Are Roomy Pants Hot or Not? FT and Others Weigh In
Is this athleisure look hot or not? You decide.
“What’s Hot? What’s Not?” was the topic for real estate and retail pros gathered this week in Minneapolis to hear fashion, restaurant and franchise gurus, including our own Tom Kaiser of Franchise Times, at a Minnesota Shopping Center Association event.
Some were obvious: Pizza is hot, as anyone knows watching all the quick-make franchises popping up. Taprooms are hot, too, the panelists opined.
So are the ‘70s, although my tablemate groaned when panelist Allison Kaplan, of Mpls.St. Paul Magazine, predicted the resurrection of the elephant-leg pant. Sure, we rocked the look back then, long before four feet of extra width ballooning from our legs were no problem. Today is a different story.
Ugg boots are not hot, obviously, especially not in the North where everybody has three pairs in the back of their closets, all hideously stained because they can’t withstand a whiff of ice, snow or slush. The only place they work is Southern California or indoors.
Nor are cupcakes, because no one eats carbs anymore in the form of bread—they’re too busy drinking their carbs in the taprooms. And e-cigarettes were deemed not hot, but don’t tell Chip Paul, CEO of the franchise Palm Beach Vapors, who told me last year he’s trying to expand his offerings into marijuana. Everybody knows that pot is hot, hot, hot.
Panel moderator Bruce Carlson, VP at Doran Cos., took offense at one pronouncement: Wearing a sportcoat, white shirt and jeans is NOT HOT, the panelists declared, which was Carlson’s exact outfit. Carlson hit back, perhaps on behalf of every middle-aged, male real estate, franchise and development exec in America.
“I’m not going down alone on this one,” Carlson declared, running around the room and finding other men with the same outfit. “Stand up!” he said to one.
Franchise Times’ Kaiser shared many insights with the crowd, but in one case he stood in strong opposition to his other panelists, who declared “athleisure” to be hot.
“Wearing fitness clothes when you’re not working out, it’s hotter than ever,” Kaplan said, pointing to Athleta and Lululemon as the old guard in the category, but to newcomer Kit & Ace, as well. “It’s owned by the son and wife of Lululemon’s founder, so they can afford to open 60 stores.”
At a local Kit and Ace “showroom,” as the founders call it, “they have clothing, but they have wine tastings and art on the walls. They have technical cashmere that you can wash,” Kaplan said, explaining that the most popular retailers today are selling an “experience” that includes cocktail samplings and more, rather than just clothes.
Carlson indicated that might be a millennial thing. “I like to go to a store and sample Scotch, too, and it’s called the Monte Carlo,” he said, referring to a famous local bar and restaurant.
Kaiser was having none of it. “I see athleisure as a fad,” he said, although he qualified by saying, “I’m not in the fashion game.”
Said Carlson: “You look great.”
Said Kaiser, pointing to his monochromatic outfit. “Thank you,” and someone in the audience shouted, “Gray is the new orange.”
Said Kaiser, “It’s like in the ‘90s, we all dressed like we were going mountain climbing. Are we really exercising that much?” All the women in the audience, dressed in our comfortable, roomy “athleisure” pants, squirmed in our seats but didn’t want to answer.