5 hot leggings companies are making waves (and stripes, florals and other crazy patterns)
Black yoga pants are a great basic, but the new trend in stretchy bottom layers is anything but.
Stretchy, comfy yoga pants are here to stay. The 1980s trend, which virtually disappeared in the 1990s, returned in the 2000s, and haven't gone away yet – it's safe to say that after a decade of ever-growing popularity, leggings are no longer a trend.
Patterned yoga pants. (Photo: Margarita Activewear)
But why did they "stick" this time? When leggings rose to popularity in the early 2000s along with the practices of yoga and pilates, over time, women (and a few men) discovered – or remembered – how comfortable they can be. Made in softer, stretchier, sometimes healthier fabrics like organic cotton and spandex, the new leggings fit better and were made for a wider variety of body types than their 1980s counterparts.
And so they started segueing into other parts of life – first just lounging at home, then for errands. But they still had vestiges of "workout" attached to them, and we needed a way to enjoy them that was a bit more fashion-forward and less gym-centric.
Enter the patterned yoga pant, which was a game-changer when it came to being able to wear leggings comfortably almost anywhere. Adding color and print was the key that kept leggings in the long-term fashion game.
Margarita Activewear was founded by two aerobic instructors who were excited by that idea. With just one sewing machine, from a tiny room in northern Israel, Dorit Zimerman, a 13th-generation Israeli, and Gerardo Clavijo, her partner, sewed each pair of leggings by hand. Twelve years later, their beautiful and functional designs are sold worldwide, with their biggest markets being in Canada, the U.S., France, England, Asia and even Lichtenstein. And rather than just one sewing machine, Margarita now has 50 to produce tens of thousands each year.
Birds of Paradise Leggings. (Photo: Black Milk)
Amazingly, Margarita's growth has been without any advertising, just through word of mouth. (It doesn't hurt that socialite Paris Hilton owns a pair, and told her friends.) But Zimerman says she has even bigger dreams for her company. "In five years," she told From The Grapevine, "I would like to be 10 percent of Lululemon," referencing the popular industry leader in yoga pants. "I would be very happy then."
Zimerman's company is part of a larger trend. Victoria Keen, in New York City, has been designing her line, VKeen, since 2003, and was one of the first activewear designers to challenge the all-black pant. Her pioneering designs were inspired by her own life: "I was living a very busy school/work/social/active lifestyle in college, and I found a need for versatile, comfortable clothes I could wear all day. I wanted to be able to go from day to night, yoga to dinner without having to carry a lot of extra clothes around," said Keen.
So she set to work on making her own fabrics, based on her art, all of which she draws herself by hand. "My patterned artwork is always related to symbolism and the collective unconscious. Nature is always present in my drawings, too. My most recent print is the Lotus of Life print based on a lotus flower," said Keen of her design process.
Besides being comfortable as a bottom layer, leggings are also incredibly versatile and encourage pairing up with dresses and tunics (which are flattering and comfortable for many body types).
Paula Ivana Suhonen designs a wide variety of contemporary womenswear, including much more than leggings – but she always includes a complementary pair with each new seasonal collection. Her latest, from the company's "This is for you, Gram" collection honors the country artist via a superfun print featuring guitars, paisleys and a tattooed woman. These are definitely not your old-school yoga pants.
Black Milk clothing built its whole brand on over-the-top printed leggings, and the company offers all kinds of crazy prints, from Dalmatians, to Bugs on Acid, to "Star Wars." The made-in-Australia label starts with the idea that their pants should be as different from the plain black leggings as one can get. The worldwide response to them has been huge, with pop stars and celebs rocking the weirdest prints (of course).
Thread 4 Thought's all-organic cotton (with a bit of spandex) leggings come in a few different styles, like the Kamali pant, which offer a bit more coverage, in case you don't feel like wearing a tunic. That's the beauty of leggings – their versatility when it comes to both pattern, design and even fit.
Yoga pants make sense in a modern world, where many people work at home, or have multiple jobs that require them to switch hats – but not pants. When you're working as much as people today do, your leisure clothes become your work clothes – out of necessity, and certainly comfort. But don't you deserve comfortable clothes if you are working 10 or 11 hours (or more) a day?
Victoria Keen thinks stretchy pants just make sense: "The yoga pant represents an active lifestyle movement that is only getting bigger all the time. I saw an ad for office-appropriate yoga pants. Amazing, right?"
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