Meet The Active Fabric Mills Running The Athleisure Trend
With more luxury brands turning out sporty fashion collections, it’s the tech-savvy fabrics behind the new lines that are answering this call to ‘action’ from contemporary women everywhere.
With a plethora of brands releasing luxury sports collections, it’s the tech-savvy fabrics behind the fashion lines that are leading this call to ‘action’ – across all dimensions of women’s wear. Athleisure, or apparel that works for both athletic and leisure pursuits, is hot property for women’s wear right now. And the athleisure train isn’t running out of steam any time soon, which is why brands are jumping on.
Several new active fashion entrants have emerged in the past 12 months, among them Tory Burch, Rebecca Minkoff, Cynthia Rowley, Ramy Brook and Elie Tahari. But now smaller, boutique labels – even those who specialise in lounge or swimwear – are now game changers, responding to the athleisure demand that is proving to be more than a trend. Instead, it's a fashion category on its own.
Innerwear brand Hanro revealed its new line - ‘Yoga’ this month, a women’s athleisure collection for light sports with a fashion capsule attached. The debut features pullover sweaters, a bolero cardigan, lounge pants and a ribbed tank top. It accentuates the trend of wearing comfortable, carefree clothing that is fashionable; riding well for the urban woman - from a workout to a casual night drink with friends.
Mara Hoffman, who makes ready-to-wear and women’s and girls’ swimwear, is also sprinting toward athleisure. Hoffman’s new line features long printed leggings, racer-back tank tops and cropped leggings, as well as shorts and mesh back bra tops. Her French terry sweaters offer a sporty feel, next to rompers, sweatpants and jumpsuits. Other pieces include embroidered French terry capes, sweatshirts and sweatpants – and staple fitted T-shirts.
Athleisure’s popularity isn’t so much a dictation of comfort-driven trends by brands; but more a reflection of the shift in the perception of luxury and sports clothing for women.
According to the Cotton Inc. 2014 Sports Apparel Survey, 91% of women say they wear active apparel for purposes other than exercise. And, 47% of women say they are more likely to dress in activewear all weekend than they were a few years ago. Surprisingly, more than 25% say they prefer to wear active shirts to regular shirts, according to Cotton Inc.’s Lifestyle Monitor Survey.
Among women, 46% recount comfort as the most important property in activewear, according to the Monitor data. Some 17% listed fit as the most important, followed by style and breathability - both at 15%.
Around 70% of women say they prefer cotton and cotton blends, while 81% associate better quality with all-natural fibers, with majority of those interviewed labeling fabrics like cotton - soft, breathable, stylish and durable.
The athleisure attraction lies in the combining of real fashion with active silhouettes and fabrics, allowing women to use the pieces across locations; transcending the style rules that govern the gym, the mall and a cool bar. And that requires material realization from leading active fashion textile mills.
Colombian mill Lafgo Lafayette offers a special line of sport fabrics, in strong neutral colours and vibrant prints. Working out of the city of Bogota, Lafgo crafts quality polyester and polyester and Lycra-blend performance fabrics, designed for durability and breathability as well as comfortable style.
Their materials feature active technologies such as moisture wicking, sun protection, and water repellence, making them ideal for sport. But it’s Lafgo’s kaleidoscope of color in digital prints and textural mesh, that make this mill’s textiles so brilliant, true active fabrics to style-up leisure clothing.
Still in Colombia, mill Tejidos Gulfer offers a complete line of fabrics for athleisure labels. Tejidos crafts triccot, rachel and circular knitting for both elastic and solid fabrics in fashionable colors for luxury brands. For more active-focused lines, the Powernet - an innovative elastic fabric with compression properties– is available, and comes with special finishes such as aloe vera, vitamin E and microcapsules, promoting soft skin and hygiene.
To North America now, and Canada’s Oratex are a premium manufacturer of circular knit stretch fabrics designed for activewear and athleisure apparel items. They supply fabrics in combination eco-blends using bamboo, organic cotton, nylon, spandex and micromodal. Using a jersey weave, monochromatic blacks and whites are hugely popular, while custom colors are produced on order.