The brunette squeezing lemons at the TriBeCa Whole Foods isn't on her way to the gym. She's got a full cart of groceries and a 2-year-old to take home. And she hasn't come from the gym. Her white T-shirt isn't the sort you drag across a yoga mat. You can faintly make out an iron line where her sleeves were pressed. She might have a membership to a Pilates studio, but she also might not. She's a normal woman, moving through life in yoga pants. Nothing to see here, folks.
Last year athleisure entered the Merriam-Webster dictionary, but its definition is blurring, bleeding so far into other fashion categories it's become increasingly hard to distinguish from the rest. "I cannot imagine going back to slacks," says one social media manager in Manhattan. She wears leggings to her Soho office and to whatever she's doing after work, barre class or cocktails with her boyfriend. She stocked up on Lululemon when they opened their store on Fifth Avenue. "I wanted to live in that first pair," she said. Their flattering seams and supportive lift changed the way she thought about workout wear. "They instantly beat out my jeans as my go-to weekend wear," she says.
Since those early days the athleisure market has seen astronomical growth, now estimated at $44 billion in the United States by research firm NPD Group. Over lunch in mbg's kitchen, I asked for my colleagues' go-to brands. Those who bought Kit + Ace and Outdoor Voices last year had added new favorites to their shopping lists in 2017: P.E. Nation, Studiogrand, Olympia Activewear, Grana, Koral, The Upside, Varley, Alala, Aeance, Vimmia, Jala—more names than could fit on the back of my Maple receipt. With so many new players on the field, we have to wonder, are we reaching saturation point?