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Strategic thinking

Are active women set to dominate the 21st Century?

By 18/05/2015January 11th, 2023No Comments

Brandwave’s resident graphic designer Olivia, shares her thoughts on the current female activewear market.

It seems that 2015 has become ‘the year of the girl’… The strong, indestructible, powerful kind of girl. Throughout the ‘noughties’, slender, gaunt, stick-like looks trended the female markets, now it’s becoming more apparent that women are embracing a more athletic, healthy and strong look for the ‘teenies’… I am so pleased to see that finally there is a break through in attitudes towards the healthy female form.

Dimensions of a life-like barbie

This Girl Can

Last year Always launched their ‘like a girl’ campaign in 2014, aiming to boost women’s self-confidence, and remind them that there is no shame in acting ‘like a girl’. Later that year, Emma Watson played a huge part in kick-starting the debate on gender equality at the UN headquarters in NYC.

Now in 2015, we have just witnessed the impact of the lottery funded ‘This Girl Can’ campaign video, celebrating the ‘Women who are doing their thing no matter how they do it, how they look or even how sweaty they get.’ A video featuring women ‘shaking it, all of it’ to the iconic hip-hop baselines of Missy Elliott’s ‘Get ur freak on’… it’s gritty, raw, real, and has attracted over 7 million views on YouTube since its launch last month.

Always ‘Like a Girl’ campaign

Clothing is now designed to suit women of all shapes and sizes, not just the super skinny or athletic. Lululemon have even brought out ‘stink free gear’ for those women who are put off exercise because of the way it makes them smell… taking things a bit far perhaps but it emphasises how activewear apparel brands are bending over backwards for their female customers.

Something for every shape from Lululemon

Healthy Role Models

The powerful images of Team GB’s female stars in the 2012 London Olympics have boosted numbers of women taking up sport in the UK… Jessica Ennis, Rebecca Adlington, Katherine Grainger, Lizzie Armitstead, Anna Watkins, Saskia Clark, Hannah Mills and many more athletes have become strong role models for women and girls all over the UK. The now encouraged to follow their favourite female athletes on social media channels and are desiring the same activewear looks that the pros are sponsored to wear by brands to train and compete in.

The female stars of team GB

UK activewear has landed

Australia has been leagues ahead for some time when it comes to good fashion focused sports apparel for women, the European women’s activewear market however has only just exploded. According to Euromonitor International, the UK is yet to see a constant value compound annual growth rate of 4%, especially now that high street giants such as H&M, and Topshop (amongst many other online retailers) are bringing out their own lines of activewear at an affordable high street price. Even the more alternative bohemian fashion websites are jumping on board such as ‘Anthropology’ and Freepeople – who have just this month, launched their activewear apparel range ‘Free People Movement’. It is clear that more and more online retailers are entering the ‘sportswear powered by fashion’ e-commerce arena in force – there appears to be no end to this activewear boom, it’s everywhere… and unlike many movements, this one is here to stay.

H&M Activewear

Freepeople Activewear Activewear

Sports brands are collaborating with high-end fashion designers – we all know about Stella McCartney & adidas’s ongoing successful partnership, and how they took on the GB Olympic team kit redesign. Now Riccardo Tisci is teaming up with Nike redesigning the Air Force 1’, a basketball shoe that has been adapted to the street.

Stella McCartney & adidas

Riccardo Tisci and Nike

Stella McCartney & adidas

Moreover, female Hollywood stars are ditching the idea to bring out the ‘latest fragrance’ or cosmetic in their name, and instead cutting themselves a slice of this activewear market cake. Kate Hudson and her new online sportswear label ‘Fabletics’  is a complete sell out, using facebook advertising to launch and promote ‘a complete activewear outfit for £22.50!’… Too good to be true? – Afraid so! Be warned, anyone out there who has purchased their outfit from the Fabletics site should check their bank statements, it is likely that more money is leaving your account than you originally thought – you have potentially been automatically signed up for a ‘VIP’ account and charged $49 monthly… my advice is read the reviews before you surrender your account details.

High performance technology fabrics are now easily available to girls for hot/cold, cool/warm and every other minor temperature fluctuation in-between. More affordable, high performance fabrics are not just available for professional athletes anymore, gone are the days of getting fit in an old pair of green flash, baggy shorts and a t-shirt… women now desire sports outfits that boast technology as well as prints and colours, enabling girls to mirror current fashion trends on the high street too… It could even be said that activewear is becoming more of an incentive for women to join a gym than the exercise itself.

Female athletes are launching their own brands – Venus Williams with her ‘Eleven’ collection, or Topshop’s new ‘Sno’ range by snowboarding athlete and model Charlotte Dutton. A great marketing ploy for any sports apparel brand, getting an international athlete behind the product… the masses can seek confidence that they are purchasing a product that performs to an elite standard.

Venus Williams, ‘Eleven’

Charlotte Dutton, ‘Sno’

Been around the block

Let’s not forget the pioneering style activewear brands such as Sweaty Betty, who have been representing and leading the stylish side of female sport for many years now, with stores in most major cities across the UK… but their presence has been diluted of late due to the influx of other labels saturating the market. Sweaty Betty might not be the most affordable option, but they have been around a while, and have offered us girls reliable garments with a guarantee of wisdom and longevity that greener market entries lack.

Sweaty Betty store

Sweaty Betty outfits

Fashion Sportswear degree courses are now available to study at top universities such as ‘The University of London Arts’ and ‘Falmouth University’ amongst others. Additionally, Chichester University is investing annually in sports technology and equipment to help students study the intricate factors to making an athlete elite in their sport (studying stars such as Ronaldo and Pippa Wilson).

If the youth of today are investing in a career path specific to such an industry, surely the future of fashion activewear is bright. Fashion brands, athletes, celebrities and e-commerce sites that have not already considered investing in sport, here is your heads up.

Swimwear | Waterwear

Swimwear trends are seeing a new facelift, especially in the wetsuit sector. The traditional black wetsuit is being replaced with bright, colourful, printed neoprene designs that are currently trending the surf and watersports markets. Brands such as GlideSoul are probably amongst the most radical of the designs to hit the market with their ‘Waterwear’ collection, incorporating neon and animal prints, giving women something to get excited about when on the water.

Other prestigious women’s wetsuit brands such as Roxy, O’Neill, Rip Curl and Billabong also offer women a more flamboyant, alternative choice to the traditional black suit. The variety of suit shapes and sizes ranging from neoprene bikinis, crop tops, jackets, leggings, full suits, short suits, sleeveless suits and the ever-popular ‘cheeky’ suit are enabling women of all shapes, sizes and individual watersport interests to be comfortable and confident.

The Future looks Strong

For so long now, sporty women in the UK have put up with brands applying the old ‘shrink it and pink it’ approach to men’s technical apparel, but now the choice of activewear available to women is endless from surfing or skiing or simply working out in the gym.

This is a generation of active and confident women, a healthier nation. All expanding female brands should grab the opportunity and cash in on this current booming market – women will always spend money on looking good, and I can guarantee the longevity of the fashionable activewear movement is solid… #thisgirlcan.

Useful Hashtags

#strongisthenewskinny #fpmovement #waterwear #thisgirlcan #likeagirl #healthylife #coolerwomen


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Emma Cox