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Can Athleisure’s Influence in Denim Go the Distance?

Athleisure, the trend that’s added leggings and sneakers to everyday wardrobes, has now emerged into a fully-fledged category at the intersection of activewear and traditional sportswear.

Opinions on the trend vary. Fashion guru Tim Gunn has questioned the origins of leggings as pants, “It’s vulgar,” he said in an interview with Bloomberg, “unless you’re Robin Hood.” Yet, celebrities like Beyoncé, Kate Hudson and Carrie Underwood have all embraced the trend and created their own lines, choosing athleisure over denim.

While the category has taken a meteoric rise, it has also threatened its main competitor in the casualwear category, denim. Last October, at the Women’s Innovation Summit, Nike CEO Mark Parker announced, “Leggings are the new denim.” But jeans have fought back and found a way to incorporate comfort with elements like extra stretch, knit denim fabrications and sweatpants styling.

Arham Choudhury, an NPD industry analyst, said at Cowen and Company’s Men-at-Work summit, “Jeans as a category are not dead but they have done a good job of redefining themselves or reimagining their product in light of athleisure trends.”

The denim brands we spoke to had varying opinions on the trend; some are embracing new performance jeans styles while others are sticking to their raw denim roots, but almost everyone agreed the trend was here to stay for a while longer.