Love it or hate it, designer performance-wear is a trend with major staying power, according to Mike Watson, fashion marketing and design instructor at The Art Institute of Charlotte and executive coach and consultant at EMC Mike.
“We’re in this very chaotic, time-compressed, busy, busy world,” he says. Athleisure is clothing that’s versatile, flattering and easy to wear, and that makes this trend appealing to just about everyone. It’s not as simple as the ubiquitous black yoga pant. And it’s not just about comfort.
“This is being worn by quite a few different demographics. It’s separates. It’s accessible. A lot of it’s easy to figure out. That translates well to any age group.”
Athleisure is a reflection of our changing culture, says Watson, and technology has played a major role. “There’s a real blending, erasing and blurring of the lines between being at work and not being at work, and it’s because of technology.
“I can do work and I don’t have to be in the office. But then your company kind of expects you to be accessible.”
Fashion, he says, often reflects these cultural and technological shifts. “I think it’s the natural evolution of Casual Friday, which was so big in the ’90s.”
Technology also comes into play with new fabrics, like the new cashmere blend fabric from Kit and Ace, founded by Chip and Shannon Wilson, the original creators of Lululemon Athletica. This blend pairs the luxurious feel of cashmere with the durability of traditional performance fabrics; it’s machine-washable and doesn’t pill or lose its shape.
“People that have no intention of working out” wear these pieces, Watson says. “And their goal is not, ‘Wow, I hope everyone realizes I just finished an hour of Bikram yoga.’ If I put on those expensive performance-wear pants, I still feel different than if I put on jeans. You think, ‘Well, I could work out.’ There is that psych factor. That’s why it sells to people.”