"We're actually losing consumption to yoga pants. What used to be a premium jeans occasion for women is now socially acceptable to be a yoga pants occasion"
-Chip Bergh, CEO Levi's "Why people aren't buying jeans anymore"
Levi's revenues have fallen $3 billion since 1995. Although this may be true of the current retail landscape, reduced sales over a 19 year period probably have less to do with this new love of premium yoga pants and more to do with increased competition due to the surge of premium denim brands over the last 10 years.
"Much like denim, activewear is increasingly being integrated into daily attire…it's now become acceptable, even chic, to wear leggings to work under a dress, or out to dinner with a cardigan"
-Lauren Sherman, Business of Fashion "Is Activewear the New Denim"
The sportswear movement in high fashion has certainly made activewear more acceptable as everyday clothing -even a fashion statement. However, wearing activewear leggings under a dress as a rule is far-fetched. That is, unless Spanx can be considered activewear. And wearing them out to dinner with a cardigan?! That's a long stretch, no pun intended. At this early stage it's wishful thinking to compare the vast functionality of a pair of jeans to yoga pants. Is it possible that women will start wearing them out to dinner with a cardigan? Well. Let's just hope it's a very casual dinner.
"From Beach to street to some offices, the legging is part of the lifestyle. And just as the industry has been successful in marketing denim for the office, formal, weekend…activewear makers will be able to do the same."
-Tom Julian, Donegar Group
I guess this would hold true if you work at Lululemon. It would never work at any office I've ever worked in -even the most relaxed. It's only recently that wearing jeans in some offices has become the norm, but you still have to maintain a level of professionalism in your attire. Not to be gender-biased (I'm a woman), but how are men to take a woman in the office seriously if she's wearing yoga pants? Have you seen what guys say about them? If athleisure wear becomes as prevalent as he's predicting, I would venture to guess that a backlash to this extreme dressing down would occur in the workplace as well as when going out. Even more so if it becomes a fad to wear yoga pants in formal settings. Although I have serious doubts about that one.
"As more and more trends start to push women, in particular, to street attire, we start looking at the balance between the athletic part of our business and the going-out part of the business and… [Activewear] is the new denim"
Gap is rapidly expanding their Athleta activewear brand, which has already grown from 1 to 65 retail stores in 2 years. So, yes and no. The "premiumization" of yoga pants and the rise of luxury sportswear follows the denim model and can give athleisure wear a permanent place in our wardrobes outside the gym, but there are some places where it's simply not going to work. Can you imagine trying to pick an outfit for a night out with friends at a swanky bar. Dress, yes. Jeans, sure. Yoga pants, epic fail.
"Leggings and sweatpants…have now surpassed jeans as the pants of choice…at least for teens.
-Nicole Goodkind, Daily Ticker "Teens abandon denim for new "it" pant"
For the first time, denim didn't break the top 10 among teens' favorite trends according to Piper Jaffray's semi-annual study. Be that as it may, you can't ignore the fact that denim is a huge part of the business of many stores ranked in the top 10 of the same report. American Eagle and Hollister ranked 4 and 6 respectively.
Athletic wear certainly has many undeniable benefits outside the gym. Not the least of which is comfort. Technical qualities like odor resistance and moisture-wicking are an added value that I wish more denim brands would adopt (although Levi's has included these attributes in their Commuter jean series).
They have a positive effect on our psychology. Just wearing athletic wear can inspire you to work out. You also give the impression to those around you that you have an active, healthy lifestyle…even if you are just wearing them for a Chipotle run. The progress you make at the gym, at yoga or whatever your exercise of choice, can be easily seen and shown off. After all is not the underlying benefit of yoga pants to show off a yoga body?
Although I wear jeans every day, I'm pleased that this category has gotten so popular. It's always nice to have more casual options. Therefore, I'm not against getting with THAT. But, and this is a big one, there will never, ever, be a point where I will have more yoga pants than jeans. And that has nothing to do with the fact that the Lululemon stock I bought two years ago and just sold last week was a dud the entire time I owned it. Nope has nothing to do with that. It has to do with convenience.
At first glance athletic wear seems a great on-the-go type of category, however, synthetic fibers retain odor no matter how much they're treated and you have to wash them often. By contrast, Chip Bergh didn't wash his jeans for a year (see Levi's CEO Mainstreams What Denimheads Already Knew -Don't Wash Your Jeans).
I love to shop. I can browse ASOS and Zara for hours just looking at blouses and tops. Handbags are so much fun to carry and my obsession with shoes is larger than my inventory (I'm actively working to remedy that). Accessories are a delight to collect and it's hard to pass the jewelry section without picking up something.
Versatility and functionality is key. Until athleisure wear can fit into one or more of these formulas, replacing my jeans is not at all likely.
So what do you think? Can you get with this or can you get with that? Yoga pants or jeans?