COVID 22: The Fashion Pandemic

By: Noam Ben Simon  |  September 20, 2022

By Noam Ben Simon

Now that the remnants of COVID-19’s quarantines have faded into trauma-induced repression, it is time we are all honest: very few of us did those daily workouts we promised we would do while in lockdown. However, we did prepare for those workouts, buying clothing and gear to make the perfect at-home gym. 

At the same time, in this age of resolutions, businesses realized that the type of clothing their employees wore was irrelevant as long as they were productive, and in that realization came the explosive popularity of athleisure. In the days since, popularity has remained, and the companies at the head of this craze have remained giants on the shoulders of our secret bedroom workouts.

Historically, clothing has always been affected by global events. The normalization of pants for women came from the factory work of World War II, the glitz and glamor of the Roaring’ 20s ensued after the tumultuous World War I and Spanish Flu. So too, the rise of athleisure came with the cabin-fever of COVID quarantines. The reasons are obvious: comfort, style, and practicality. No longer did people need to “dress to impress” – we were all at home, our lives dominated by making the best of our situation. 

The rise of athleisure before the pandemic was only one part of the story. The pandemic itself just served as its “tipping point” (for any Malcolm Gladwell fans out there). Fitness-wear was in the zeitgeist before COVID; the athleisure industry was already seeing consistent, natural growth in the time leading up to the pandemic. The pandemic and its effects caused the athleisure market to skyrocket, seeing massive growth with every quarter.

Even with this in mind, the rise of athleisure is more of a paradox than a mark of the changing times. Although e-commerce saw a massive increase in revenue over the pandemic – 30% between 2019 and 2020 – all forms of industry consumption decreased. Yet, this era of fashion made big waves, and the companies at its forefront  continue seeing explosive sales. Lululemon, for example, saw consistent double-digit revenue increases, even seeing a forty-eight percent increase in revenue, from $4.402B to $6.25B, between 2021 and 2022. 

Looking forward, athleisure is promising. Experts are predicting “a compound annual growth rate of 8.9% from 2022 to 2030”. Although this stock advice helps those in the market, I quote my Rabbi here when I say, L’mai Nafka-Minna (what is the difference)? What should the average consumer expect to see in the near future regarding athleisure? 

Some likely plans for Lululemon: expanding its market to men’s wear, growing its stores, and creating partnerships with Nike and Under Armour. Consumers will begin seeing a continued normalization of athleisure and athletic wear at home, gym, and even in the workplace. Regardless of how involved any one person is in the market, the market’s upcoming trends will reveal the goldmine of retail opportunities leftover from the last three years of self-improvement.