Emma Robertson, design manager at BMB, discusses what girls really want from performancewear and how attitudes towards female sports garments are beginning to change
What are the key style trends in girls’ performancewear at the moment?
Our experience is very much with school sportswear. We arranged multiple focus groups within schools across the UK and carried out sessions where we spoke with female under-16s about their thoughts on their sports kit. We found that what girls were choosing to train in during sports outside of school was very different to what they had to wear during curriculum sport. Girls prefer to train in leggings rather than track pants as they are more flexible and flattering. They prefer looser fitting shorts to skin-tight ones, and they requested longer length tops to be worn with their leggings to feel comfortable and confident. This is why we created special features across the Aptus female collection such as built-in side cords that enable the adjustment of garment length on the short-sleeve training top depending on what it is worn with or what sport is being played, and a loose short and fluid skort with a ribbed waistband that offers comfort and support.
Could you summarise what it is that girls are looking for from their school sportswear?
Many manufacturers are producing sportswear that is largely unisex, albeit with a few exceptions here and there. Many of them only offer a slightly more fitted waist on a polo shirt to create a subtle distinction between male and female garments, but our market research had shown that this wasn’t enough. When we started our research back in 2014, studies were showing that one in four girls were avoiding sport at school because they felt that their kit was unflattering and unattractive. After holding our various focus groups, we found that what they really wanted are garments that can not only technically perform, but also look great, flatter the female figure and boost body confidence.
Is the overall women’s perfomancewear sector growing?
Women’s performancewear is now a huge market and will continue to grow as more and more women become involved with sport and voice their opinions about what they want to wear while they train. Over the past few years many major high street brands have really focused on introducing or improving on their sportswear offering for women. According to a recent survey by Sport England (December 2016), 7.2 million women are now playing sport. This is an increase of 250,000 from January 2015 and reduces the gender gap between males and females playing sport, which once stood at over two million, to 1.55 million.
What women’s performancewear fabrics are customers asking you for?
When we held our focus groups in schools, we also involved PE staff and recognised a demand for quality fabrics with functional elements. Polyester is an ideal fabric for sportswear and the main material used within the Aptus Performance range. It boasts a huge amount of benefits such as being durable, lightweight and anti-wrinkle, as well as cost-competitive. Polyester has effective wicking properties, and offers a stable base for decoration. The Spandex used in our leggings, which can expand to nearly 600% of its size, is always in demand in women’s performancewear as it allows for comfort, flexibility and movement.
What’s the best or most unusual decoration you’ve seen on women’s performancewear?
At this year’s ISPO Munich Sportswear trade show I saw Puma’s PWRRUN Nightcat Long Tights, which have an iridescent reflective print for 360° reflectivity in low light conditions.
What’s the best piece of marketing and sales advice you can give to Images readers to help them sell more women’s performancewear garments by Aptus?
We have taken all of the key features of high-level performancewear – technicality, functionality, styling, and fit – and combined them with our understanding of what our consumers are demanding thanks to our in-depth research. My advice would be to get the product range in front of the customer and show them the multiple colour options on offer and how the garments, which are unbranded to allow for personalisation, work together as a range to create a co-ordinated look, without it looking and feeling like traditional PE kit.