Modern Performance
FP Movement Bio-Based Membrane Singin In the Rain Jacket
Just a couple of weeks ago, I was telling a friend at hot yoga how much I liked her new pants. They were from a brand known for its comfortable fabrics; and for silhouettes that straddle the line between lifestyle apparel and performance activewear. It was her first time wearing the leggings, which she hoped would get her from class to her daughter’s event at school, starting right after. 

Fast-forward to the drama at the end of class, where she was confronted with watermarks in all the wrong places. Her pants had failed, and it was time to go home and change, making her late for the event.

With performance wear expanding into everyday wear, choices are being made in terms of functionality. Brands attempt to strike the right balance between what works on the mat, what looks great for grabbing coffee and what will get their customer through a full, rigorous day of activities. Sometimes fashion and comfort are winning over technology and durability (plus, consumers are pushing the boundaries of what are considered “performance” pieces), which makes for a head-scratching conundrum in the category.

Featherie Founder Kate Korngold

Fashion Leads

When shoppers today drop a couple hundred dollars on an athleisure/active outfit, they expect to wear it everywhere. This is a change from just a few years ago, where one would never think of wearing schlubby workout clothes to lunch. With that, there is a certain expectation of both fashion and function, some of which has trickled down from the upper echelons of what some Japanese brands like And Wander and Comfy Outdoor Garment have done, described by ALLIED Feather + Down Creative Director Matthew Betcher as “driving fashion and performance in a sincere way.” Interest continues to grow “as these types of garments tend to last longer and have a wider range of use, making expensive purchases more valuable for the consumer.”

From studio to street, FP Movement offers performance-ready activewear that reflects the power of movement.  The Philadelphia, PA-based brand’s new packable Iridescent Bio-Based Membrane Singin In the Rain Jacket ($298) features a plant-based (castor beans) waterproof 3L membrane powered by eVent BIO; and is fully seam sealed, has a wind-resistant finish, Velcro adjustable cuff detail, zippered front pockets and reflective details.

“People from the active fashion world are seeking out technology,” explained Chad Kelly, eVent president. “Just five or six years ago, no one wanted to talk about bio products. Today, all are coming around to it,” he added. eVent BIO is a light, tough and flexible membrane that offers protection against wind, rain and snow in a highly breathable laminate.

The 2024 Sweaty Betty x Merrell Collection is described as “where fashion meets function in a seamless fusion of style and performance.” In its Merrell Moab Speed 2 x Sweaty Betty, the outdoor firm brings technical details — like abrasion-tested rubber and Lightweight FlexPlate technology — while the metallic accents and high style quotient are an ode to the fitness brand. “The Moab Speed 2 feeds into the modern culture of fast, athletic hiking pursuits with the support you need,” said Merrell VP of product management, Shaun Bohnsack.

Nishat x CORDURA NYCO Fabric Capsule Collection

Dialed-In Durability

Pickleball brand Stack Athletics “has benefited from streetwear culture blending into all aspects of consumer products,” but its primary focus is “technical performance products built for the courts — for getting sweaty, hard drives, big lunges and long rallies,” according to the company’s brand director, August Simmons. Stack’s new men’s Tourney Short went through multiple rounds of iterations to find the right fit in both the short and liner. The MellowMesh liner is described as “milky smooth, while giving the perfect amount of stretch, support and breathability.” A Caddy Pocket sits inconspicuously on the back waistband to hold up to two pickleballs. The Flowstate Zip Tee features a soft, quick-drying, micro-vented blend to help the body stay cool and self-regulate in long matches. The firm offers “both performance and lifestyle pieces because pickleball culture has become such a large part of people’s lives, both on and off the courts,” commented the exec.

Meanwhile, a tennis dress is one of the standouts from the Nishat x CORDURA NYCO Fabric Capsule Collection. “It’s light enough to play tennis in, but also chic enough to wear out to dinner with a super soft handfeel that merges the lifestyle aspect with the durability you need,” said Jennyka Wassermann, U.S. marketing and development manager for Nishat Mills. The inspiration for the collection were modeling photos of Wassermann’s dad from the 1960’s bicycling, golfing and playing tennis; now recreated with CORDURA Advanced Fabrics. While historically customers identify CORDURA with heavyweight workwear-type canvas and twills, the new collection uses lighter weight materials. With lighter weights, CORDURA can be applied to athleisure, streetwear and fashion customers.

Cindy McNaull, CORDURA Brand Business Development Director, explained that “while comfort through lighter weights, mobility, and softness have each been important in active apparel, trend indicators also suggest that consumers today are putting increasingly more importance on products that are built to last.”  

Stack Athletics Flowstate Zip Tee
Alwrld Alrn Ventilated Back Crop Bra

Channeling Comfort

Global manufacturer of activewear and swimwear for lifestyle and performance brands, Active Apparel Group (AAG), works with a plethora of clients including Bandier, Alwrld, Tracksmith and Title Nine. AAG Chief Design Officer Lori Oscher is witnessing the “demarcation in daily life between professional wear and activewear with consumers desiring the same performance attributes from their ready to wear as found in their activewear, including comfort, anti-odor, quick dry and thermoregulation, to name a few,” the exec explained. The firm is increasingly focused on supplying comfort enhancements to clients, including anti-chafe seams and hyper evaporation technologies. Oscher said that customers are gravitating to graphene textiles, Askin cooling fabrics and UV-protecting fabrics.

When it comes to handfeel, “buttery” seems to be the current buzzword. Free Fly, Lululemon and Vuori are actively promoting super-soft, buttery garments. “The psychology of comfortable, ‘buttery’ fabrics plays a significant role in the popularity of this type of active lifestyle apparel and we need to understand why consumers are increasingly drawn to this,” stated Christopher Parkes, president of Concept III textile-based product solutions. The importance of durability need not be lost. “As we look ahead with comfortable active lifestyle apparel, we cannot sacrifice quality,” he said.

“Designing with the highest performance standards in mind, ensuring durability and comfort for all-day wear,” Featherie creates tech-savvy, trend right options for young female golfers, according to founder Kate Korngold. Soft, comfortable fabrics “ensure she feels great, on and off the course,” while breathability and moisture-wicking proper-ties keep her competitive, the exec noted. Korngold, a teenage golfer, aimed to create modern and stylish pieces including pull-on pants with a racing stripe and polo shirt with a tulip hem. The Erin Half Zip Sleeveless Top has a mock neck and auto-locking zipper to prevent unzipping and exposing undergarments during one’s swing.

Korngold’s favorite piece is the Primaloft-filled Whitney 2-in-1 Jacket “because of how versatile and stylish it is.”   Zip-off sleeves (which can be stored in hidden pockets inside the jacket) transform it into a vest. A hidden zipper behind the shoulder doesn’t prohibit one’s swing. “This piece is perfect for early morning tee times, when it’s cold, but then heats up in the afternoon,” she said. The high-stretch twill Carli Skort has a compression short, plus tee holders and ball holders on the short underneath the skirt. “It is the perfect length, has stretch and is extremely comfortable,” concluded Korngold.

Merrell Moab Speed 2 X Sweaty Betty