Activewear retailer Under Armour launched the month of August with the debut of its new advertising campaign: "I will what I want." In a stunning spot that quickly went viral, Misty Copeland, a formidable ballerina who dances with the American Ballet Theater and possesses an uncharacteristically muscular physique, dances in her toe shoes and Under Armour clothing to the sound, not of music, but of her rejection letter from a ballet school being read aloud.
The campaign has shined a spotlight on an already heated activewear sector. But things are only going to get hotter.
Women are key consumers of activewear
While Under Armour makes most of its money in men’s clothing, it’s spending some $15 million on its “I will what I want” campaign to spur its growing sales to women.
Many retailers have eyed the success of Lululemon Athletica, which a few years ago enjoyed a top spot in the groovy performance activewear sector and faced much less competition. As Lululemon has stumbled over quality issues and public relations problems of its own making, competitors with yoga and workout clothing at all price points have moved in.
Athletic clothing retailers like Under Armour are catering more toward women, and women’s apparel retailers are getting in the activewear game.
High-tech, high-performance fabrics are revolutionary
The breezy cotton yoga pant of the '70s is unrecognizable in a 21st century yoga class. It’s not just the body-hugging style, but fabrics that can withstand a grueling workout, whether it’s yoga at the YMCA, elite fitness programs, or training for a triathlon. Fabrics stay cool and comfortable, allow freedom of movement, and prevent stains and odors that can make the laundry room post-workout an uninhabitable place.
It's all being made possible through technological breakthroughs creating fabrics that perform in ways that elite athletes require.
Workout wear is not just for working out
Lululemon figured out another reality about selling activewear to women — many who love their workout clothes wear them to work, to happy hour, or to lounge around the house. That is only becoming more true for more women as fashion designers and clothing retailers come up with lines of clothing that blur the lines between athletic pursuits and daily living.
Everyone’s getting in the game
Like the inside of a Crossfit fitness center, the market in activewear has been hot, and is getting hotter. Elite athletic wear brands like Nike and Under Armour that outfit Olympic athletes as well as elite fashion designers like Cynthia Rowley; pricey, high-end retailers like Net-a-Sporter and affordable offerings at Old Navy, quirky boho styles at Urban Outfitters, and more streamlined styles at the Gap Inc.’s Athleta — all are focusing on activewear, especially for women.
The segment may get even more crowded. Canadian activewear retailer Lolë, or Live Out Loud Every Day, is expanding. Perhaps it would like to follow in the footsteps of fellow Canadian company Lululemon, the activewear darling that may have sparked this trend and certainly has done much to nurture it along.
Kmart this month also launched a new line, called Impact, with super-trainer Jillian Michaels, of affordable workout clothes and accessories.