While the continued growth of athleisure from controversial trend to fashion mainstay has many sartorial purists clutching their pearls — longing for the "good" old days when women had to set their hair and slip on some pumps before running to the grocery store — in 2017, the question is no longer, "are leggings pants?" but rather, "are leggings couture?"
Style opinions aside, there’s no denying that this trend is sort of feminist: it’s all about comfort, efficiency, and ease, catering to the modern woman, who can have it all without having to change three times a day. Spurred by the resurgence of interest in holistic mind and body wellness (with yoga studios popping up on every corner like Starbucks) coupled with around-the-clock social media culture, the promise of athleisure is both fashion and function, day and night, without having to miss a beat.
Along with the rise of The Modern Minimalista, the athleisure trend-to-mainstay trajectory signals a shift in cultural values that speaks to the new demands we make of our ourselves when it comes to our wardrobes: no longer frivolous shoppers, we choose well and spend wisely, looking for quality and versatility above all.
While lifestyle marketing is certainly nothing new, the rare advantage of athleisure is its relevance across demographics: everyone wants to be chic and feel comfortable, regardless of age or lifestyle. Thanks to starlets like Gigi Hadid and Kylie and Kendall Jenner instagramming their cardio-to-cocktails outfits, the “off-duty model” look — a perennial favorite — has become more attainable than ever. Newly popular brands like Bandier make a point to appeal to all aspects of their customers’ lives, elevating their offerings from just another range of high-end yoga pants to leggings you want to live in, from the barre to the bar and beyond. Beauty brands have also embraced the movement: from newcomer Sweat Cosmetics’ line of — you guessed it — sweat-proof makeup to Sephora staple Tarte Cosmetics’ new “Athleisure” collection of workout-to-work beauty and skincare essentials, athleisure is popping up everywhere from makeup bags to handbags.
While many fashion forecasters have been wistfully predicting the downfall of athleisure for quite some time, the numbers don’t lie: high-end activewear sales continue to grow in the new year, while non-activewear sales aren't. Designers have even begun to reinvent the look from athleisure to athluxury, showcasing plenty of fresh, innovative ideas on the 2017 runways. Rather than obvious gym detailing, the aesthetic of athluxury is more focused on practicality and performance, with subtle incorporations of smart fabrics and thoughtful cuts and styles that are fully fashionable — with added bonuses of comfort and mobility. At Balmain, aerobic-standard Spandex appeared in the form of emergency red legging boots, while at Balenciaga, a black patent duffel served serious style you could take from barre class to business meetings. At Céline, a long, slouchy, generously spacious shoulder bag kicked into high fashion with a nautical knot, while Maison Margiela sent a leather-detailed red checkered backpack down the runway — with a rolled-up yoga mat tucked behind, for good measure.
Needless to say, the evolution of athleisure from passing trend to style staple can be more accurately described as the revolution of athleisure. Poised to grow, athleisure designs are a safe and solid choice for any private label collection.