Twelve Hot Design Trends in Athletic Apparel

If you still think of women’s active apparel as polar fleece and half-zip poly jackets you’re living in a time warp. Fashion athletic apparel has disrupted and blurred casual lifestyle apparel, like Uber has to transportation. We aren’t going back to formulaic tees and jeans any time soon, as the dominant uniform of women’s weekend casual.

This seismic shift started when market disruptor Lululemon questioned the assumptions that women didn’t want fashion and were not willing to pay for style, comfort and quality in athletic apparel. Until then women’s activewear was an identical twin to men’s, in equally dismal fabrics and devoid of fashion. Under Armour began pushing the envelope in men’s at the same time as Lululemon. Both of these innovative brands were born from a fashion point-of-view, not the footwear industry that used to drive the category.

Dix & Pond Athletic Apparel Trends

Athleisure was born. Women have adopted the fashion, quality performance fabrics and comfort to wear in and out of the gym, at the expense of the traditional jeans and tee businesses.

As one of  the few bright spots in women’s apparel, competition is rising dramatically. Everyone is getting into the game. Athleta, Gap’s active division has elevated themselves from dated “new-age” California looks to a more urban vibe with a wide range of lifestyle items. Tory Burch, Kate Spade and many startup brands have entered the game. The competitive stakes are much higher now, and only “brand relevant” innovators will win. If your company is following, not innovating, your going to feel the squeeze.

Here are twelve significant trends in women’s athletic apparel design. Did your company see them coming?

Sheer madness. Sheer insets and translucent fabrics add cool functionality and peek-a-boo sex appeal, to everything from tops, legging to outerwear.

Under & over. Highly-evolved sports bras are a key classification to be worn layered and alone. Matching “no-show” undies from leaders such as Lululemon, Under Armour, Moving Comfort and others complete the look.

Self reflection. Playful and highly creative, reflective detailing adds function and fun-factor, to all categories of running apparel.

Printed matters. Hip, urban, abstract and geometric prints are driving legging, capris and short sales. Spiritual, “zen-like” yoga wear prints are now soooo 2010.

Back story. Naughty or nice? Back interest…cut outs, layering, lingerie detailing, halters and criss-cross backs, have been heating up top sales.

Booty call. Design and functional back details and shorts are the ultimate “booty call” and driving bottom sales.

Town down. Regular and micro down filled outerwear vests, parkas, anoraks and baseball jackets are ubiquitous and go uptown in styling. Try this, count how many Barbour, Canada Goose and Moncler jackets you see in 30 minutes on an East Coast city street on a December day.

Dress up. One piece ease and comfort, knit dresses are layered over gym clothes, swimwear or worn alone. This hot category is the ultimate multi-tasker from gym to street.

Metro techno. Unique knit and woven technical fabrics with performance properties such as SPF 50, wicking, anti-stink, water resistance, etc. are used in fashion forward, modern styling. Outerwear is a stand-out category, in new fabrications.

Short & sweet. Short-shorts, boy shorts, gym and bikes shorts layered and worn solo are driving sweet sales.

Walk the talk. Graphic typography plays to the mega-trend for self-expression and individualism. Edgy, motivational and descriptive words, quotes and sayings are on tees, tops, jackets and bottoms.

Tony trousers. The market has gone way beyond yoga pants and leggings to drawstring gym pants, knit jeans and “city pants” in comfortable and durable functional knits and techno wovens.

How did your company do?

Dix&Pond is the blog of Dix & Pond Consulting, Boston-based, product development, creative, branding, business consulting and executive coaching for retail, apparel, footwear & consumer products companies. Follow me to get the latest posts

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How to Create a Great Fashion Website

The 4 Key Design Elements of The Best Fashion Websites

The 4 Key Design Elements of The Best Fashion Websites

Fashion is an emotionally-driven purchase and it is challenging to create a fully engaging brand experience with limited sensory elements in 2D on the web. To sell fashion successfully online, it takes differentiated product, a strong brand identity and robust design. See the 4 key design elements of the best fashion e-commerce sites. A must read for fashion entrepreneurs, retailers, copywriters, graphic and web designers.

CLICK TO SEE THE WHOLE SLIDESHOW

The 10 Common Traits of Great Leaders

In my consulting and executive coaching,  I get to meet entrepreneurs, CEO’s and business leaders all the time. After years of observation, I see 10 common traits that the great leaders possess. These attributes are especially important for creative team leadership. The very best have most of them. If you have less than 7 you may want to rethink your career path:Great Leaders

1. Strategic thinker. This one should go without saying. A great leader needs to have a vision of where they want to take an organization today, tomorrow and into the future. Design directors must have true vision for the brand and the products. They are not caught up deciding on the new chairs for the conference room or a random Twitter post.

2. Strong communication skills. Great leaders are present and available. They say what they mean and mean what they say. No one in the organization should be confused on the business strategy or state-of-affairs. They have a common touch and emotional intelligence.

3. Decisiveness and courage are kissing cousins. Democracy and collaboration are important, but someone has to keep a company in forward motion. A good commander knows when to stop the madness and make a decision.

4. Good listener. The best leaders truly listen to other view points and don’t believe they hit all the home runs. They listen twice as much, as they speak. Their employees feel valued, as the respect is mutual.

5. Ability to delegate. Delegation is about trust. The best top dogs allow their team to run with the ball. They don’t try to score every goal from their place on the field.

6. Excellent teacher. Confidence is wanting others to succeed around you. Your subordinates are your report card. The smart skippers teach their flock to fish.

7. Committed. Leadership is hard work. You can’t be half-in and win the gold. If a leader is busier planning their trek to the Himalayas, they might want to relinquish the top spot.

8. Disciplined. Show me a person who eats well, exercises regularly and doesn’t smoke or do substances and I’ll show you someone with discipline and probably a very good leader.

9. Organized. Disorganized chaos isn’t a plan. Stellar leadership and proactive planning are like salt and pepper.

10. Humble. Last but not least, humility is a wonderful thing. The best leaders let others feel the sunshine.

Dix&Pond is the blog of Dix & Pond Consulting, Consulting and executive coaching for retail, wholesale apparel, footwear, consumer products and branding agencies. Follow me to get the latest posts

6 Five-Star Specialty Retailers in a Lackluster Field

I was shopping in New York recently and feeling rather uninspired. I usually have an agenda, a new store or retailer, I am particularly excited about. Most large retailers make their own apparel and accessory products, so the watery soup is often spoiled by too many cooks, adding their managerial spice. It’s increasingly hard to find good retail theater, a strong brand identity and exciting, well-designed product, that hasn’t been tainted by levels of bureaucrats.

I challenged myself to come up with 6 “five-star” retailers that are doing an outstanding job, with a consistent brand experience and compelling fashion in a lackluster field:

1. Madewell, 2. Athleta, 3. Club Monaco, 4. Michael Kors, 5. Zara, 6. Lou & Grey

1. Madewell, 2. Athleta, 3. Club Monaco, 4. Michael Kors, 5. Zara, 6. Lou & Grey

Madewell – is the baby sister of J. Crew. I have been a long-time J. Crew proponent, even though the mothership has stumbled lately. Madewell is coming into its own with American casual classics, based around core denim pieces. You know to expect great jeans, chambray shirts, denim jackets, hip tees and knits, funky socks, rustic leather bags and shoes and slightly bohemian jewelry. The colors are simple and lean to the neutral side. The collection is totally wearable and much better-than-average quality for the price, a winning combination. This high-growth chain has little competition in the mall and will now be sold in Nordstrom as well.

Athleta – I was not a fan of fan of Athleta when Gap purchased it in 2008 for a mere $150 million. At the time their “zen-like” yoga prints and mass-market color sense paled against activewear, fashion pioneer Lululemon. Gap was betting on the powerful athleisure trend in apparel and has put their considerable product development muscle and resources behind the chain. They now have over 100 stores and have shed those expected “new-age” prints for a powerful collection of more urbane, sexy, forward clothing. They get that the athletic trend is worn as much out of the gym, as in, with their deep collection of cosmopolitan casual dresses, knit tops, bottoms and huge assortment of mix and match swimwear. I actually bought a $500 leather jacket at this formerly “perky” yoga chain and have never even done a downward dog.

Club Monaco – is a Canadian-based acquisition, part of the Ralph Lauren Corporation. Certainly not a household word, they only have approximately 140 stores worldwide. Club Monaco offers women’s and men’s collections of modern, urbane classics at affordable luxury prices points. Tasteful, upscale and contemporary, they are especially strong in knit tops, dresses, jackets, skirts and accessories for work and play. The quality of design and materials, far exceeds the price points to make Club Monaco a fairly hidden gem.

Michael Kors – Wandering through Macy’s first floor flagship the other day, I was blown away by the crowd of at least 40 people in the Michael Kors shop. The Coach concession across the hall had 2 visitors. it wasn’t a special event, it was business as usual for this hot-shot, brand-of-the-moment.

Michael Kors is a text-book example of consistent branding. The uber-glam handbags, watches, shoes and “bit of an after note”, clothing are precisely on the same urbane plane. Their stores, website, marketing collateral and product are as in sync as an Argentine tango. Chock it up as a real designer with one eye for everything. Even if you are getting tired of his ubiquitous bags, this brand is fashion branding royalty.

Zara – is fast-fashion at it’s finest. Owned by Spanish parent Inditex, in my book it blows away competitors H&M and Forever 21. They consistently put out easy-to-shop collections of fashion forward apparel and accessories, that defy their puny price points. Taken out of context the styling and quality could be mistaken for some of the best. There is no doubt what to expect at Zara, the best fashion trends in real-time, at really low prices. Zara brand profile as fashion leader, is crystal clear.

Lou & Grey – is a new free-standing store concept brand from parent Ann, Inc. It was born from the success of loungy apparel in their Loft chain. When I stumbled upon the Natick, Ma concept store, I was pleasantly surprised by the small sophisticated, upscale environment and compelling collection of lifestyle casual apparel and earthy accessories. This is the best thing Ann Inc. has done in a while. It is easier to do something new than reinvent history. Ann Taylor and Loft have become sterilized versions of their glory days with poor quality, dull offerings and banal stores. Currently only 7 stores,  Lou & Grey is one to watch.

Dix&Pond is the blog of Dix & Pond Consulting Creative and strategic consulting for retail, wholesale apparel, footwear, consumer products and branding agencies. Follow me to get the latest posts

Caged Animals – Gladiator Shoes

Act out your best warrior, bondage, bohemian and dominatrix fantasies. Take a walk on the wild side. Very few shoes have the power to transform the wearer and “blow-the-mind” of the observer to the extent, of the the “Caged Animal” gladiators for 2015. This badass shoe trend proves it’s good to be bad!

Gladiator sandals are white-hot for 2015.

Gladiator sandals are white-hot for 2015.

Sexy caged sandals, pumps and wedges come in a variety of leathers, suedes and metallics. Look for powerful details like studding, zippers, tassels, ties and athletic bottoms. Radical fashion trends like knee-high gladiators, are burning white-hot and will give birth to tamer versions for the masses in 2016. Wear them with shorts, skirts and culottes.

These shoes are scene stealers. Keep everything else minimal for maximum impact.

Some of the best are from Chanel, Ancient Greek Sandals, Stuart Weitzman, Valentino, Christian Louboutin, Sam Edelman, Free People, Michael Kors, BCBG, Joie, many others including the athle-chic, innovative Lunarsandiator Sky Hi from Nike!

Dix&Pond is the blog of Dix & Pond Consulting Creative and strategic consulting for retail, wholesale apparel, footwear, consumer products and branding agencies. Follow me to get the latest posts

Hot Shots – Warm Up to Summer 2015

Warm up to the sexy, sultry colors of spring/summer 2015 in endless shades of coral, pink, orange and red. These uber-feminine shades make scene stealers out of life’s understudies. This fashion trend is what impulse purchases and standing o’s are made of.

Warm colors are trending for spring/summer 2015.

Warm colors are trending for spring/summer 2015.

Hot shots of color take center stage on dresses, tops, jeans, active, swimwear, lingerie, shoes, sandals, handbags and accessories. They look especially modern paired in tonal combinations, accented with white or light neutral browns, to avoid an epic sugar rush.

Most notable shades are impatien coral, ripe tomato, begonia, juicy pink and blush. Expect this salable color trend to do an encore in 2016 apparel and footwear collections.

Dix&Pond is the blog of Dix & Pond Consulting Creative and strategic consulting for retail, wholesale apparel, footwear, consumer products and branding agencies. Follow me to get the latest posts

Street Smarts – Red Hot Athletic Style

It is survival of the fittest in the urban jungle. Fitness is power. Women are increasingly turning to power workouts such as CrossFit, strength training and boxing. There is also an empowering trend in athletic apparel. It is urban inspired, edgy and sexy. I call it Street Smarts.

The lines are blurred between what was once strictly apparel for the gym and casual sportswear. Men and women are mixing the two in a sporty mélange that goes in and out of the gym. “Athleisure” is the new normal in casual; because it is comfortable, durable and empowering. Lululemon and Under Armour were the birth parents, but now it’s pervasive.

Edgy, urban styling is trending in athletic apparel.

Edgy, urban styling is trending in athletic apparel.

Street Smarts mixes lounging tomboy with hormone-charged bad girl. It is feminine and masculine. Think retro boxing gym.

Body conscious leggings and comfy sweats are the key bottoms. Look for “townie bad boy” outerwear like hoodies and baseball jackets. Important details on tops are radical back interest, sheer and mesh insets. Knit dresses are a key element of Street Smarts worn with leggings. Neoprene, metallics and zipper details add a structured, modern city touch.

Graphics include assertive text and smoky abstract prints. Footwear includes high-top and retro sneakers and combat boots, such as Dr. Marten’s. Backpacks, retro gym bags, baseball caps and headbands complete the look.

The color is grounded by sooty black, heather greys and white, but can be popped with an extroverted color like hot pink or citrine or softened with a pastel like blush or lilac.

Dix&Pond is the blog of Dix & Pond Consulting Creative and strategic consulting for retail, wholesale apparel, footwear, consumer products and branding agencies. Follow me to get the latest posts

A Letter To Mickey Drexler – What Happened To J.Crew?

Dear Mickey,

We need to talk. I thought you were “the one”. I consider myself a classic girl, the type you can bring home to mother, with an individualist fashion sensibility. After a very long loving relationship with J. Crew, I feel we’re drifting apart. You showed me the love, always wanted to please and surprise me. I gave you loads of attention and spent a lot of money on you. Lately our relationship has gotten repetitive, lost its color and doesn’t fulfill my needs. I’m not faithful to you anymore. Let me be specific on where our relationship lost its way:

1. You missed the athleisure trend. No, I don’t do downward dogs, but am very active at 2 gyms. I have blurred the lines between gym clothes and ones “formerly known as casual” in my wardrobe. Lately, I’m tired of shapeless cotton tees, that get little holes at the waist. I’m buying more substantial, expensive, inventive and sexy athletic tops for everyday use. You continue pushing twill cropped pants, when I am buying knit pants that look like jeans and sweats. I’ve never seen a comfortable knit dress in J.Crew.

I had a big crush on Lululemon, but find myself stalking a new love named Athleta. I’m loving athletic inspired outerwear, too. Who would have thought 2 years ago, I would buy a $500 leather/French terry moto jacket from my new crush?

Great outerwear is dominating athleisure apparel.

Great outerwear is dominating athleisure apparel.

You are the master of the casual playlist, taking classic pieces and pairing them in a hipper way. Somehow you missed the macro trend of mixing quality sport-inspired items into one’s everyday wardrobe.

2. You used take me on quality dates. Lately, you seem to be cheaping out, taking me to “fast-fashion ” places. I would rather pay more for a good meal. Why did the fabric qualities go down hill? I’d rather pay $98 at Lululemon for a relationship that will last, than $58 for a quick hook-up.

J. Crew stores lost the sharp focus of Madewell and became cluttered with junk food. Are you distracted by the Zara and Forever 21 effect? They aren’t your competition.

3. I thought you loved tall girls? Many of your clothes don’t fit me. I’m on the tall side (5’9″) and physically fit. Many of your specs are either too short or cut really small. Your customers aren’t all 24, 5′ 4″ and a size 0.

4. You don’t give me the attention you used to. I would never “trash” your catalogs, and always took your calls. The catalogs arouse me, causing emotionally driven online behavior. I would always buy more than needed. I get fewer catalogs now, so you  stopped “playing me” with your enticing images.

A look from J Crew for Spring 2015.

A look from J Crew for Spring 2015.

5.  Something changed. I trusted you to color my world. Some of the colors got very repetitive and harshly un-wearable. Dirty ochre anyone?

Mickey, I will never forget the good times. I’m definitely willing to give us another chance. I think about you often and still drive by your house. I need you to be the reliable source for key items like tees, shirts and sweaters, but mixed with more exciting quality pieces. You have a special place in the mall. You just got in with the wrong crowd.

Dix&Pond is the blog of Dix & Pond Consulting Creative and strategic consulting for retail, wholesale apparel, footwear, consumer products and branding agencies. Follow me to get the latest posts

Blue Color Worker Spring/Summer 2015

Looking at 25″ of snow outside, I’m big-time craving the blue skies of spring and summer 2015. One consolation is that we will be seeing a lot of blue in fashion over the next few months. The “Blue Color Worker” is the backbone of America in deepest navy, Air Force blue, royal, periwinkle, tender baby and blue tint.

The perennial favorite color will be front and center in fashion on everything from handbags, tops, sweaters, dresses, jeans, outerwear, active apparel, accessories, swimwear, shoes, etc. There will be a range of denim washes from light to very dark as well as solid dyed twills.

As MVP of the color spectrum, it can morph sharply nautical, softly sensual or boho seventies. Versatile blue is a power player, the king of casual and an intoxicating pastel.

Pair blues tonally or use navy as a neutral foil against bright primaries, such as navy and citrusy yellow. Navy with tinted pastels are chic and sexy. Combine the spectrum of blues with shades of grey, khaki or optic white.

Blue is the hardest working color family for spring/summer 2015.

Blue is the hardest working color family for spring/summer 2015.

For color seasonal color forecasts, see COLORSCOOP.

 Dix&Pond is the blog of Dix & Pond Consulting Creative and strategic consulting for retail, wholesale apparel, footwear, consumer products and branding agencies. Follow me to get the latest posts

Do Fall Short This Season

Salt and pepper, black and white, sweet and sour, contrast brings things to life. The short story is, cropped tops are one of the big fashion trends for Fall 2014. Major trends are in short supply this season, but the mixing of proportions will give you a style update in short order. There are many ways to wear this modern look without short-changing yourself.

Cropped tops and are trending for fall. Layer over tops and tees.

Cropped tops and are trending for fall. Layer over tops and tees.

This is the long and short of it.  If you have the abs, rock the cropped top over pants or long to medium length skirts. I don’t recommend wearing this to the office unless you want your career to be short and sweet. For a wearable look, pair cropped sweaters and tops with longer layering pieces and shirts. This is the way to get a serious style boost without the doing the crunches or “walking a short plank” in the office.

Proceed with caution, midriff baring tops over short shorts and ultra-mini skirts take the look from tasty to torrid. If that is what you are after, it’s to guaranteed to please!

Dix&Pond is the blog of Dix & Pond Consulting Creative and strategic consulting for retail, wholesale apparel, footwear, consumer products and branding agencies. Follow me to get the latest posts

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