Sales up at Canadian company known for high-end womens sportswear as workout clothing becomes a wardrobe staple
When the share price of Lululemon rose 20% in the last three months, it seemed like a surprising turnaround for the yoga apparel retailer. Last year it endured the sudden resignation of its former CEO, following a global recall of leggings in 2013 which turned out to be see-through, and a founder who outraged customers by stating on national television that some womens bodies just dont work for his brand.
But the change in fortune for Lululemon, a Canadian company known for selling £138 leggings and which now expects sales of up to $695m in the fourth quarter of the year, is indicative of a wider trend sometimes labelled athleisure in which expensive workout clothing has become a wardrobe staple, as likely to be worn all weekend as it is to an actual yoga class.
When I first came back to London from Australia about three years ago, I would walk around in my leggings and people would give me odd looks, says Madeleine Shaw, author of healthy lifestyle book Get the Glow, but these days its so much more acceptable to feel confident going bare faced in yoga pants in public.
Chelsie Crowder, 25, from London, said: I probably spend more on yoga clothes than on daily wear, but its not to look trendy. To me its an investment, because it makes me feel confident, fit and healthy. As I do yoga or Pilates on the weekend, I also wear my leggings to get my nails done, go for a coffee with friends, have a business meeting, or do a food shop. Crowder gets her yoga wear from Lululemon, but also Sweaty Betty and Stella McCartney.
The athleisure trend is part of pervading culture of wellness and self-improvement, one in which designers have replaced high heels with trainers on catwalks, and gossip websites are inundated with pictures of A-listers including Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley going about their daily business in leggings and hoodies.
Bonnie Rakhit, founder ofluxury travel and fashion blog the Style Traveller, said: One of the biggest factors in this trend is, of course, the recent national preoccupation with being healthy. The buzz phrase for which is Its hip to be healthy.
Companies such as Sweaty Betty, Athleta and Alo Yoga also continue to blossom as the athleisure trend grows. Sports brands focusing on women such as Sweaty Betty and Lululemon have helped redefine the female sports market by selling fashionable and feminine gym and yoga clothes that are comfortable, Amanda Lintott from Mintel said. The rise in availability of attractive-looking sportswear for women has also meant that women are using these items both for sports and as fashionable leisurewear, which feeds into a trend for more multipurpose styles of clothing in everyday life.
According to a recent Mintel survey, millennials are more willing to spend money on experiences that enhance their lives rather than on material goods. Therefore, as Lindsay Rowe of creative agency PBJS wrote, for [millennials] to justify a purchase, luxury items or experiences must have a functional, performance-oriented reason for its higher cost.
Marks and Spencer, Gap and H&M have all introduced their own sports lines. The athleisure trend towards sporty style is not only influencing what we wear at, and to the gym, but is also having an impact on our everyday wardrobes, Soozie Jenkinson, head of design at M&S, said. Leggings and yoga pants are becoming an attractive alternative to the skinny jean, which has been our go to, multitasking wardrobe staple for a decade, not only because of their sporty style credentials but also because they are just so comfortable.
Rakhit said: With women becoming increasingly busy, striving to cram work, play and keeping fit into our every day routines, the sartorial rules have had to adapt to become more relevant to our hectic lives. In cities across the UK, were enrolling in early morning yoga sessions, lunch time gym classes or post work-work outs, what we wear needs to fit in with all the roles and activities our lives take on. So we have to take into account not only performance, comfort and versatility but also style.
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