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Athleisure: Beyond the Gym

Style, sustainability and the pursuit of peak performance

By Nicole Rollender, Contributing Writer

Trendy pastel colors give this Urban collection a fresh look. Photo courtesy of Lane Seven Apparel

February 12, 2024

In the coming months, expect to athleisure make statements across the board – as these styles permeate all aspects of our busy lives, from versatile silhouettes and colors to performance fabrications, sustainable options and much more.

“Athleisure continues to evolve in so many ways, for so many different applications,” says Jennifer Oleksik, director of apparel design and quality, LAT Apparel. “Whether it’s your favorite tee with a pair of joggers and a blazer or an oversized tee with biker shorts, the evolution of comfort in fashion continues. Athleisurewear is versatile, and the options are endless, allowing wearers to style their outfits in ways as unique as they are.”

Not Just for Exercise

Based on the last few years, it’s clear that athleisure is no longer limited to exercise wear. Athleisure continues to integrate into everyday lifestyles, from the gym to the workplace, happy hour and beyond, blending the lines

Female wearing oversized sweat shirt

LAT’s Elevated Crew Neck Pullover (6925) is a true-to-size fit for perfect comfort. Photo courtesy of LAT Apparel

between fitness and fashion. Consumers want versatile apparel options that balance style and comfort, without giving up an ounce of professionalism. “Athleisure is now the standard for every day, with elevated fabrics, fits and construction,” says Milissa Gibson, sales director, Lane Seven.

Today’s athleisure looks to transition even more seamlessly into casual workplaces. “Office wear, especially after 2020, has become more relaxed as more of the workforce has transitioned to hybrid or remote roles,” Oleksik says. “Athleisurewear in the office can look like a quality T-shirt paired with a clean pair of slacks or paired with jeans and a blazer.”

Outside the office, people wear athleisure for both daytime and night-out events, reimagining the way these athletic pieces can be styled. “People are choosing comfort in their style whether it’s running errands or out for brunch,” Oleksik says. “The important thing to note is that even comfort and athleisure wear can be styled and worn in a way that looks put together and appropriate for a vast number of occasions.”

Athleisure manufacturers are listening to what consumers want: garments that work for almost anything that’s on the calendar. “Athleisure at its core means wear-for-occasion versatility,” says David Goerke, vice president of marketing, Augusta Sportswear. “We must design garments for multiple uses and target audiences who want different things, but all demand performance, comfort and style, no matter what.”

Versatile Silhouettes and Styles

Athleisure wear stands out for its adaptability, and the coming year will showcase a variety of silhouettes that effortlessly shift from exercise routines to daily pursuits. These adaptable garments blend style with practicality, ensuring you exude effortless styles regardless of the occasion. “Trends in sports will also continue to influence athleisure, as racquet sports and golf become more popular with consumers, so expect silhouettes from these sports to gain traction,” says Emily Quilter, product design director, Augusta Sportswear.

Relaxed, oversized styles are also poised to be wardrobe staples in 2024, including hoodies with cropped lengths, oversize sleeves or bold branding. Wide-leg pants will also figure largely in athleisure collections, combining the relaxed fit of sweatpants with the workplace appeal of trousers. “Athleisure’s roomier silhouettes continue to be influenced by streetwear,” says Victoria Thomas, director of marketing, BELLA+CANVAS, noting how the brand’s oversized 3010 Boxy Tee and new 6501 Women’s Cropped Long Sleeve Tee and 3787 Women’s Cutoff Sweatshort carry the streetwear vibe.

Functional accessories with fashion flair will complete this year’s athleisure looks. Convertible bags, like go-anywhere backpacks or cross-body styles, that can take you from the gym to the streets, and to the office, will be in high demand, especially with features like multiple pockets or compartments to store essentials. Sporty headwear, from classic baseball caps to 2000s bucket hats, add a cool, athletic vibe for anyone who’s working out or is on the go in the Great Outdoors.

Neutrals and Bold Brigade

This year, popular athleisure color stories run the gamut from neutrals like terracotta and olive to bold red, blue

Models in retro looks

90s streetwear was a heavy inspiration for BELLA’s new styles. Photo courtesy of BELLA+CANVAS

and green hues, neons and personality-rich abstract or prints –there’s something for everyone. “Earth tones and neutrals like our new Vintage Brown and Thyme colors, along with bold colors, continue to dominate color trends in 2024,” Thomas says.

Since customers want more versatility and a longer lifespan from apparel, they gravitate to neutral colors like bone white, grays, browns and blacks for core items. Nature-inspired hues and softer colors will be key for women’s products. “These neutrals and softer hues are balanced with accent items in prints and pop colors for variety,” Quilter says.

End-users are also embracing bold choices like fluorescent pinks, electric blues, and vibrant yellows, seamlessly integrating neon accents into wardrobes with oversized hoodies, sports bras and leggings. Abstract patterns, featuring geometric shapes, brushstroke prints and bold graphics, add yet more eye-catching flair to leggings, hoodies and jackets. Animal prints, a timeless fashion favorite, are making a statement in athleisure too, bringing a fierce and stylish edge with leopard spots and snakeskin patterns to elevate athletic-inspired looks. “We’re also seeing prints range from soft irregular ombres and total tie-dye effects, to boldly colored abstract and geometric patterns,” Quilter says.

Remember, it’s all about staying on trend and being the leader, not the follower in the athleisure market. “Colors that are versatile, but unique, specifically in the neutrals category, are very high in demand,” Oleksik says. “Patterns continue to do well, especially in the kids’ market, but should be easy to decorate and have a soft hand feel.”

All in the (Sustainable) Fabric

When it comes to athleisure wear this year, quality fabric that’s made sustainably is key. “Softness and quality go a long way,” Oleksik says. “Since people are wearing more basics than ever, they’re more likely to invest in better quality pieces for longevity and ultimate comfort.”

Male model wearing a t-shirt and chinos

The LAT Crew Neck Short Sleeve (6901) is made of 100-percent combed ringspun cotton fine jersey. Photo courtesy
of LAT Apparel

In 2024, consumers continue to prioritize quality, comfortable fabrics that perform and last the test of time, particularly favoring fabrications crafted from sustainable materials such as organic cotton, recycled polyester or ocean plastics. “We see softer, yet more durable fabrics with built-in performance features, all with a sustainable solution,” Goerke says. “It’s delivering it all in one garment that then provides superior versatility, from the sofa to a workout.” Quilter agrees, pointing out that today’s discerning buyers also expect performance attributes like moisture-wicking, odor control and stretch from everyday apparel.

Lane Seven, for example, continues to prioritize sustainability through ethical manufacturing, using regenerated cotton, Better Cotton and recycled polyester. Similarly, Augusta Sportswear just introduced the Venture Collection, incorporating built-in performance stretch, comfort and a soft-hand feel. This collection features Eco Revive fabric, using recycled materials to make up a minimum of 50 percent of the garment. “We’re focused on increased use of sustainable materials,” Quilter says.

Suppliers are also adopting an innovative approach by converting discarded plastics or other waste into durable and high-quality fabrics for sustainable activewear. BELLA+CANVAS recently launched its 100 percent recycled Unisex EcoMax Short Sleeve Tee, made in part with cotton and recycled PET bottles.

“It’s about repurposing waste into something new, rethinking the way we create garments,” Thomas says. “By combining pre-consumer scraps of 100 percent Airlume combed and ring-spun cotton with dope-dyed polyester from recycled post-consumer PET bottles, we’re able to knit this 100-percent recycled blended tee using about seven water bottles and the equivalent of two cotton tees. T-shirts are used across many athleisure collections, which creates a big opportunity for ethically produced products.”

For its part, LAT Apparel is taking steps to reduce the company’s carbon footprint by using motion-sensor automated lighting in its facilities to reduce electricity consumption by up to 25 percent, along with using a paperless pick/pack system to divert tons of waste from local landfills. The company’s sewing factory in India now runs entirely on wind power, contributing excess electricity to the local community. In Mexico, its sewing facility recycles extensively, diverting over 5,400 tons of waste from landfills to date. “We’re putting a lot of time, research and development into more sustainable fabrics, materials and practices,” Oleksik says.

DTF Decoration Nation

For athleisure buyers, customization and personalization options are important, as they look for unique styles that reflect their favorite brands or personal vibe. That’s why decorators are increasingly embracing direct-to-film (DTF)

The Ventura Hoodie offers performance, softness and sustainability all in one. Photo courtesy of Augusta Sportswear

transfers on athleisure pieces for their versatility in printing vibrant, detailed designs on various fabrics, like polyester, poly blends, triblends, spandex and more, yielding a durable, soft-hand feel on both light and dark garments.

DTF also produces full-color designs with defined edges, gradients, shading, fine lines and free-floating text, which you can heat press on a garment’s most challenging areas, another plus with this kind decorating. “DTF is a great way to incorporate more complex graphics into your athleisure line,” Thomas says. “Since these transfers can be made in any color scheme and any size, we’re seeing these used more, even on blended athleisure fabrics.”

In terms of design, the graphics used for athleisure range from minimal tonal graphics to all-over and oversized prints, with more creative placements. “The range of decoration is vast when it comes to athleisure, from full-front branded pieces to subtle, understated decoration and often, no decoration at all, allowing the garment to speak for itself,” Oleksik says. “Unique placements like a small center front just below the collar or a back placement that’s closer to the side seam under the armhole are examples of understated and more fashion decoration placements. One-color decorations and tonal decorations continue to lead the way in athleisure, making the garments easier to mix and match for different occasions.”

Social Media Success

Social media plays a significant role in shaping fashion trends and bringing together people who share similar

Female posing in sweatshirt graffiti in background

Lane Seven’s Premium Crewneck Sweatshirt (LS14004) is a classic, slimmer fit with room to breathe. Photo courtesy of Lane Seven Apparel

aesthetics and values around how clothing is made and decorated. “Social is a good place to see trends form,” Thomas says. “A question we ask is, ‘Are these influencers and trendsetters looking to a time period, or certain values to shape their content?’ The ’90s nostalgia and our baby tee collection are a great example of this. We see a lot of content creators wearing baby tees, but there are also throwbacks to many trends from that time period like Barbie and band tees.”

For decorators looking to appeal to an audience who’ll purchase athleisure wear, it’s important to showcase in an inspiring and educational way why the athleisure you present are worth a second look. “With so many options in the market, it’s important to give the customer a reason to buy your product,” Oleksik says. “Ensuring each style includes design features that elevate the garment and make it different from others is key – but also educating your customers is key. Highlighting a garment’s key features during scrolling or crafting a captivating color story are some methods we employ to leave a lasting impression through social media.”

Sprout Social data reveals that 91 percent of consumers trust social media’s power to connect people, emphasizing the importance for brands to engage in authentically building these connections. By uniting enthusiasts, apparel brands and decorators can build emotional connections, cultivating a more loyal audience. “Influencers and brand collaborations are also must-haves now and must be authentic to your brand and products,” says Goerke, who notes that Augusta Sportswear started using influencers in a targeted way to promote its six brands.

Looking Forward

As the global athleisure wear market continues to grow, especially in the United States, where consumers are increasingly focused on health, fitness and sustainability, manufacturers are reacting to customer preferences. “As the industry evolves, sustainability in both product and practices is going to become more important year after year,” Oleksik says.

The comfort and performance attributes of athleisure will continue to migrate into every aspect of apparel as consumers expect performance attributes in all apparel. “Expect the combination of sustainability and performance will continue to increase in importance, with increased development of sustainable fabrics with performance attributes,” Quilter says.

Ultimately, quality apparel is what will win over customers. “Since athleisure wear is becoming more acceptable in everyday fashion, customers are willing to invest in pieces with fabrics that feel amazing and wear well, wash well, and last them for months or even years,” Oleksik says. “Pair these qualities, along with on-trend colors, with a shirt that fits well and feels great, and you have the perfect athleisure story.

Nicole Rollender is an award-winning writer and head of the content-creation firm For more information or to comment on this article, email Nicole at