By Brinley Knopf
We wore sweats to work, called it fashion. It stuck. But is athleisure, like, so 2016? Lululemon CEO Laurent Potdevin doesn’t think so.
“We are ‘at the intersection of function and fashion,’” he says, sharing his expectations of doubled profits: $4 billion by 2020. “Athleisure is the new casual,” Deirdre Clemente, a history professor from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said in an interview with Business Insider. “[It] perfectly fits with a variety of trends that have been culminating for a century . . . a ‘weird hybrid’ of business casual and athletic wear.” “[Athleisure] is not going to go away for at least 10 years,” agreed Todd Snyder, designer and former SVP of J. Crew menswear.
But in late 2016, after the Olympics, The Robin Report, a retail industry publication, was contrary to Clemente and Snyder. “[I think] athleisure is rolling over,” wrote Jan Rogers Kniffen, CEO of Worldwide Enterprises, a provider of research to the retail sector, making everyone in yoga pants the world over hold onto their spandex a little more vehemently.
Not willing to part with your Fabletics? Kniffen thinks you will. His proof: in the “coolest part[s] of a cool town” otherwise known as Austin, Texas, “I spent four hours, on a Saturday morning, in the cool part of Austin. From Starbucks, to a Black and Gold bar, to quaint breakfast places, salons, and art galleries, there was not one woman in athleisure gear to be found.”
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Before you ask, were the people jogging in jeans? Kniffen says while people were wearing sportswear to exercise, “during a causal part of the day” there was a definite dearth of casual clothing. Kniffen sees a retreat; a wane in athleisure as street style, and thinks yoga pants are in “the death throes of uncool.” Uncool? Why, just upend me. Just when I’d gotten so used to yoga pants as non-yoga pants that wearing jeans felt like upper-crust Chanel.
To mediate the match, for Spring 2017, GMPC, an industry design resource, called athleisure a trend. But then we learned a new word: athluxury. “Athluxury is the new athleisure,” reported Vogue, speaking to trends that’ll rule fashion in 2017. It’s like athleisure, but spruced and spiffy: Tory Burch’s country club collection, Tory Sport, doesn’t fraternize with black leggings or sport bras. And her ‘Tory Sport Ruffle Sneaker’ would never be seen with my DSW Sketchers. While Fashion Month was rife with athleticism, it wasn’t your leggings-and-sports-bra duo. From Alexander Wang to Dior, it was definitely what you’d wear to play tennis in the Hamptons, rather than what you’d sweat in at Spin Cycle. I mean, you could wear your $2k Versace ‘athluxury’ jacket to Spin Cycle, but should you?
Still, I’ve seen NYC women in parkas and leggings on a grocery run, Whole Foods bags by the dozen. I don’t discount “casual clothing” just yet. Don’t throw away your Under Armour; just upgrade to Tim Coppens ‘Modern American Sportswear’ for your more luxurious seaside cliff-climbing.