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The World’s Most Valuable Apparel Brands Show Athleisure’s Staying Power

The Top 10 list of the world’s most valuable apparel brands demonstrates athleisure’s staying power, the enduring appeal of mass-market fashion and the importance of brands focused on millennials and Gen Z.

The BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands 2018 report produced by market research firm Kantar Millward Brown highlights the star performers in apparel, a category that grew 5 percent from last year to reach a total value of $111.3 billion. Once again Nike topped the list with more than $38 billion in brand value, up 13 percent year over year, followed by Spanish fast-fashion powerhouse Zara with just shy of $27 billion.

Though Adidas comes in at No. 3 with more than $12 in brand value, its 50 percent growth from the prior year reveals its meteoric popularity among lifestyle-conscious young consumers snapping up retro-inspired footwear like the Stan Smith. The report said Adidas emerged as the value growth leader in the apparel category in large part thanks to its on-trend streetwear image and eco-conscious products made from reclaimed ocean plastic.

At the No. 4 and No. 5 spots, mass-market retailers H&M and Uniqlo are virtually tied with respective brand value of $8.8 billion and $8.1 billion, according to the report. Yoga-centric Lululemon ($3.9 billion) jumped 10 percent from 2017 to take the No. 6, while Victoria’s Secret—amid continued struggles in the undergarments category—tumbled 32 percent to land at No. 7.  Under Armour suffered the steepest decline—negative 42 percent—to slide into No. 8 with $3.1 billion), trailed by the UK’s Asos at No. 9, which appeared on the list for the first time with just more than $3 billion in brand value. Massimo Dutti ($2.8 billion), also out of Spain, closed out the list at No. 10, the same spot it earned last year.

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Under Armour’s woes have drawn scrutiny after years of stellar earnings. However, the BrandZ report describes the company’s situation as a “transition” to becoming a digital health and fitness community on the back of several tech acquisitions whose customer data will inform product development. And despite sluggish sales in the U.S., Under Armour is moving product overseas.

The Brandz report points to an apparel players that increasingly target specific audience needs. Subscription models encourage repeat purchases and brand discovery, while clothing rentals encourage experimentation. Brands like Tommy Hilfiger launched adaptive options focused on consumers with disabilities. Technology continues to play a role in how top-performing brands stay ahead of the pack. So far this year alone Zara, for one, has deployed in-store robots to enhance click-and-collect services as well as rolled out an augmented reality mobile app.

Meanwhile, obscure upstarts out of Asia are leveraging the power of social media and consumer targeting—coupled with tantalizingly low prices—to make inroads with Western consumers. “The low barrier to entry of e-commerce resulted in a proliferation of Asian brands, often from China, that not only competed on price, but also benefited from the interest in Asian culture and fashion,” the report said.

In the high-end sector, Gucci shook off the traditional luxury calendar dictating two collections per year, instead partnering with high-profile personalities for more frequent product drops. It’s a move that’s paid off handsomely, rewarding the Italian house with more than $22 billion in brand value and 66 percent year-on-year growth—and the No. 6 spot on BrandZ’s list of the fastest-growing brands.