At this point, it’s pretty safe to say that athleisure is so much more than just a trend. It’s become a multi-billion-dollar industry. According to data from NPD Group, athleisure boasts an approximate market size of $44 billion in the United States alone — an amazing feat in a day and age that finds many consumers spending much less than they once did on fashion and apparel in general.

What’s more, we can expect athleisure to become even bigger in the years to come. The following are just a few of the ways this phenomenal fashion niche will keep influencing and changing retail, fashion and popular culture going forward.

1. Athleisure inspires designers and fashion labels to innovate.

Although not everyone that wears athleisure is also into fitness, everyone who engages in physical activity needs the right athletic apparel if they’re truly going to bring their A-game. As a result, athletic labels are perpetually looking to improve their products when it comes to comfort, feel and functionality.

Now that athleisure is so huge both in and out of the gym, other fashion brands are becoming more innovative as well in an effort to compete and stay relevant. We’re seeing more apparel brands attempting to tap into the swiftly growing athleisure market by adding activity-friendly features to their product lines.

2. Comfort wear is becoming increasingly acceptable in more settings.

While serious athletic wear is still only considered appropriate for sports or active pursuits, athleisure is capable of bridging the gap between casual and formal. The more people wear athleisure, the more they want to wear it. As a result, athleisure is becoming increasingly acceptable in party settings, at social events and in the office.

Fashion and activewear brands alike are staying on their toes by offering clothing that strikes a good balance between stylish and comfortable. Even semi-casual and dress clothing meant to be worn to the office is becoming more practical and wearable with fabrics and pieces that are wrinkle-free, odor-resistant and built to really stand up to everyday wear and tear.

3. The divide between fashion and leisure is getting smaller.

Athleisure in and of itself is a hybrid niche that combines the comfort and utility of athletic wear with the runway cred and style of traditional fashion. The more traction it gains in various markets, the smaller the once sizeable gap between fashion clothing and casual leisure wear becomes.

Brands that were once strictly about predicting fashion trends and delivering stylish, fashion- forward clothing to consumers are including more utilitarian, practical looks in their collections. We’re seeing footwear options like sneakers and bona fide athletic shoes appearing on runways and in style-conscious designer collections. Athletic brands are also upping their game by offering more options created with current style and fashion trends in mind.

4. Celebrities and style-setters are embracing athleisure.

Ever since anyone can remember, everyday consumers have looked to their favorite celebrities in search of inspiration for their own fashion looks, and that isn’t going to change anytime soon. At this point, we’re seeing trend-setters like Kim Kardashian, Kendall Jenner, Rihanna and Beyonce making athleisure a part of their approach to fashion — and the millions of people that follow them on social media are definitely taking notice.

It’s not just that actresses, models and socialites are posting about their favorite athleisure wear on social media either, creating a strong public taste for it in the process. They’re being spotted by paparazzi in options like luxury yoga pants and high-end sneakers. Many celebrities are even throwing their own hats into the athleisure ring by designing and marketing labels of their own.

5. Athleisure ties in nicely with the growing healthy lifestyle trend.

It’s not just that people want and expect to be more comfortable in their everyday lives, whether they’re on their way to the office or going out for coffee with their friends. People are becoming increasingly interested in getting healthy and staying that way. They’re not just hitting the gym or the treadmill more often either. They’re making healthier choices in every aspect of their lives.

All one needs to do is log onto Instagram or Snapchat these days to see hundreds of celebrities, taste-makers and social influencers singing the praises of healthy living. Think yoga pant-clad millennials posting selfies with their morning green juices or the Kardashian sisters posting pics of themselves looking amazing after yet another morning spent at the gym. The more people see of this trend, the more they feel motivated to incorporate it into their own lives and purchase related products.

6. The footwear industry is being affected as well.

It’s not just the apparel and clothing industries that are being affected by the shift toward athleisure. Footwear is always an important part of completing any look to perfection, and consumers are no longer willing to suffer for fashion. They expect even their dress shoes to be comfortable enough for everyday wear.

As a result, more and more dress brands are incorporating comfort features into their collections, like memory foam footbeds, breathable uppers and shock absorbent insoles. People also expect to be able to get maximum mileage out of their shoes. They expect to be able to go straight from the office to a causal night out without changing their shoes or having to endure discomfort.

Of course, these are not all the ways athleisure is changing the face of retail forever, but they’re definitely among the most powerful factors. Fashion moguls, taste-makers and consumers everywhere are taking note and evolving as a result as well. What role does athleisure play in your wardrobe and your lifestyle in general?

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