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The global fashion business journal

Jun 13, 20246:31pm

Sports conquers the fashion podium and rewrites rules

Sport has marked the pace of fashion during the last ten years, establishing a division line between fashion and sportswear is more complicated today than it was ten years ago.

Aug 21, 2019 — 9:00am
Iria P. Gestal/ Daniela García

Sports conquers the fashion podium and rewrite rules



Sport has marked the pace of fashion during the last ten years. Leggings, hoodies and specially sneakers have entered the closets of consumer and shaken the fashion industry from retail to luxury. Nike and Adidas are now in the same level as Zara, but also Louis Vuitton. After the leggings, the athleisure fashion arrived to stay.


Fast fashion embraced it quickly, and luxury arrived to make it stay. Footwear has been one of the standards of this new scenario, opening the way for new chains specialized in sneakers. During this time, athleisure hasn’t only led the tendencies, but also reached the ranking of the new era of omnichannel and retail, to explore new formulas to conquer the consumer through personalization, private sales, limited editions, amongst others.  


Sports has also started the innovation in product and processes, adding technology to its garments and footwear and advancing towards new digitalized factories, adding 3D printing in soles and textile nets in the instep of the shoe. If the first decade of the 21st century had in the center fast fashion, this second decade, was athleisure.


The ugly trainers, the last viral phenomenon, are the recent hit of Balenciaga. Despite its price, 650 euros, every time a new line comes out, it immediately sold out. Ten years ago, the story would have been different for this model that Esquire defined as “the trainers your dad wears to homebase”, but in 2019 are one of the more replicated models in every commerce on the planet.


This macrotrend, dated in 2014, brought together in the same market brands as Nike and Adidas with H&M or Inditex, but also luxury, where Louis Vuitton allied with Supreme and opened a pop-up store in Soho, New York. No one wanted to miss a piece of this cake where the so desired millennial market was. Also, other companies like Lululemon or OutdoorVoices, amongst others, started joining this tendency.


Runways pointed the way for a long time, with the lines Y3 of Yohji Yamamoto and Stella McCartney for Adidas, but it was with the non-gender urbanism of Alexander Wang and the postmodernity of Gosha Rubchinskiy when the phenomenon exploded. In the mass market, Instagram gave a new light to a healthy lifestyle, yoga, running, detox smoothies, fruits, green tea and sunny days, the new mix that let to success.

In its more urban version, sports also entered fast fashion, and its hasn’t seen the end yet. Inditex, for example, launched in 2011 its fist sportswear line for men, called ZXM (Zara Extreme Man). Soon after, the group introduced the phenomenon to Oysho, that evolved the concept to the point where it created alliances with Adidas and develop its first active sports lines for skiing and surfing.


At the beginning of 2019, the chain jumped full on to this universe with the brand Oysho Sport. In 2018, the sportswear category occupied more than 50% of the sales of the chain. Zara also launched Zara Sport in 2016 to practice running and follow the wellness path.





H&M, on the other hand, didn’t stay behind. In 2016 the Swedish giant launched its sportswear line with the Swedish team of the Olympic Games of Rio de Janeiro. In 2018, the company dressed the teams in the Olympics and Winter Paralympics in PyeongChang. Gap also jumped into sports in 2008, with the acquisition of Athleta, an American brand founded ten years earlier and specialized in womenswear garments for yoga, running or fitness. Other retail titans like Fast Retailing and Forever 21, also explored this universe with specific pieces.


The hunt of a new consumer

As big retailers entered this universe, sportswear giants started the hunt for a new consumer. Nike and Adidas, based in the sportswear rules, started adding fashion aft realizing the rotation explodes full price sales and reduces stocks. That was precisely, one of the handicaps of sportwear fashion, used to moving big volumes of few models, and that ends up by commercializing with aggressive discounts.


Sportswear giants entered the fashion industry up to the point where they arrived at the fist line of innovation in every aspect. In the production, Adidas started the speedfactory, completely digitalized and robotic, that even introduces to fashion the concept of digital twin, very used in the car industry to test new products without rising costs and in a very short period.


Beyond robots, the big advance in this type of factories is the technological capacity of mixing distributing and production and making it smart in data. In distribution Adidas and Nike also turned its flagships in innovation referents, turning them into experience temples, based in creating communities through apps, personalization, recreation of scenarios, new payment methods and moving forwards with omnichannel.





On the other hand, this decade, presence of women in the sportswear industry rised. They have intensified its presence in gyms, as the sports practice gained popularity. Lululemon and Under Armour places the women as one of its growing pillars. Puma collaborated with Rihanna; Nike stated that it has as a goal to reach 1/3 of its income in womenswear by 2020. Foot Locker, on the other hand, entered the capital of Carbon38, specialized in the online sale of women sportswear.


Ecommerce also moved forwards in this sense. In the last couple of years, speculated pure player have entered the sportswear game, as well as the retail pure players like Amazon, Asos or Zalando. The progress of online commerce has forced also multibrand to enter this channel, avoided up until now. The characteristic structure of the sportswear department store was based over the central sale model, created by associates that coordinated its stocks in one unique platform.


This complexity has led that the transformation of the offline to online sportwear channel is slower than the rest and concentrating it even more to avoid smaller distributors.

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