Pip Coates, AUSTRALIAN FINANCIAL REVIEW MAGAZINE
If activewear were an elite athlete, it would be a promoter’s dream. Comfortable and chic, it has become a goldmine for the fashion industry, achieving market growth where other segments are flat.
Australian sisters Julie and Sali Stevanja saw the market potential when, living in London and Sydney, they struggled to find fashionable, edgy sportswear. “We realised the gap for this market was global ,” says Julie. They launched Stylerunner.com, a curated activewear site, in October 2012 and claim to have hit $1 million turnover in July.
Brands from Chloe to Kenzo and Chanel are incorporating sports-luxe into their ranges, or have collaborated with existing sports labels: Riccardo Tisci of Givenchy with Nike, for example, and adidas by Stella McCartney. Mary Katranzou’s range with adidas will be out in November.
Julie Stevanja says she expects to have 50 brands in the Stylerunner stable by year’s end, but there’s room for more. “Within each [exercise] activity there’s a category of customer that different brands appeal to,” she says. “Some are feminine and balletesque, and others, like cross-fit, are bright and bold and strong.”
The sites brands include The Upside, Lucas Hugh, Montreal London, Nike, Alala, Le Coq Sportive, Sacha and Michi.
Luxury e-tailer Net-a-Porter, which sells to about 170 countries, launched a sports-luxe sister site, Net-a-Sporter, in July. And Australian Lorna Jane Clarkson, who opened her first activewear stores in 1990, is preparing her Lorna Jane business for a public listing. The company was recently valued between $35 million and $45 million.
Driving the sector’s growth is convergence of interest in fitness and fashion, and a lack of time. The latter has pushed people to find new ways to incorporate exercise into their day without making outfit changes or fashion compromises. Advances in design, manufacture and fabric technology, including natural fibres such as wool, have made that possible. Australian wool innovation, for example, is working on a hydrophobic pure wool fabric used as a shell garment.
Gap chief executive Glenn Murphy describes activewear as “the new denim”for its successful segue into the mainstream. It is also aspirational: a survey in 2012 found that 93 per cent of Americans chose activewear for pursuits other than exercising.
While you can’t buy your fitness, you can buy the look.