxed standard of clothing has naturally emerged as a new segment that is progressively been preferred over casual wear.
Within this category, a popular sub-category has emerged – yoga wear. Yoga clothes have transcended the realm of traditional exercise and is now a rising fashion fad in the active wear/athleisure segment. Influencers and A-listers are often seen sporting yoga wear on a daily basis thus adding to the growing popularity of this category.
In 2017, e-commerce giant Amazon revealed about the jump in sales for yoga fashion merchandise in the Indian market. The retailer has seen a growth of over 225 percent year-on-year for yoga products under sports category. According to Apparel Resources, the majority of the demand was from urban areas. Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad emerged as top four cities that ordered these products. The remaining 60 percent came from other Tier I, II and III cities, reinforcing the percolation of this demand even to smaller cities and towns.
The result has been a number of established brands entering into this segment as well as emergence of dedicated athleisure brands to capitalise on this growing popularity. This has led to a growing scene of competition in the category, compelling brands to exercise rigorous innovations in their product categories.
The market today is ablaze with a plethora unique propositions – right from products that are free from chemicals including bleaches, toxic waxes, sulfur and heavy metals commonly used in the production of clothing to offerings that are pushing the envalope in terms of colors, fits, flexibility and silhouettes.
In order to get a hang of the current dynamics of the yoga wear market and the prevailing trends in India, IMAGES Business of Fashion caught up with Malika Baruah, renowned Yogini and Founder of Proyog, a yoga wear brand born out of the Indian desire to preserve the principles of yoga. Excerpts from the interview…
How would you define Yoga Wear? What are the key differentiators of this segment from other sportswear categories?
Going by the practice and principles of yoga, we believe one should wear clothing that allows easy movement, is comfortable and also naturally breathable. It should almost be like a second skin because yoga requires ease in movements. Most sportswear categories make clothes using plastic materials like nylon and polyester. The garments are often tight and restrictive and loaded with chemicals. As a yogi, ideally one should makes choices that support the environment.
How has the yoga wear category grown?
There are over 300 million yoga practitioners in the world who collectively spend billions of dollars on yoga wear and accessories. In the US alone as per a 2016 report, over $27 billion are spent on yoga products annually. In India yoga as a consumer market is still in a nascent stage. However, people today are far more conscious about fitness that ever before.
There is a rising popularity of yoga wear, but is it a category that will benefit Indian players?
Sales in this category is growing fast amongst Indian consumers. Indian brands can benefit if they focus on performance and provide quality at par with global players. Moreover, Indian brands need to draw from our rich history of yoga, innovate consistently and work towards building an international presence.
What are the products that are included in this category and what are the fastest moving ones? What are the latest trends?
Under apparel, sports bras, tank tops and tights are the bestsellers in the women’s category and tracks and shorts top the men’s category. Then there are a range of accessories like blocks, straps and yoga mats leading the category.
Trends are constantly evolving within this segment. However, clearly performance based innovations are the most sought after.
How are consumers accepting this yoga wear as a different category from Active wear in India and globally?
Yoga wear is a sub-category of active wear. In the west, people are already well equipped with wardrobes for different activities and occasions – whether it’s gym wear, ski gear or yoga wear. Unfortunately within active wear, yoga wear has been loosely defined.
Is yoga wear as popular with men as with women? Is the kids category also looking at this new segment?
While it’s true that a lot of men are now adopting yoga as a form of exercise, the market is still predominantly a women’s market. The market for kids yoga’ wear is pretty nascent at the moment and will probably take a few more years to come into its own.
Tell us how the industry is gearing towards providing a line of sustainably produced yoga wear? How has your brand worked towards it?
A lot of brands are embracing sustainability over the last few years and consumers are becoming more aware of the disasters caused by the use of plastic in apparel. At Proyog we are continuously innovating materials to create organic and sustainable yoga gear. Our new yoga mat is also created with natural rubber and jute, all sourced in India. It is completely biodegradable. We want to put India on the map with our range of premium yoga products that’s both great for you and the environment.
Do you think the government can play an active role in promoting yoga wear?
The Indian government has made great headway in promoting yoga in the country and internationally, with the International Day of Yoga being celebrated across the world. It would be great if yoga could become a part of the Asian Games and Olympics in the coming future.