July 25, 2024

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Women’s Health and Self-Care Fashion: Blurring the Lines Between Hygiene, Apparel and Technology

4 min read

The current emphasis on wellness, both mental and physical, is being amplified in the lead-up to the Paris 2024 Olympics, creating opportunities for brands able to leverage the right emotive marketing messages, in particular when targeting female consumers, as, for the first time in Olympic history, the Games will achieve full gender parity. But beyond the Games, opportunities span from nutrition to hygiene and appliances, as the femtech industry opens new horizons…

Wellness at the forefront of consumers’ lifestyles

Day-to-day stresses to financial pressures since the cost-of-living crisis, political uncertainties in Europe and the Middle East, and the climate change emergency have created a permanent state of crisis. This is taking its toll on consumers everywhere, especially among female consumers and the younger cohorts. According to Euromonitor’s Voice of the Consumer: Health and Nutrition Survey, fielded January to February 2024, 39% of Gen Z individuals and 36% of millennials experience daily stress and anxiety.

In this context, consumers are seeking solutions to improve both their physical and their mental wellbeing and are looking for ways to escape their worries and break away from the daily mundane, increasingly opting for brands, products and services that simplify their lives and help them optimise their health and enhance how they look and feel about themselves.Chart showing Consumers Looking for New Solutions to Prevent or Treat Key Health IssuesThe health focus directly benefits female sportswear but not only

Sportswear is a category directly benefiting from consumers’ current emphasis on wellness and will further benefit from the Paris 2024 Olympics and the sponsorships around the event, with forecast global growth of 4% in 2024 vs 2% for overall apparel and footwear. We expect the event to boost female sportswear sales, in particular, with the Games achieving full gender parity for the first time in Olympic history.

The increasing popularity of women’s football has brought attention to the vast opportunities for apparel and sports brands willing to invest in women’s sports. Attendance, viewership and fan engagement call for sponsoring of teams and female athletes as the easy way in.

In this context, many sportswear players are actively targeting women, who have previously been less well served than men. Puma has invested in a research study to explore ACL injuries in women, Nike has launched Coaching HER, a campaign to educate coaches on how to lead young women in sports, and ASICS has launched a women’s campaign highlighting the positive impact of exercise on mental health.

Women’s sportswear accounted for USD143 billion globally in 2023, ie 36% of global sportswear sales, despite growing faster than men’s sportswear sales over 2018-2023

Source: Euromonitor Apparel and Footwear 2024 Edition

Chart showing Share of Women’s Items in Sports Apparel and Sports Footwear 2016-2024If the growing interest in women’s sports presents a direct opportunity for sports and apparel brands, this is having a ripple effect that creates opportunities beyond the sports arena through an increased offering of female-specific products, spanning functional drinks and nutrient-rich meal plans to smart wearables, fitness apps, custom vitamin supplements or beauty brands, as seen with the rise of female athletes endorsing beauty brands, like England rugby player Holly Aitchison for Clinique, for example.

The self-care narrative drives adoption of femtech and blurs the lines across beauty, health and fashion

Like male consumers, women take a pragmatic approach to their health, shifting away from time-consuming, multi-step regimes, and increasingly embrace tech and scientific advancements to achieve their health goals. Hence, the self-care narrative has been driving the integration of femtech into new product types, blurring the lines across beauty, health, fashion and hygiene as consumers become more comfortable using digital tools for health-related information.

50% of global female consumers use a phone app to manage activities, exercise and calorie counting in 2023 and 51% of them expect to increase spending on health and wellness in the next year

Source: Euromonitor Voice of the Consumer Survey, 2024 

In this context, the femtech market, which has historically leant towards fertility and pregnancy products, is offering new solutions that optimise women’s wellbeing and preventive health. For example, US femtech company Bloomer Tech has created a bra with electrocardiogram sensors and machine learning algorithms in the fabric. 21Grams, part of Real Chemistry, has partnered with period product company Moons to launch Cure Cup, the first menstrual cup that collects period blood for stem cell research.

Oya Femtech Apparel has launched a range of female-specific activewear including patent-pending breathable leggings and bras designed to absorb moisture and reduce bacteria, while Femography, the femtech arm of B2B apparel manufacturer MAS Holdings, has developed a patented Anti-Flush™ Technology, that helps manage hot flushes and night sweats associated with the menopause, and is committed to lifting taboos with the launch of MTick, an accreditation for menopause-friendly products that is already available on hundreds of SKUs in Boots and Tesco stores across the UK.

As conversations around women’s bodies continue to evolve, more opportunities will arise for brands able to develop solutions tailored to female consumers, and those already investing in this today will be best positioned to thrive.

For more information on the topic of women’s health and sportswear, please read our briefing, Transforming Women’s Health: Empowering Women Through the Life Cycle,  and our report, World Market for Apparel and Footwear.


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