According to the NPD Group, men’s and women’s activewear has grown to a $28.7 billion business in the U.S., up nearly 9 percent in the last 12 months, and at double the rate of non-active apparel. Driving that growth is consumers’ increasing demand for multi-functional workout apparel that can be worn inside the gym and beyond, and as a result, everyone, from Beyoncé to Betsey Johnson, want a piece of the pie.
The last 12 months saw an onslaught of new yoga, athleisure and activewear lines enter the space, and in particular, brands such as Nike and Under Armour are vying to nab the top spot—and dollar—in the women’s market.
Here’s a look back at the activewear power plays that captured attention of the industry in 2014.
1. Lululemon’s Wilson Sheds Half of His Company Stake
Lululemon Athletica founder Dennis “Chip” Wilson announced last week that he agreed to sell half of his stake in the yoga wear company to private equity firm Advent International for $845 million. Under the agreement, Advent International will receive 13.85% of Wilson’s 27.7% stake, along with two board seats. Advent managing partner David Mussafer and managing director Steven Collins will be appointed to these roles, expanding the board to 12 members.
2. New Textile Technologies Stand to Transform Modern Manufacturing
From 3D printing, intelligent robot, and open source design, industry insiders believe the garment industry should prepare for “the disruptive information of design and manufacturing.” Catch up on the recently introduced technologies poised to turn our current system of sourcing and manufacturing on its head.
3. DuPont Introduces Stretchable Inks for Wearable Technology
With the wearable tech trend taking off, innovators are getting savvier about ways to make smart wear seamless and simple to manufacture. Leading the charge is DuPont Microcircuit Materials, a leading innovator and electronic ink supplier, which has introduced a suite of stretchable electronic ink materials that can be used to make smart clothing that’s more moveable, washable and wearable.
4. Ralph Lauren Launches Wearable Tech Polo
Ralph Lauren is serving biometrics on the tennis court with its new Polo Tech shirt. Equipped with sensors knitted into the core of the product that can read biological and physiological information, the compression shirt is designed to improve the wearer’s general wellness and increase personal fitness. The shirt was developed with proprietary technology from Canadian-based OMsignal, which offers a platform that delivers a variety of physiological data through seamless apparel directly to the users via an app on their smartphone. The data collected by the shirt is stored by a “black box,” which transmits the information into a cloud where it is plugged into algorithms that reads heartbeat and respiration, as well as stress level and energy output.
5. Australian Research Team Develops Size-Changing Bionic Bra
A research team at Australia’s University of Wollongong (UOW) is changing the way the industry views “One Size Fits All” garments with a new prototype called the Bionic Bra. The bra, which has the ability to change size depending on the movement of the wearer, is made using intelligent components and built-in actuators and sensing technologies that can sense breast motion and provide additional support during vigorous activities.
6. Microsoft Enters the Wearable Technology Race
Microsoft is jumping on the wearable technology bandwagon, literally, with its new Microsoft Band. The adjustable plastic band, outfitted with a 1.4-inch full color touch screen, covers all the bases expected of hi-tech accessories today: step tracking, heart and sleep monitoring and GPS features—but takes it up a notch with a UV sensor for the wearer to keep tabs on their sun exposure, and a skin temperature monitor that uses optical sensors, which are more accurate than audio sensors found in other brands’ bands. Wearers can even make their Starbucks purchases with the swipe of their wrist.
7. Adidas Launches Climachill Cooling Technology Apparel
Activewear brand Adidas has launched Climachill, a revolutionary line of apparel with cooling technology that lowers the wearer’s body temperature. The clothing incorporates an innovative woven with titanium and 3D aluminum cooling spheres–an industry first–designed to keep athletes comfortable in warmer conditions and at their peak performance.
8. Tommy Hilfiger Taps Into Wearable Tech With Solar Powered Jacket
American fashion icon Tommy Hilfiger has ventured into the realm of wearable technology in a new partnership with Pvilion, a design and manufacturing company of photovoltaic (PV) solar products, to create a solar powered jacket. The limited edition jacket exclusively for the 2014 holiday season features seven detachable solar panels for the men’s jacket (10 for the women’s) that provide energy to power an array of electronic devices like mobile phones and tablets.
9. Garmatex Launches Advanced Cooling Fabric
Garmatex, fabric innovator and supplier, announced the launch of its new advanced cooling fabric, IceSkin, designed to regulate the body’s temperature in extreme climates.
The fabric is made with natural jade minerals and Garmatex’s CoolSkin quick-dry microfiber filaments, which help to utilize the cooling effects of perspiration and lower the skin’s surface temperature. The jade minerals deflect the sun’s rays to keep the body cool and offer extreme UV protection. IceSkin is multi-layered, using a three-dimensional knitting process to keep its cooling technology working like new.
10. Tory Burch Joins Wearable Tech Race with Fitbit Collection
Fashion designers are lending their sartorial touch to wearable technology. On the heels of designer Diane von Furstenberg debuting a range Google Glasses in June, American lifestyle brand Tory Burch is launching an accessories collection exclusively designed for the Fitbit Flex, the wireless fitness tracker that monitors the number of steps taken by the wearer, the number of calories burned and their sleeping habits. The line includes a brass necklace and a brass bracelet inspired by Burch’s signature geometric fretwork patterns, and two printed silicone bands accented with pops of either pink or blue.