Leggings have enjoyed sporadic returns to the style spotlight since their 1980s heyday, but this year they are having their biggest comeback yet.
The online retailer Asos, which has 1,021 styles for sale on its website, said this week that sales of its branded styles had grown by more than 180% year on year, and it has already sold 95% more leggings this year compared with 2017.
The fashion search engine Lyst, meanwhile, says leggings are currently one of its most searched-for items worldwide, registering 430,000 searches a month for the word.
The increased demand is a direct result of more people incorporating fitness into their daily routines and wanting to make a style statement while doing so, according to Vanessa Spence, the design director at Asos, where prices for the item range from £4 to £300.
“The Asos customer wants a product that expresses their individuality and our wide offer covers a variety of colours both bright and muted, and printed styles too,” Spence said. “On the activewear side, consumers have realised that being active isn’t a chore, it’s a choice and of course leggings are such an easy ‘on the move’ piece whether it be getting a coffee with friends before a class or simply relaxing at home after a run.”
Trendsetters, including Kim Kardashian and Sienna Miller, have been spotted wearing them while running errands, and the high-street favourite Zara has styled many of its new-season dresses with leggings worn underneath.
This season, catwalk brands are getting in on the trend. Gucci, Balenciaga and Dolce Gabbana are reintroducing stirrup leggings to the wardrobe vocabulary, while Richard Quinn, Marine Serre and Burberry’s styles come with attached feet, akin to tights.
“Leggings continue to be the most popular category within our activewear studio and our buy has increased each season,” said Natalie Kingham, the fashion buying director at Matchesfashion.com where prices range from £180 for metallic stretch-satin leggings by Junya Watanabe to £1,380 for a leather style by Givenchy. Customers wanted leggings they could wear from the gym to dinner with friends, she said, and therefore wanted styles that allowed them to “still look chic while doing so”.
While the runway prices may cause some to wince, consumers’ purse strings are apparently looser than the garment they are buying. Lyst reports that the average spend on its platform for a pair of leggings that aren’t simply activewear has increased by 49% year on year, from £68 to £101.
The resurgence of leggings feeds into a wider appetite for sport-leisure wear. Forbes reported this year that sport-leisure trainers, for example, outsold performance-oriented footwear, referring to a study released by the market research company NPD Group. Leggings, it seems, are the latest item to confirm the category’s upward trajectory.
“I often get asked whether the bubble around leisure will burst any time soon, and the answer is no,” NPD’s Matt Powell said in the report. “Athleisure rules the runway, and the line between what is an athletic shoe and a casual shoe continues to blur. Brands and retailers must continue to feed this trend.”
As for where the trend will head next, Lyst may have the answer: in the last month, the word “meggings”, a portmanteau for men’s leggings, has been searched for more than 500 times.
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