COVID-19 has been having its way since the beginning of its time and among many impacts it had and is having on the economy, on businesses, another noticeable one has been people—both men and women staying at home going through stress, anxiety and depression. In order to combat this and to keep calm and stay strong, a lot of people have added meditation and yoga to their lockdown routine. The healthcare industry has fuelled the growing interest in yoga and it is now being used for both physical and mental disorders as a therapy. With this, not only India, but other countries too saw a rise in the number of online yoga practitioners or trainers, and this further gave a push to the yogawear industry.
Not only this, but the very recent recognition of the ancient Indian practice of yoga by the United Nations by proclaiming 21 June as the International Day of Yoga has also led to yoga – a process of total wellbeing – to gain popularity globally. According to a report by Grand View Research, Inc., the yoga clothing market size globally is expected to reach US $ 47.8 billion by 2025, growing at a CAGR of 6.2 per cent over the forecast period. In that, women segment generated revenue of US $ 20.7 billion in 2018, while the children segment is to register the fastest CAGR of 7.5 per cent from 2019 to 2025.
“In India, yoga has established itself as a strong sport. The growth rate of people practising yoga increased three times in the past 4 years. Yoga has become a way of living, a habit, and a trend among the youth. Since 2015, when the world started celebrating International Yoga Day, it has created a huge recognition for itself among Indians. Decathlon took this opportunity in offering the right outfits according to the users, level of practice – starting from Hatha to Power Yoga, classifying our offer from beginners to experts,” asserts Swati Joshi, Country Sport Leader – Yoga, Decathlon India.
What’s stretching the segment?
With rising urbanisation and acceptance of yoga as the perfect means to improve concentration and get rid of lethargy while working from home during the current times, the demand for efficient yoga clothing has started snowballing at a substantial rate. Sportswear major Nike has, at the beginning of 2019, launched its yoga collection for both men and women, and also rolled out a new app ‘Enhance Your Training with Yoga’ for its users. Besides, other activewear giants in the likes of Under Armour, ASICS, and Columbia Sportswear also offer yoga clothing, but these have not stopped the emergence of homegrown brands offering quality yogawear options.
Malika Baruah, CEO, Proyog, maintains, “Yoga has been gaining popularity in many new countries over the last year or so. There were many ‘fad’ yoga practices prevailing earlier. However, now I see people moving towards a more authentic version of the practice. I believe it will continue to gain popularity and authenticity. Our mission, at Proyog, is to create authentic yogawear, and hopefully work along with other conscious companies in the future to define the best clothing for yoga.” Proyog prides in offering super-specialised yoga attire that lets body breathe during the asanas. The shifting inclination of yoga enthusiasts towards comfortable and stylish clothing will enable the growth of this industry in the days ahead.
Besides, the growing popularity and rising demand of yogawear is also the result of the comfort factor and chic quotient attached to it. Fashion retailers have, in the past, maintained that the popularity is such that for every four T-shirts bought, the third of fourth is a yoga T-shirt, and similarly in the bottomwear too, yoga pants are taking up the market share of even denims and trousers. Darshan M, Founder, Deivee, points, “Given the increased focus of everything from wellness to entertainment being home focused, the category is expected to grow at a rapid pace in the next 2 years. This growth will also be facilitated by the conscious shift towards comfortable clothing, and with consumers becoming more aware, the yogawear brands will have to focus more on sustainability factor.”
To sum up, factors like rising health and fitness awareness, increasing number of yoga trainers and yoga training institutes, increased disposable income and a number of manufacturers making yoga clothing with the use of the best of fabrics and technological innovation have led to the rise of this segment.
What’s selling and where?
This increasing awareness about the benefits of yoga has influenced the sales of yoga apparel, yoga equipment, and accessories worldwide. Now, yoga clothing comprises different merchandise largely depending on the type of yoga. “Initially, yoga used to be practised with any comfortable outfit which supports stretchability and breathability, but with the evolution of yoga from Hatha Yoga to more intense Vinyasa and Bikram Yoga, the users had to adapt. Our users understood the need of the comfortable but performance-oriented outfits according to their level of practice. We offer T-shirts, leggings, pants, yoga sports bra, etc., and these are priced between Rs. 299 and Rs. 1,299. Our yogawear range contributes to around 50 per cent of our total turnover,” avers Swati Joshi.
Talking about the products, yoga pants had largely dominated the overall yoga wear segment globally with a share of nearly 36.1 per cent in 2017, generating US $ 7.66 billion in revenue. While yoga pants work for most of the brands in the category even today, Deivee’s yoga mats made using unique fibres are its bestselling products, and dhotis have been the most loved garments at Proyog for its ‘unique design and unbeatable performance’. For Decathlon as well, yoga mats and accessories are the fastest selling products.
Yoga has been a part of the Indian society for decades now and is part of the culture, and this ensures a market potential of the category in urban as well and smaller towns and cities. Malika Baruah agrees, “When it comes to yoga gear, I don’t think there is a great disparity in the buying patterns between the top cities and Tier-2 and Tier-3 regions, especially in India where yoga is so deeply entrenched into our culture. For purely a fashion brand, these distinctions may be more pronounced.” However, for Deivee, the non-metro regions are still price sensitive and the brand’s business from these towns is limited to 10 per cent.
In sync with the demand
The overall yogawear segment has seen a rise in demand for sustainable and organic yoga clothing. A number of brands and manufacturers are, thus, going for organic cotton, lycra, etc., while limiting treatments as recommended by GOTS. Consumers are looking for yoga clothing that is breathable, has attributes like anti-microbial technology, sweat wicking, anti-odour, and is made using soft, supportive fabric. In yogawear category, what matters the most is how it feels rather than how it looks. Dhriti Badani, Director, Qualiance, informs, “We offer collection that includes stitched garments as well as sew-free ultrasonic welded garments. Consumers today are looking for more performance-based attributes in their yoga clothing. In terms of fabric, we use a mix of polyester, recycled polyester, modal, softer linen. We also use technical fabric which has features like quick dry, sweat wicking, anti-odour and anti-microbial up to 50 washes. There has been an increase in demand for such yoga clothing that you can lounge around in as well post lockdown, and so, we have started focusing more on comfort-driven styles. We use state-of-the-art machinery and processes for these products – laser cutting for doing perforation then design, so we have special machinery for the perforation or cutting special shapes. For some garments, we also use bonding, wherein we use adhesives instead of stitching the seams, use overlay tapes for enhancing the features, and for the logo and design, we heat press instead of screen printing. Yoga clothing requires specialised machinery and treatments and attention to details in order to make them as comfortable and seamless as possible.”
Qualiance is an activewear manufacturing firm which has expertise of the entire fabric manufacturing process – right from selection of yarn to knitting or weaving, processing with specialised finishes.
Yoga clothing as well as yoga accessories including mats need specialised process as they go under a lot of stress, and thus, require a lot of reinforcements. Mohit Jain, Director, Fragrance of India (an activewear manufacturing firm), agrees, “In this segment, one has to keep up with the market trend in order to survive. We use four way lycra fabric and also cotton lycra fabric for yoga clothing. The machineries used for the category are specialised ones. We work on a Japanese machine called Pegasus besides four thread overlock machines, and the lycra fabric is made using a different machine. The fabrics we use are totally sourced from Korea and other countries since these are specialised fabrics and are not made in India.”
Designing and manufacturing yoga clothing depend a lot on the right choice of material and technology, and while the country has come a long way in the category, it still needs to go self-reliant on the specialised fabrics and machinery for which the manufacturing firms depend on other countries.
What do the pandemic days have in store?
While we are currently facing a pandemic and India has very recently started the process of unlock after months of complete and partial lockdowns which affected businesses in a huge way, yogawear has been one such category that bounced back right on its feet as soon as the country came out of the halt. Consumers, in most cases, may not be in shopping mood but it has come to notice that they are viewing sweatsuits and yoga apparel as essential items.
Talking about the business post lockdown, Swati Joshi says, “Our online store (decathlon.in) has made a registered a growth of 1500 per cent in yoga category during this pandemic – out of which, 40 per cent of the business has come from Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities. People have been showing a great interest towards the practice of yoga while working from home. We, at Decathlon, have experienced a drastic hike in yoga mat sales with a shift from 39 per cent share to the current 60 per cent share. However, this had affected our clothing line wherein the sales had gone down from 45 per cent to 32 per cent, but this is coming back on track now.”
Yoga clothing is supremely comfortable, and therefore, makes an ideal choice for people working from home. Malika Baruah agrees that accessorising these comfortwear can take one effortlessly from on to off the mat.
Yogawear category today has been, most definitely, creating its own market with a lot of aware consumers, but this is for a limited consumer segment belonging to yoga enthusiasts or experts. One of the biggest challenges facing this industry is that the categories are not well-defined, and everything from sportswear to polyester performancewear to casualwear are being used for yoga practice and are being considered as yoga clothing. Going forward, it’s going to be a market with huge potential with the Government of India (among other Asian countries) framing favourable policies aimed at promoting yoga as a fitness activity, and this, in turn, will fuel the demand for specialised yoga clothing options over the next few years.