Fashion Industry Profile: Chapter 3. The Environment of Fashion

Active Sportswear Boom

Fashion is a reflect of sociological environment. As Cecil Beaton commented, changes in fashion “correspond with the subtle and often hidden network of forces that operate on society.”[1] One of the key sociological factors influencing fashion is leisure time. Nowadays, the growing value of leisure time has created a larger demand for active sportswear. Because health, exercise, and workout are considered an important part of life for many, a whole new and vast world of activewear and other self-improvement-based fashions and accessories become the superstar of the fashion market.[2]


According to WWD, global apparel and footwear industry in 2016 grew 3.8 percent to $1.7 trillion, representing the weakest growth period since 2008, compared to a 4.5 percent growth rate in 2015.[3] The strongest category for growth was activewear, at a growth rate of 7 percent, followed by children’s wear, at a growth rate of 6 percent. Men’s wear grew by 4 percent, outpacing women’s wear.

Bernadette Kissane, apparel and footwear analyst at Euromonitor International, said, “Although performance sportswear takes the lead in terms of market size, valued at $78 billion in 2016, ‘sports-inspire’ is the category driving growth. Both sports-inspired footwear and apparel is growing at a rapid pace, registering 10 percent and 6 percent growth in 2016, respectively.”


Kissane said that in addition to growth in emerging markets such as India and Thailand, the U.S. is also producing “significant sports-inspired growth, despite its reputation as a performance-oriented market. It seems the chatter around the demise of ath-leisure remains just that.”


She noted that the continued strength in ath-leisure is helped by the “launch of activewear brands such as Ivy Park and Tory Burch.” Further, collaborations from Nike and Adidas with designers such as Riccardo Tisci, Olivier Rousteing and Stella McCartney are helping to provide a wider choice of options for a “consumer base that seeks to incorporate sport-styled designs into their everyday wardrobe.”


According to Kissane, “Apparel and footwear’s positive performance is expected to continue with a [compound annual growth rate] of 2 percent in constant value terms to 2021. She cautioned that the era of robust growth following the recession could be over given the current period of uncertainty from Brexit to a Trump president and China’s new normal — slower ­— growth, as well as consumer priorities shifting towards experience over consumption.

To keep up with this overriding trend of activewear, apparel and footwear companies may reconsider their product development and merchandising strategies by shifting more resources to sportswear, just like Tory Burch’s new line “Tory Sport.”

[1] Elaine Stone, The Dynamics of Fashion, (New York: Fairchild Books, 2013) , 56.

[2] Ibid., 59.

[3] “Global Apparel and Footwear Was $1.7 Trillion Industry in 2016,”WWD, January 19, 2017,

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