Sweatpants, Cardigans, and The Rise of Casual Dress

This month’s Fashion Friday podcast series by Euromonitor International explores the booming trend of casual styles and how fashion brands can successfully incorporate it in their strategies moving forward. Sportswear and athleisure have experienced momentum compared to the broader apparel and footwear industry, which has seen double-digit declines due to the pandemic. While the apparel and footwear industry is expected to see a CAGR of 4 percent until 2025, sportswear is set to grow at a higher CAGR of 6 percent and is estimated at USD292 billion globally.

In the past 5 years, athleisure and sports-inspired casual styles have dominated the fashion aesthetic both within luxury and on the high street. The trend has grown as a result of increased interest in health and fitness, the influence of streetwear culture and the growth of flexible working. A growing number of high street and top luxury players adopted more ‘casualised’ and sports-inspired styles to meet the increasing demand. During 2020, consumers have acclimatised to spending more time in and around their homes where sportswear and casual styles benefitted immensely from e-commerce growth with sportswear registering 41% e-commerce growth while apparel e-commerce sales grew by 48%.

Beyond convenience and comfort, another important demand driver for casual styles is nostalgia. COVID-19 has induced a cross-generational craving for the past to act as a buffer against the anxieties of the pandemic. Turning to nostalgia is a common psychological response in times of crisis as it produces notions of comfort. In sportswear, the longing for the return of live sporting events and pre-pandemic freedom has reignited the interest in retro items such as tracksuits, polo shirts and colour-blocking, which draw on 90s influences.

Moreover, nostalgia permeated the fashion scene largely because of the ‘cottagecore’ trend on TikTok and Instagram, which began as a result of consumers longing for an escape to simpler times. This has led to a renewed demand for cozy cardigans and sweater vests that evoke a sense of countryside living and rustic comfort.

2021 sees a growing demand for athleisure and activewear. Opportunity for fashion players lies in establishing a community following like that of Sporty and Rich or Sleeper, building genderless appeal similar to the Air Jordan Dior collaboration and creating expertly designed sleek and sophisticated or technologically enhanced fashionable garments. As consumers adapt to new patterns of working, exercising, relaxing and socialising, they will continue to demand comfortable and adaptable clothing, and this will fuel the growth of sophisticated casual attire.

Written and created for FashionUnited by Euromonitor. Explore more fashion-related podcasts by Euromonitor here.

Image: Pexels


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