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Made to Travel: Luxury Loungewear Takes Off

BoF examines the growing market for clothing that looks as good on Instagram as it feels on a long-haul flight.
Olivia von Halle "Missy" cashmere tracksuit | Source: Courtesy
By
  • Helena Pike

LONDON, United Kingdom — Not too long ago, loungewear meant tired tracksuit bottoms and worn-out sweatshirts — strictly to be worn indoors, with the curtains firmly closed.

But in recent seasons, loungewear has been given the luxury treatment, with tailored jogging bottoms at Céline and Chloé, and tracksuits rendered in cashmere by the likes of Brunello Cucinelli, The Elder Statesman and Olivia von Halle. Vetements even featured a velour version in its Spring/Summer 2017 show, created in collaboration with Juicy Couture, one of the first brands to position the tracksuit as a fashion piece.

The past year has seen loungewear elevated to staple status, with off-duty models and executives alike seeking garments that are as elegant and versatile as they are comfortable on a long-haul flight.

“The rise of the parka, the bomber, and jean jacket and trainers worn with everything — it wasn’t going to be long before those off-duty sweats made their way out of the house,” says Helen David, chief merchant at Harrods. “Silk drawstring pants have been a hit at Chloé and gym staple Champion pants have become street style stars in their own right.”

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Retailers have been experiencing first-hand the effect of the humble tracksuit’s transformation. At Harrods, “cashmere joggers continue to be best-sellers at both ends of the scale,” says David, while at MatchesFashion.com, sales of sweatpants are up more than 300 percent year-on-year. Likewise, Selfridges, which launched a dedicated space for lingerie, nightwear, activewear and loungewear in April this year, has seen sales of premium loungewear grow 30 percent year-on-year, while sales of cashmere loungewear pieces have doubled.

Brands too are reaping the rewards. Two weeks after launching a cashmere tracksuit collection on Net-a-Porter, luxury nightwear brand Olivia von Halle has sold 85 percent of its stock.

Von Halle thinks the appeal her cashmere tracksuit is connected to the luxury consumer’s move away from conspicuous and logo-heavy products. “True luxury is now much quieter and more refined. [Consumers] want things that make them feel good and that is what luxury loungewear is all about,” she says.

It's a lifestyle choice; a statement that we are practical and busy, but beautiful and extravagant at the same time.

Indeed, loungewear aligns with consumers' increasing preference for wellbeing-enhancing experiences. "Cashmere tracksuits and sweatshirts are part of this — they are luxury products that make life easier," says Andrea Karg, creative director of Munich-based Allude Cashmere, for whom loungewear now drives 40 percent of womenswear sales.

The rise in luxury loungewear is also a response to the varied lifestyle of the modern consumer, who expects clothing to be comfortable and versatile enough to accommodate her hectic schedule, without compromising on style.

“It’s a lifestyle choice; a statement that we are practical and busy, but beautiful and extravagant at the same time,” says British knitwear designer Madeleine Thompson, whose stockists include Net-a-Porter and Selfridges. Since launching loungewear in 2014, the category now makes up 30 percent of the brand’s total revenue, with sales predicted to increase 160 percent from Autumn/Winter 2016 to Autumn/Winter 2017.

“These brands have developed ranges that are for the modern woman’s life, whether she’s at home, running off to the gym, travelling, on a plane, working — these kind of brands and items work across purposes,” agrees Natalie Kingham, buying director of MatchesFashion.com. “Our lives are so busy now, and we’re travelling so much, it’s good to have these really go-to pieces that make you feel great no matter where you are and what you’re doing.”

The growth of global travel in particular has benefited the luxury loungewear category, with products like cashmere tracksuits and tailored sweat pants offering consumers a way to be both comfortable and chic on a long-haul flight.

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“It’s challenging, trying to find something that you can go straight from work, go to the airport, check in, hang out in the lounge, look good and still be comfortable on the plane, spend the night and go straight to a meeting,” says von Halle.

The need to still look fashionable no matter what you’re doing has been further exacerbated by social media, which has put consumer’s everyday activities — and outfits — under the spotlight. “With social media, people’s lives are so much more on show — 24 hours a day — so they want to look as good if they’re travelling, or if they’re just hanging out and having breakfast, as they do if they’re going out for dinner,” von Halle continues.

“Women with demanding lives can be equally demanding of their clothes needing to multitask and to work with them,” says Heather Gramston, womenswear buying manager at Selfridges. “[Their] consideration for their comfort and ease, but also looking super chic — I don’t think that’s going anywhere soon.”

Related Articles:

Solving the Cashmere CrisisOpens in new window ]

While You Were Sleeping: Nightwear BloomsOpens in new window ]

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