The problem with 'athleisure'

Athleisure is the hottest new trend to hit the fashion high street, says Chris Carter. There is, however, one slight problem with it.


Victoria's Secret is making a play for the athleisure market

How do you define the hottest new trend in fashion? Answer: take two words that mean completely different things and mash em together "athletics" and "leisure". You now have "athleisure". (It also goes by the names "aprs sport" and "gym-to-the-office".) Athleisure has become big business: sales are expected to hit £6bn this year.

That, I suppose, is only natural. In today's "cult of the body" society, it's not enough to just look good at the beach. You have to look at the gym too, with your labelled sportswear and designer crop tops.

But the thing is, it's now not even enough to look good at the gym. You have to look good out of the gym too when you're grabbing a coffee, chasing Pokmon, or pretending to read Albert Camuson the bus. After all, who's has the time these days to do something so obviously self-indulgent as changing out of gym clothes?

Subscribe to MoneyWeek

Subscribe to MoneyWeek today and get your first six magazine issues absolutely FREE

Get 6 issues free

Sign up to Money Morning

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Sign up

Obviously not the customers of North Face, Patagonia, Reebok, Adidas and Nike to name but a few of the brands getting in on the act.

Athleisure was one of this year's sleeper trends that has now hit the mainstream, says Morwenna Ferrier in The Guardian. It is "the loucher side of sportswear think logo tees, monochrome tracksuits and, sometimes, cashmere loungewear". And it seems to have had its coming out at this year's Glastonbury Festival, where out went flower crowns and in came Adidas Gazelles.

This year was "all about retro 1990 sports and indie references," explains Jo Hunt, head womenswear buyer at online fashion retailer Asos, quoted in The Guardian, with "sports bras worn as tops with printed leggings, wind breakers and oversized logo hoodies as some of the best-selling festival trends".

Since when was "retro 1990s" a thing?

Anyway, the mash-up between looking good and sportiness has not gone unnoticed by lingerie label Victoria's Secret, which has traditionally been more about push-up bras than sports bras. But parent company L Brands (NYSE: LB) has struggled in recent months as the 12-month share price chart shows below. Presumably L Brands feels athleisure provides just the opportunity to claw back some market share.


(Source: Bloomberg)

That's why Victoria's Secret today unveiled its new Victoria's Secret Sport label, modelled by "Angels" Adriana Lima, Elsa Hosk, Romee Strijd, Jasmine Tookes and Josephine Skriver. Tookes was left in no doubt. "When I tried these, I threw out all my Nike bras", the 25-year-old American model is quoted as saying on its website a sure sign, notes website The Drum, that Victoria's Secret is "clearly looking to pose a challenge" to the sportswear leader.

There is just one slight problem with athleisure wear, says Ellen Byron in The Wall Street Journal. The smell. "These garments have synthetic fabric that quickly wicks away sweat, making it comfortable to wear during a workout and then to lunch and maybe even dinner. But, the fabric also makes it difficult to keep them from stinking" something to perhaps bear in mind when going out to meet your friends for ceviche and cocktails.

Chris Carter

Chris Carter spent three glorious years reading English literature on the beautiful Welsh coast at Aberystwyth University. Graduating in 2005, he left for the University of York to specialise in Renaissance literature for his MA, before returning to his native Twickenham, in southwest London. He joined a Richmond-based recruitment company, where he worked with several clients, including the Queen’s bank, Coutts, as well as the super luxury, Dorchester-owned Coworth Park country house hotel, near Ascot in Berkshire.

Then, in 2011, Chris joined MoneyWeek. Initially working as part of the website production team, Chris soon rose to the lofty heights of wealth editor, overseeing MoneyWeek’s Spending It lifestyle section. Chris travels the globe in pursuit of his work, soaking up the local culture and sampling the very finest in cuisine, hotels and resorts for the magazine’s discerning readership. He also enjoys writing his fortnightly page on collectables, delving into the fascinating world of auctions and art, classic cars, coins, watches, wine and whisky investing.

You can follow Chris on Instagram.