Whether or not one shows dedication in maintaining their gym routine is debatable, but it is an undeniable fact that gyms are doing well when it comes to their membership registers being filled. India’s waking up to being healthy and this means tons of gym memberships. This also means that when one takes a gym membership, the very next thing they do is head off to stores that deal in gym wear. Or they just log on and buy gym clothes and accessories. The demand for gym and active wear is growing in India because of a desire to stay fit and healthy. IMAGES Business of Fashion takes a look at the market dynamics…
Setting the context for the story, Pallavi Burman, Head – Marketing, HRX shares, “The Indian active wear industry is currently estimated at a whopping Rs. 8500 crore. It is expected to continue growing at CAGR 12 percent and touch expected sales of approximately 6X at Rs. 54,000 crores by 2020.”
Burman attributes the reason for this to growing health and wellness trend in India along with an increase in the number of sporting clubs, increased interest in sporting activities like football, basketball, tennis, badminton and cricket, the Indian active wear industry is fast proliferating. She says, “More disposable income and general inclination towards fitness is rising and resulting in the growth of this industry.”
Another major reason for an increase in demand for gym wear is having Bollywood celebrities being spotted in gym gear, especially the likes of Hrithik Roshan, Malaika Arora and Kareen Kapoor Khan. It isn’t uncommon to see Page 3 pictures of these celebrities in their gym wear. The glamour magazines often have pictures and articles of how celebrities are taking gym wear to the streets and this eventually does give a fillip to the demand for workout clothes in the country.
Perhaps the above well explains the emergence of active wear in the country. Where dedicated gym wear is opted for only by a handful few, those opting for working it out in the gym clubbing their active wear or sportswear as gym wear. No wonder then that brands in India too offer gym clothes under the category of ‘active wear’.
Pallavi Burman decodes the difference between the often clubbed together categories of active wear, athleisure wear, sports / performance wear. “By definition, athleisure and active wear clothing are those which can be worn from studio to street. Sportswear or performance wear, however, is clothing which help athletes or sports persons enhance their performance specially items like shoes, technologies like compression, socks in some sports etc.”
Nivida Kohli, Design Manager, Numero Uno shares her views, saying, “As of today each distinct category is reinventing itself. This is a phase where the consumer market is changing since there is a generic shift towards more flexible lifestyles. Once this change settles in, I believe there will be clearer newer distinct definitions for sportswear and athleisure.”
However, a lot many online players have an exclusive category for gym wear and some have gone a step further to have their portals dedicated to offering nothing else but gym clothing.
The emphasis is more on offering men’s gym wear than having something specialized for women and unfortunately in India, gym wear still consists of mostly leggings and sports brassieres, although bigger brands have started innovating for women as well now.
“Sportswear needn’t be super masculine, so we are introducing fusion elements, florals, and may even add lace to some designs,” says Jacqueline Fernandes in a media interview. She has actively participated in the designing of the brand and has ensured that little things are not given a miss like pockets in fitness wear, the positioning of the straps and hooks and the materials used for leggings.
According to Abhishek Verma, the focus for the brand for now would be functionality and support. The brand is also going quite aggressive with their collection of sports bras.
The research by the brand indicated that most of the international brands that are present in this category design their range keeping in mind the target audience of western countries, which don’t fit the average Indian woman. Another reason for launching Just F was to give Indian women appropriate exercise clothing at reasonable costs, especially since most international brands come with a hefty price tag.
Pallavi Burman says that with Indians becoming more health conscious and image sensitive, their pursuit for fitness has increased. “The average age bracket for Indian fitness enthusiasts is 20-35 years, which makes for the majority population of young Indian students and professionals. This target set loves to experiment with their wardrobe. Office wardrobe has drastically changed – we don’t see dress pants and brogues and oxfords anymore. Jeans and trainers have smoothly replaced these items. Everything in today’s clothing spells comfort and chic,” she says as way of explanation of why there a fillip in the performance wear category in Indian retail has been noticed.
She explicates that to be able to tap into this big chunk of the Indian population with available disposable income and the affinity for fitness, brands and minimalistic wardrobe brands have to focus hugely on active wear and the athleisure segment.
Gym Wear Essentials in India
According to Pallavi Burman, a pair of leggings and shorts for women and men respectively –usually a loose tee and a pair of decent walking shoes – constitute for basic gym wear in India.
“But this isn’t enough if the exercise routine includes more than walking. While almost 50 percent of Indians still prefer traditional ways of staying active like walking and running, the other 50 percent are inclined to swimming, cycling and other sports and training means. For targeting this kind of segmentation one needs to delve deeper into sub categories.”
What makes gym wear more intricate for women is the inclusion of a high-performance sports bra. Without a well-designed sports bra, the gym wear ensemble for women remains incomplete. Quite a few Indian brands that have taken note of this and the range available online as well as offline is exhaustive. It is interesting to see brands like Triumph launching exclusive brassieres for gym wear considering they are a premium lingerie wear brand. The option they have is bounce control certified by world renowned Research Group in Breast Health, the University of Portsmouth. Elaborating on the same, Jennifer Kapasi, Commercial Director, India & Sri Lanka, Triumph International shares, “Triaction by Triumph is a stylish, high-performance sportswear collection that gives modern women the freedom to train how and when they like. Boasting the best bounce control levels on the market, three versatile fits and superior comfort, Triaction supports women throughout the day—on the go from the gym or studio in complete style.”
Innovative Fabric Play
Anything that stretches and helps absorb sweat yet keeps the fabric dry is the most preferred fabric when it comes to performance wear. Reiterating the same, Pallavi Burman says, “The fabric we use is always stretchable “wicking” blend made up of polyester and lycra. We also use a breathable mesh fabric as design and utility elements and several other performance enhancing features like anti-microbial layering, UV protection, rapid dry etc.”
When you go through the collection, what catches your attention is interesting mélanges for both men and women. She says, “Color blocking and coordinated sets are finding a big audience in this space now.”
Adding in a safety feature to go along with their sportswear, Numero Uno uses reflective N1 ACTIVE prints that act as safety alerts along with digital and high-density prints for a futuristic fashion flare. Kohli further adds, “For our sportswear/active wear, we are using fabrics that have technically advanced finishes with features like Anti-Static, quick dry, moisture wicking, Windproof, water repellent, Anti-microbial, odour control, easy care etc.”
Triumph has developed two series of specialized brassieres that use innovative fabrics for the woman on the go. Their Dynamic Lite series with 3D Powertech material is made from the innovative fabric Dynamic Lite, which offers flexibility that keeps its shape over time. It fuses three innovative fabrics in one, is a two-way stretch fabric, has a strong lightweight mesh and soft moisture management lining which are insightfully laminated together, allowing the bras to stay very light and adjustable to all body shapes. These features make the bra light and comfortable to wear with its functional unpadded fabric combination. This innovation received an honorable mention at the 2016 Red Dot Deign Awards.
Elaborating on the second innovation, Jennifer Kapasi says, “Our Magic Motion series is made from the most comfortable fabrics. Powered by LYCRA sport technology, these bras have stay dry properties, bacteria-reducing fabric with moisture management mesh. Extremely elastic fabric using LYCRA, guarantees unique freedom of movement.”
The next generation LYCRA® SPORT technology combines the proven stretch performance of LYCRA® fibre with demanding testing standards that measure fabric performance descriptors on a simplified 1-10 scale. The three indexes measure Power, Comfort and Energy (PCE™). Triumph has gone ahead to combine these indexes to create performance levels tailored to fit each garment’s end use.
The range at Just F is made using polyester-spandex or polyester-cotton blend which well suits the Indian climate.
Promoting Gym Wear
Since gym wear is a part of the performance wear / active wear category, brands don’t actively engaging in marketing and promotion initiatives targeting gym goers. However, on the other hand, some brands like HRX go the extra mile to reach to their target audience right at the place they are at – i.e. the gym!
Pallavi Burman reveals, “Ours is the first homegrown, successful fitness brand in the country. We have multiple partnerships for various verticals all-leading to and adding up to fitness. We have our active wear and athleisure collection exclusively available on Myntra, we have the signature HRX Work out available at all Cult gyms, we have HRX Athlete meal packs selling at Eat.fit and we have our Mi HRX fitness bands available with Xiaomi. Across the three partners we have active communication all around the year on Digital, TV, OOH and Cinemas. Needless to say Hrithik is the face of HRX and this is the biggest draw for building customer engagement.”
On whether there is a genuine demand for gym / active wear in the country, especially by women, Jennifer Kapasi says, “Women who regularly work out and those who lead an active lifestyle desire sport specific garments designed to help optimize performance. They pay a lot of attention to the fabric when buying a sports bra. In general, they will tend to look for hi-tech fabrics with ‘moisture-wicking’ and ‘stay-dry’ features. One of the most important qualities women look for is a high percentage of Elastane which not only makes the bra comfortable to wear but also retains its shape after multiple uses.”
To launch their Autumn/Winter ‘18 Triaction – a collection by Triumph – took a digital approach through the launch of an online campaign ‘Team Triaction’, featuring four inspiring women, undertaking a fitness challenges to test both mind and body.
“Team Triaction is led by actress and fitness enthusiast Mandira Bedi. She is joined by celebrity fitness instructor and owner of a Pilates studio Namrata Purohit; popular yogi and influencer Yogasini (aka Radhika Bose); and lifestyle and beauty influencer Juhi Godambe. The campaign also included a weekly contest with four rounds for Instagram and Facebook fans,” states Jennifer Kapasi.
Getting Future Ready
While there are a lot of dedicated online portals for gym wear, it remains to be seen how these enterprises survive over a period of time with their niche offering. With fitness being seen as a goal on everybody’s to-do list, especially with the new year approaching, all the gyms will experience a full house and so the sale of gym wear eventually is going to go up, but it is completely upon these brands to maintain the tempo for after all.