EMILY MORROW FINKELL: DESIGN SPECTATOR
FLOOR COVERING WEEKLY – JULY 2017
noun ath·lei·sure \ˈath-ˌlē-zhər, -ˌle-, -ˌlā-, ÷ˈa-thə-\
Definition of athleisure:
Casual clothing designed to be worn both for exercising and for general use.
“Athleisure” is one of those new terms that seems to have made its way into our daily vocabulary, into the urban dictionary and more importantly into Merriam-Webster’s dictionary which makes it pretty much a real thing. Think yoga pants and “trainers” with some level of design that allow you to look good enough to go from the gym to lunch with friends (or just skip the gym entirely). Even if you’ve never heard the word “athleisure,” chances are good you’ve spotted the trend in your part of the world. Basically it’s stylish athletic attire that is designed to be as comfortable for running errands as it is for actual running but know this, “stylish-comfort” is the most important element. Some could say it is stylish enough to wear to work, although I personally believe many corporate environments still might not be ready for it yet. It is impossible not to see people walking around, going to lunch, waiting in line at Starbucks and traveling through airports wearing super stylish tights, leggings and sneakers.
What is it about “athleisure” that has caused so many of us to want to get on board and fill our closets with such form fitting apparel? It’s because of the comfort it offers…comfort in that it’s not too binding, doesn’t pinch the waistline, expands or contracts as needed, and it is “tres’ chic”. This level of comfort-chic has become something that we now expect as consumers both in our daily wear as well as our how we live, it must be well designed.
Broadly speaking, we expect comfort and our favorite amenities at our office break rooms, sometimes in our cars, and most definitely in our homes and closets. “Performance” is one of the most oft-used words in the furniture and flooring industries. “Commercial grade” is no longer for “professionals” but is now considered “standard issue” for homes that are either starter, an upgrade or “aging in place”.
How does this relate to the flooring or furniture industry? In every way imaginable. Flooring and furniture share some fundamental similarities. Fiber types are one of the common “threads”, if you’ll pardon the pun, and are exactly the reason why carpet, rugs, and upholstery fall into the “performance” category. Thanks to synthetic fibers like nylon, polyester and polypropylene, we have a wide variety of fibers from which we can pick and choose, depending on which attributes matter most for the need, and this varies from brand to brand, and from product to product. Some repel spills, some wipe clean easily and some stand up well to daily wear. Who doesn’t love seeing videos and photos of dogs tracking mud onto beautiful white carpet or kids spilling cola on a white sofa…and seeing the amazing “after” photo of how it cleaned up completely. Total forgiveness is built right into the product. We can go through an entire litany of attributes that nylon offers that the other synthetics might not offer, but for sake of brevity, we’ll leave that for another day and time. It’s easy to find an endless supply of athletic track suits and shoes that are made of nylon or polyester, and just as easy to see how comfortable that they are to wear. Did you ever imagine you’d read about nylon carpet, nylon fabric and nylon tracksuits in the same article? Translate the same level of comfort and ease across all categories and you’ll see why this has become quite a “trend” in today’s marketplace. “Athleisure” has made us expect more comfort with more style, more ease, more flexibility and also more variety in our lives.
Next time you walk across a room of well-cushioned carpet or put on a pair of stretchy Lululemon yoga pants, think of how good they look and feel and know you’re seeing “athleisure” at work in the world.