March 30, 2023

The Hunt for Activewear’s Next Big Category – The Business of Fashion

People used to wear old sweats to yoga classes. Then came Lululemon .

When it first emerged on the market two decades ago, the activewear giant gained traction by focussing upon yoga, then a niche, untapped sport. Now, it’s a $6 billion empire that’s expanded beyond yoga to create apparel and accessories with regard to sports like running, swimming and tennis, too.

Lululemon’s trajectory has become a model regarding activewear upstarts that hope to compete with the likes of Nike and Adidas by catering to a sport that’s gaining momentum plus hasn’t yet been claimed by bigger companies. Gymshark, for instance, has done this with strength training , while Nobull made its mark in the CrossFit community. After two years of a global pandemic creating new recreational habits, activewear labels big and small have been eager in order to identify the particular next big sport — and swoop in along with accompanying gear.

Some brands, like Rhone and Palmes Society, are expanding on already-popular sports like golf and rugby . But others are finding opportunities in still-niche sports activities that don’t have associated established apparel giants however.

BoF spoke with manufacturers, retailers plus sports industry experts to identify where they see the next big activewear opportunities.


The fastest-growing sport in the US, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), is pickleball, a combination of tennis, badminton and ping pong. Created in the 1960s, it’s played on a smaller court than golf and has historically attracted an older demographic since it requires less endurance. It soared during the outbreak , drawing 4. 8 million players in the US last year, per SFIA, up from 3. 5 million within 2019.

“The sport is getting younger and it has a lot of youthful energy in it, ” said Lauren Mallon, Fila’s senior director of marketing and strategic partnerships of tennis and pickleball. The brand has been creating pickleball apparel in varied colours and patterns.

There are 267 percent more pickleball products in stock now versus this past year, according to Edited. The William Sonoma-owned Mark and Graham and K Swiss brand names now sell an assortment of pickleball bags whilst Frances Valentine, Ssense plus Anthropologie offer patterned rackets.

Pickleball apparel is similar to tennis games gear, but entrepreneurs such as Aubri Steele, who launched pickleball label Civile a year ago, see an opportunity in designing specifically intended for “picklers. ” Civile sells muscle tanks, mini skirts, leggings and visors branded with a green, Supreme-like logo, and slogan puns like “don’t be a dink” (a finesse shot in the game).

“You can wear the same pair of leggings for 85 percent associated with what you do, yet it’s about tribe mentality, ” stated Steele. “Pickleball people tend to become wholly consumed by the sports activity and are very proud in order to be a part of the community. ”

Mallon mentioned there’s also an opportunity with pickleball-specific footwear since “you are usually on your toes a lot … with quick, fast, lateral movements. ” Fila, Nike plus Asics have all started selling pickleball sneakers.

Fila's pickleball sneakers worn by pickleball professional player Lucy Kovalova.

Racket sports are gathering steam across the particular globe. Padel, a squash-like racket sport popular within South America and the Middle East, will be growing quick in England and Italy. These sports, popular at private clubs, attract the gear-inclined audience, said Tom Cove, SFIA president and chief executive.

“It’s health or tennis night clubs that people generally do want nicer … performance outfits, ” he said. “If there’s a tournament in a club or in a local neighbourhood, that drives gamers to would like to be . perceived as real competitors. ”


While brands such as the North Face and Moncler have long served ski enthusiasts, the world of luxury skiing wear is usually expanding as interest within the sport climbs. Last winter, the US ski industry saw a record 61 million visits, according to the National Ski Areas Organization, while in Europe, sales at Swiss ski resorts were up 37 percent.

Skiing offers long already been considered the sport for the wealthy plus avid skiers are known to spend heavily on equipment. But along with the game welcoming many first-timers who hope to look stylish to get Instagram, consumers want a lot more fashion-forward choices. Sales of men’s skiwear were upward 30 % recently from MatchesFashion, said Damien Paul, the site’s head associated with menswear. Farfetch’s assortment of skiwear grew 192 percent within 2022, in accordance to data from Modified, while Mytheresa’s new skiwear arrivals grew 32 percent.

Louis Vuitton's skiwear collection, LV, launched in 2021.

“As the retro look is back, ski suits performed very well for us, especially those within feminine silhouettes and in flattering block colors, ” stated Lea Cranfield, chief buying and merchandising officer with Net-a-Porter.

This past winter season saw skiwear collaborations between the likes of Balmain and Rossignol; Prada and the Aspen Skiing Company, which owns several Colorado skiing resorts; plus Jil Sander and Arc’teryx. Louis Vuitton furthermore debuted its first ski collection, LV Ski, marketing puffer jackets, leggings and boots. Upstart brands like Halfdays plus Italic have launched skiing accessories and apparel that are more inclusive with price points and marketing messages.

Industry experts say the particular opportunity in skiwear extends beyond items for that slopes. Heritage skiwear brand Fusalp, which sees about $40 million within annual product sales and received an investment through Chanel heir David Wertheimer last month, is definitely expanding the apparel offering to include silhouettes that “can be worn within the city, ” mentioned Sophie Lacoste Dournel, Fusalp owner plus board member.

Looks from heritage ski brand Fusalp.

At Net-a-Porter, customers snapped up wool jumpsuits from We Norwegians and turtlenecks from Perfect Moment, pertaining to “lounging around the chalet, ” added Cranfield.

“Customers are looking for … a good outfit meant for après and an outfit for travel, as well as accessories to complete each appear, ” she said.


Rugby provides long been considered a predominantly male game, favoured by private schools plus elite universities. But in recent years, the sport’s governing bodies have made efforts to reach new audiences and make rugby a lot more accessible.

The US now has the largest population of rugby enthusiasts, along with 45 mil active fans, according to the report through governing group World Rugby and Nielsen. The US is set to host the particular prestigious Rugby World Cup tournament designed for men in 2031 and women in 2033, games sure to up the sports’ stateside popularity. Patrick Ouyi, director of Le Coq Sportif, a French activewear company that will makes rugby performance clothing, said the US is a “big focus” for your brand.

Rugby is also a high-growth category just for Castore, an UK-based activewear start-up. Increasing demand for rugby products was a factor in the brand surpassing £100 million ($125 million) within revenue not too long ago, according in order to co-founder Mary Beahon.

Rugby shirts from apparel brand Rowing Blazers.

Plenty of shoppers are also purchasing rugby clothes without any intention of playing the activity. Shirt drops by Supreme, Palace and Jacquemus often market out and these stores possess brought a cool factor to the sport. Asos has seen a 10 percent annual increase in rugby products such as polos and sweatshirts, according to Edited. And on the New York-based Rowing Blazers, rugby styles have picked up significantly since the particular pandemic, said Jack Carlson, the former Olympic rower plus archaeologist who founded Rowing Blazers in 2018.

“We think rugby absolutely will have a residual outfits brand impact going forward because it offers this continental flair, European branding that… people appreciate as both cool and stylish, ” said SFIA’s Cove.


After gyms closed during the pandemic, boxing saw a resurgence, thanks to the popularity of short, intense fitness classes. Studios like 1Rebel in the UK and Australia, plus Rumble in the US have cult followings and have been opening more studios over the past year, where they sell their apparel.

The rise of YouTube boxing, with social media stars like Jake Paul plus KSI committing to professional boxing careers, has also attracted younger generations to the sport, while “fight night” charity events and “white collar” boxing tournaments have renewed interest in older, corporate settings, added SFIA’s Cove.

Free People's boxing collection with Everlast.

Brands across the pricing spectrum are unveiling their own takes on boxing gear. Lululemon sells men’s and women’s boxing training wraps and Alo Yoga sells an assortment associated with boxing gear too. In May, Urban Outfitters-owned womenswear label Totally free People released a collection featuring bright pink boxing gloves plus a $200 satin boxing robe within collaboration along with boxing equipment manufacturer Everlast. Celine, Dolce & Gabbana and JW Anderson sell boxing-style shorts and in February, Miu released the $1, 550 boxing gloves and backpack set as part of a sports capsule.

Still, brands know there’s a possibility that boxing — or any emerging sport — may not grow enough to become the next major activewear category. At 1Rebel, apparel drives only just over 5 percent of its revenue, said marketing director Adam Wagner, but it’s also expanding to more general athleisure items, designed in order to be worn in and out associated with the boxing studio.

“Athleisure apparel… supports the overall lifestyle regarding people who come to our gym classes, ” said Angus Doyne-Ditmas, head involving retail at 1Rebel.

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