Gorpcore, Athleisure’s Latest Incarnation
With the global adoption of athleisure, it’s no surprise that sports-inspired was the fastest growing category within sportswear over the last five years. Sports-inspired apparel recorded a CAGR of 3.4% and sports-inspired footwear a 5.5% CAGR. Athleisure is part of a wider change in consumer lifestyles where health considerations, comfort and the relaxation of both professional and social dress codes are having a major impact on consumer behaviour.
Though still relevant, we are beginning to see a move from sports-inspired to performance and outdoor sportswear as consumers begin to look for clothing that serves a functional and utilitarian need. Performance apparel and footwear are projected to see respective CAGRS of 3.5% and 5.8% at constant 2018 prices over the next five years, while outdoor apparel and footwear can expect to see CAGRs of 3.2% and 4.2%, respectively. No longer is it just about looking athletic but about how garments can enhance performance and also appeal to a growing interest in authenticity. At the same time, consumers are increasingly engaging in outdoor fitness and as a result the demand for outdoor sportswear is increasing.
The term ‘Gorpcore’ was coined by New York Magazine last May to describe the style of incorporating utilitarian, outdoor clothing into everyday wear. It describes the ‘ugly fashion’ that has become popular among fashion influencers and insiders including bum-bags, woolly fleeces, bomber jackets and Velcro sandals, and it’s a move on from the prominent athleisure trend. The ‘gorp’ in gorpcore is taken from the American trail mix of ‘granola, oats, raisins and peanuts’ and as the trend has taken off, the term gorpcore was shortlisted by Oxford dictionary for 2017 word of the year, proving how influential it has been.
Embracing gorpcore, luxury designers Prada, Givenchy and Lanvin, among others, sent elevated ‘camping chic’ looks down the runway, but the aesthetic that has trickled down to the masses has been more practical, utilitarian clothing from down-to-earth outdoors brands such as The North Face, Patagonia, Columbia, Teva and Birkenstock. Luxury brands like Supreme, Martine Rose and Opening Ceremony are collaborating with outdoor brands.
What differentiates gorpcore from its predecessor, athleisure, is that it has real world, functional appeal. It’s not about sports-inspired clothing for the sake of looking sporty. Gorpcore clothes are warm and comfortable and what makes them cool is that they’re not trying to be cool. This appeals to the global consumer interest in authenticity, with shoppers increasingly looking for positive attributes in products such as durability and reliability. This shift away from conspicuous consumption presents a large opportunity for sportswear brands that can take advantage of the credibility of true outdoor gear. At the same time, we should not underestimate that an outdoors lifestyle is a status symbol. Rural living or adventure holidays are often associated with a high quality of life and often wealth.
Shifting consumer lifestyles have also contributed to the rise of gorpcore. As physical and mental wellbeing are becoming equally important to consumers, people are increasingly engaging in outdoor fitness rather than taking part in indoor classes or exercising at the gym. Exercising outdoors has been linked to improving mental health by reconnecting with nature. As a result, outdoor activities such as boot camps, track clubs, hiking and extreme sports are all gaining popularity. Euromonitor International’s 2017 Global Consumer Trends Survey found that over 62% of consumers walk or hike for exercise, vs. just over 17% of consumers that take part in group fitness classes every week.
Source: Euromonitor Global Consumer Trends Survey 2017
Beyond changing exercise habits, gorpcore has also benefitted from a fundamental shift in consumer attitudes towards value-added products and experiences. Euromonitor International’s 2017 Global Consumer Survey found that millennials in particular are driving this trend with 42% worldwide expressing a preference for experiences over things. Outerwear, unlike other apparel and footwear, is designed with performance in mind and is intended to be worn while partaking in outdoor activities. It’s the authenticity of clothing with real functional benefits that sets gorpcore apart, and as outdoor fitness continues to rise in popularity it presents brands with a significant sportswear opportunity beyond athleisure.