Investment Campaigns

The growth of athleisure

What is athleisure?

Athleisure is casual clothing designed to be worn both for exercising and for general use. The red-hot athleisure trend has led many retailers and brands to unveil their own collections in recent years, and the term has been added to the dictionary. Now there's more evidence that it's not losing steam.

Previously dominated by the big names of sportswear, challenger brands are now bringing new ideas and exciting products to this market. Gym goers want more trend-led activewear, especially in more recent times when lines between work, exercise and social attire are beginning to blur. Professionals and consumers want seasonal collections and a diverse range of garments for different sporting disciplines, whilst demonstrating an appetite for British manufactured activewear.

AIM athleisure is a disruptive lifestyle fashion brand driven by the unstoppable force of the contemporary ‘athleisure’ trend. The vision for the brand is to challenge the traditional. AIM design, create and manufacture exclusive collections of Great British Athleisurewear.

How big is the athleisure market?

Analyst GlobalData’s ‘UK Sports Market 2017-2022’ report predicts 5.1% growth this year, on top of estimated UK sports clothing sales of £2.5bn in 2017.

Drapers Online, the fashion business organisation, reported that “As a sector focused on lifestyle, the latest developments in the market chime with the growing wellness trend and the increasingly mindful consumer decisions of younger shoppers. As with fashion in general, activewear shoppers and brands are turning their attention to sustainable design in a new way.”

This element of accountability and sustainability is another reason AIM athleisure will be able to disrupt the market due to their British production and supply chain using local suppliers and the best trim and fabric provisions available.

In addition to this, Emily Gordon-Smith head of fashion at research agency Stylus, commented in support of the smaller sportswear brands with the following statement:

“The rise of activewear for all day every day means that consumers are looking for greater choice in terms of looks and trends – effectively building whole wardrobes around an ‘ath-based’ core,” says Gordon-Smith. “So, there is greater opportunity for niche brands selling more nuanced, designed-into product that offers a more exclusive look to stand out in a fairly generic marketplace.”

Alongside Emily Gordon-Smith, Celia Cuthbert - ASOS womenswear’s head of buying, highlighted that smaller brands interact with their customers in a different, community-focused way. “Consumers are realising being active isn’t a chore, it’s a choice. Brands are catering to this and we think this is creating more community experiences rather than just making a purchase.

“This shift makes the industry less product-driven and is making brands think on their feet in terms of capturing an audience. It’s still a focus for us and is a growing part of the business.”

Fashion forward sports brands present before the athleisure trend...

In the Investment Memorandum for AIM’s Seed round, and indeed in their online pitch, we’ve discussed their competitors in the athleisure sector and in particular specialist areas such as yoga clothing, sublimation printed leggings and bespoke teamwear. In addition to these competitors, there are several well known brand names who’ve been around on our high streets and present in our lives much before the athleisure ‘trend’ came about over the last 5 years. Two of these brands discussed below most people will have visited as a child, teenager, and most probably adult to buy fashion sports clothing, leisure wear and the latest trainers for everyday use and sports...

GAP; a well known brand who acquired athleisure company Athleta to service the emerging sector

GAP is one of those brands that as a youth you own several hoodies and as an adult you purchase holiday clothes and relaxed jeans to lounge in.In recent years, GAP has become more well known and inclusive, introducing a childrens range and a wider scope of clothing from smarter work attire through to basic leggings and vests. The driving force behind the GAP group of companies saw the emerging market trend for pure athleisure, and having previously acquired Banana Republic, Old Navy and Intermix, they sought an athleisure brand to purchase.

In 2008, GAP purchased Athleta Inc., a popular women’s sports and active apparel company. This acquisition was the enabler for GAP to enhance its presence in the growing women's active apparel and athleisure sectors. Athleta was established in 1998 by Scott Kerslake who was inspired to create the brand in order to supply his friends who desired functional cycle gear which also looked stylish for leisure use. Kerslake raised $700,000 of seed capital from family and friends to fund his women’s athletic clothing company developing a small in-house label for running, hiking, tennis, cycling, golf, yoga and swimming attire. Athleta brought in $18million in 2001 and $30million in 2003, with customers loving the brand, according to the New York Times, because they paid attention to colour and patterns which at the time the typical sports brands hadn’t considered.

In 2008 the Athleta brand turned over $37million worth of sales, at which point they attracted the attention of the GAP brand and were acquired for $150million. Ten years after the GAP acquisition of Athleta, the athleisure brand of the GAP group is the company’s main source of growth with an annual growth of 25% since 2012 and soon to surpass $1billion in sales showing the true demand and growth potential of businesses meeting customer requirements in the athleisure market.

JD Sports; a high-street retailer of fashion forward leisure wear & footwear

The Financial Times reported in April 2018 that Retailer JD Sports appears to be dodging UK high-street gloom and has announced that profits rose by a quarter in the past year to a record high of £294.5m. The company has found success with fashionable sportswear for everyday life, profiting from the “athleisure” trend of wearing sports clothes outside the gym.

Moreover, analysts have warned of overcrowding in the US market. But in the UK, sports equipment and gym wear continue to defy the slump in retail sales. The UK’s Office for National Statistics included women’s leggings in its inflation basket for the first time this year.

Growth in “athleisure” — sportswear worn when not playing sport — has outpaced the wider apparel market by two percentage points a year in recent years, according to Euromonitor. Sports footwear — JD’s stock in trade — has grown even faster. JD also benefited from the demise of JJB Sports in 2012, and in the same year acquired 290 Blacks and Millets stores out of bankruptcy for just £20m.

What does this mean for AIM?

The unstoppable force of the contemporary ‘athleisure’ trend is the driving power behind the disruptive lifestyle fashion brand, AIM athleisure.

As mentioned in the Investment Memorandum, AIM are a British designed, sourced and produced product providing accountability to the garments in addition to providing local people with jobs all the way through the production chain. Moreover, the garments are customisable and focus on both style and function providing all the necessary features to the athleisure audience.

Although the need for athleisure clothing has been around much before it was recognised as its own market sector, there are few true athleisure businesses focusing on the hybrid clothing fusing fitness with fashion. There are multiple retailers selling fashionable sportswear, and others providing functional sportswear, but the AIM brand brings the two together with a completely customisable process delivered in the UK.


Currently raising £300,000 growth capital on GrowthFunders, AIM are looking to build on traction to date and scale the business in terms of capacity, range and technology.

Driving Growth.
Creating Value.
Delivering Impact.

Backed by

Growth Capital Ventures (GCV) is backed by funds managed by Maven Capital Partners, one of the UK’s leading private equity and alternative asset managers.