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Sports Innerwear: Next-gen growth engine for the innerwear segment

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To understand undergarments, one must comprehend that they are typically items of clothing worn beneath outer clothes, usually in direct contact with the skin, although they may comprise more than a single layer. They serve to keep outer garments from being soiled or damaged by bodily excretions, to lessen the friction of outerwear against the skin, to shape the body, and to provide concealment or support for parts of it. In the cold weather, long underwear is sometimes worn to provide additional warmth.

While these are bare essentials, the retail sector is working hard to keep up with evolving trends and consumers—especially the latter—who are demanding base layers that no longer look like functional underwear, but at the same time have all the functions of an underwear and much more — including being the perfect fit for a rigourous fitness regime.

Sports Inspired Apparel

Sales revenue from men’s underwear and women’s lingerie items is expected to grow in India over the next couple of years owing to factors such as higher importance to personal hygiene, increasing disposable income, evolving lifestyle, improved standard of living, and changing preferences of consumers. One of the other important factors leading to its growth is the success of sports inspired apparel which in a way compliments the innerwear category also. The underwear segment in India is strongly focusing on being sporty to appeal the millennial.

Innovations being the key for product development the innerwear brands in India are now looking beyond aesthetic appeal. The sports underwear is seeing heightened activity in terms of functionality.

As the market develops we can expect to see more sportswear brands looking to incorporate functionality more typical of traditional underwear into their sports bra off ering. Although this requires investment, added functionality offers both a point of difference in an increasingly competitive market and allows for a more premium price positioning.

The sports innerwear category consists of sports bras, active shorts for men and women, vest for men and women and camisoles for women. It is heavily subscribed to by young Millennials who want to define their fashion needs clearly.

As Pranal Modani, Chief Business Development Officer, C9 (Sangam India Limited) says, “The Indian demographic is evolving towards a younger population; with around 450 million people below the age of 34 years. We also have the fastest growth rate. If we combine this with growing urbanisation and globalisation, education level, there is a profound shift towards achieving a healthy lifestyle. With the advent of this healthy lifestyle; sports gear and sportswear market a surge market size. These factors are leading to the recent popularity of sports innerwear.”

How Sports Innerwear Came Into Play

The Indian fashion segment has been witness to rapid changes and the gap between international fashion vs. domestic trends is narrowing. Today, Indian consumers want to address their needs with a definite product solution. Like every other fashion category, the innerwear category too is undergoing this transition phase. On one side are the pure play sportswear brands like Nike, Adidas, Reebok, Puma, Decathlon, etc. which address the intimate wear category linked to performance sports and on the other hand are the core innerwear brands like Jockey, Dollar, Rupa, Dixcy, Lux etc. who create sporty silhouettes and an overall active look with their innerwear lines. There core innerwear brands are working on clean sports inspired active wear demands from consumers, trying to give their products with an edgy look with strong colour combinations.

Along with brands who are excited about the growth of this segment, consumers are also excited to adopt trends from this new segment.

Modani defines the advantages of sports innerwear saying, “Sports innerwear has evolved to use functional fabric and innovative manufacturing technology such as seamless manufacturing to provide wearer myriad benefits like sweat-wicking, better fit, and enhanced comfort. They improve the wearer’s performance while engaging in a sports activity. Consumers are increasingly getting accustomed to buying specialised clothing for a particular occasion. If we take an example of a sports bra, there are high impact sports bra for vigorous activities and low impact for lower intensity workout. Any sports innerwear is selected by the buyer for maximising their performance.”

The consumer is exposed to fashion in a big way and defines his life with its healthy aspects. Innerwear not only caters to his inner self personality but also personifies the fashion statement with every aspect of life.

Srikanth Ram, Business Head, Park Avenue and Color Plus says, “Today’s youth go to the gym and are active participants in sports. The fitness quotient is an important aspect in people’s lives. They want to look sharp even at the gym.”

How Sportswear Trend Has Affected: The Lingerie Industry
The Athleisure apparel trend, hardwired into Millennial shopping habits, has started extending to underwear these days, which has a major effect on the lingerie industry. The youth have overthrown the yoke of body-poking wire bras for seamless and activewear alternatives. Comfort has always been—in the past 50 years—a key driver for bras. Nowadays, however, women expect every part of their bra to be comfortable – and the definition of comfort has changed from slightly to completely.

The athleisure craze transformed how we used to think of sports bras: grey, thick, and strictly for gym class. Today, women wear their ‘gym clothes’ at all hours, no longer distinguishing workout wear from other categories in their closets. That’s partially because exercise is considered very cool these days.

The sport bra’s more feminine cousin, the bralette, has also seen a dramatic uptick in popularity. The latest fashion fads show off a lot of skin, and for that, a cool bra is necessary.

Bralettes are available at all major outlets now; the ‘it’ undergarment. While millennials might be driving this trend, plenty of companies see a similar movement in the market with older generations.

Men’s Innerwear Segment

The performance inspired clothing has effectively permeated every aspect of the fashion industry in recent years and has completely revolutionised men’s innerwear too. Today men want underwear that, like sneakers, can take us from the office to the gym. There has been a lot of segmentation in the underwear industry.

The men’s underwear market segment by type covers includes regular brief, boxer brief, boxer shorts, trunks and thongs.

Key Product Innovations

C9: C9 is a women’s innerwear and activewear brand. The majority of their clothing is based on seamless technology wherein they have high tech machines imported from Italy that convert functional yarn directly into garments. This provides the wearer various functional benefits like 4-way stretch, sweat-wicking, anti-chafing properties. The brand is committed to providing high quality clothing with trendy designs to the women of today at affordable prices.

Park Avenue & Color Plus: Park Avenue and Color Plus have made a mark in the intimate wear category with the surge in market growth that shows they have gone beyond the basic product portfolio. The new trendy range of offerings from the brands are tailor-made to suit the consumer’s needs of comfort, fit, style and unparalleled quality. Their new range has a wide range of designs and colour palettes with an affordable price tag in the premium segment.

Future Outlook

The sports innerwear market for jogging, yoga and gym has been expanding in our country. Each innerwear maker has come up with the new products and new brands using their own technologies such as seamless clothing technology, easy-to-move structures, and special materials with the functions of heatreserving, moisture absorbing, and heat generation.

The world over, a lot of fabrics are offered for men’s and women’s innerwear apart from cottons, like modal, nylon, silk, lace and polyester. While many changes are already setting in the country, we still need to catch up with the international trends showcasing a movement of sports and athlesuire inspired innerwear category for both genders. Innovation will define the future of the innerwear category. The new age innerwear will progress towards newer advance materials which will provide ultimate comfort and flexibility to the active lifestyle of the consumer in India from indoor to outdoor.

On the whole the new category of Rs 25,000 crore, athleisure, in India along with an increased focus of established sportswear brands is enhancing competition in this category. Sports stars and celebrities like Hrithik Roshan, Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni have also launched their own sports and lifestyle brands. A number of international and other clothing brand are jumping into the fray too to capitalise on favourable demographics and psychographics of the growing population of India.

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