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Are Yoga Pants the New Jeans?

Yoga pants are taking the fashion world by storm, and as more and more people hop on the athleisure trend, even Levis recognises that their denim sales are dropping. We sent Valentina Primo to a P&G conference in Barcelona to discover why.

The past years have seen a 45 per cent rise in the sales of yoga apparel, but only 4.5 per cent more people are actually practicing it. What explains the phenomenon can be summarised in one word: athleisure, a trend that is taking over urban streets, fashion runways, and, though often unadmittedly, office spaces around the world.  

The way we are relating to our clothes is changing, as more and more individuals place importance on comfort and functionality when choosing their outfits. “Athletics are no longer seen as a hobby, but a lifestyle,” said Sabine Le Chatelier, Deputy Fashion Director of Première Vision, at the Future Fabrics Summit held this December in Barcelona.

Organised by fabric care brands Ariel and Downy, the event explored this booming trend that sees yoga pants as its rising star, an icon that is expected to soon replace the ubiquity of denim. “Actually, we can see many parallels: the globalness of the product, its broad cultural significance in association with modernity and ease, and its ability to transcend the boundaries of class, age, and gender,” she added. 

Giles Deacon's athleisure capsule washable collection, created in collaboration with Ariel and Downy.

But what makes yoga pants the hero garment of the moment is not just their comfort-related nature; athleisure is about yoga pants made of hi-tech materials with thread counts, high sensitivity fibres, and luxurious fabrics. “Over time, I’ve accumulated more hoodies, t-shirts, tracksuit bottoms, and leggings in my wardrobe. My jackets and coats come with waterproofed sections, quilted-down sections, elaborate hoods, and extra padding. I’ve come to expect clothes to have a hybrid aspect about them,” says British leading fashion blogger Susie Bubble at the summit.

According to a study conducted by Ariel and Downy in key markets, including UK, USA, India, and Egypt, nearly three out of four consumers (71 per cent) consider active-inspired clothes as part of their 'normal' everyday clothes. “The growth of yoga pants has outpaced the growth of denim, which was the social representation of a global culture,” said Gianluca Longo, Contributing Editor to the Italian Elle magazine.  

An indelible icon for decades, 1.3 billion denim jeans are sold every year, 39 per cent of which sell in the USA. That means that every second, 60 pairs of jeans are bought somewhere around the world. But with athleisure as the fastest growing fashion category in the second half of this decade, with an estimated 4 per cent annual growth, denim is experiencing a steady downfall. By 2019, the value market size of athleisure is estimated to be nearly $180 billion; this is no surprise, given that the business of athleisure and wearable tech is so attractive that consumers are willing to spend up to $400 on a sportswear item once simple thrown into a gym bag.

Fashion Journalist Gianluca Longo and Giles Deacon.  

“Levis, a brand built on denim, admitted that the athleisure trend was responsible for a 10 per cent fall in its sales of women’s jeans - a decline directly related to the popularity of yoga pants,” said Regis D’Hardemare, P&G’s R&D Associate Director Total Europe for Laundry Detergents. “Levis responded with an intensive Research and Development drive to create new advanced denim with stretch material, to offer better comfort and a more flattering style and fit. So now, even your denim is becoming an advanced fabric,” he added.

Leading a panel on fashion in motion, Bubble illustrated this radical shift that not only centres on our choice of garments, but is the signal of a global lifestyle transformation. “The idea of fashion in motion isn’t about speedily getting through as many trends as possible, but it’s a lifestyle shift towards integrating fabrics and silhouettes, once strictly categorised as sportswear, into our everyday attire because our lives are ultimately speeding up,” says Bubble, nicknamed ‘the self-made queen of independent fashion blogging’. “Working harder has made us think harder about what it’s doing to our bodies,” she added.

From Stella McCartney and Adidas’ longstanding collaboration across activities such as ballet or yoga to Nike teaming up with Berlin-based designer Johanna Schneider, or rising cult-brand Lululemon, the trend is blurring the line between sportswear brands and designer labels, with the latter increasingly adding tech fibres and stretch fabrics to their pret-a-porter attires. “You could say this is connected with wanting to feel comfortable but, for me, the proliferation of different styles, risk-taking from designers, and a broader variety of these athleisure staples means that you can create more varied and eclectic looks than ever before,” Bubble concluded.

You can find out more on their Instagram account @pgfuturefabrics.
Main image courtesy of Nike; all other images courtesy of P&G.