Athleisure & women’s fashion
Amid all the turbulence in the apparel industry over the past two years, there has been one bright spot: athleisure and comfort casual fashion. The athleisure sector has grown 42% in the last seven years, and by 2026, it is expected to cross $250 billion in total sales globally. The term “athleisure” is defined as “casual clothing designed to be worn both for exercising and for general use.” More than a simple trend, athleisure reflects a change in lifestyle propelled by increasing health consciousness, busy schedules, and relaxed standards of dressing.
Athleisure in India is a $1.6B market opportunity. Although the sector accounts for less than 5% of total apparel sales, it is growing more than 25% y-o-y. As such, this effortlessly stylish apparel movement is here to stay, and Indian women have far been underserved in this growing category.
Another crucial gap exists in India today: active wear has always been designed for the “ideal” body type. This marginalises many women, who are made to feel “guilty” about their size and fitness. Almost 50% of women in India feel excluded in this way. Most brands focus on only five standard sizes, and have ill-fitting clothes (chafing around thighs, standard lengths). In addition, women’s clothing has often neglected their comfort – among longstanding bugbears are a lack of pockets and poor- quality materials that cause excessive sweating.
Globally, community-first athleisure brands like Gymshark and lululemon have sparked a cultural revolution in women’s fashion. By embracing real women’s bodies, they have won over customers’ hearts and created an identity all women can relate with. This made us ask: why, despite having one of the largest number of women in the world and a growing conscientiousness in shoppers, is there no clear market leader in the women’s lifestyle and athleisure category?
Why Kalaari Invested in aastey
aastey is a lifestyle brand that we believe has the power to disrupt and transform traditional fashion, sports and active wear.
They offer a range of exclusive designs across the categories of performance fashion for essentials, activewear and athleisure, for women across all sizes.
Class leading and premium athleisure
aastey is leading product innovation by using sustainable fabrics and segmentation. The brand’s ethos is reflected in their cool, comfortable collections. Rather than traditional sizing, aastey’s sizes range from “lightening and moonlight, to sunshine and rainbow” with in-between sizes like S1-cloud between Small and Medium, as well as the option to choose between full-length or quarter-length leggings. Every product comes with a unique and uplifting quote printed inside like “hope your day is all rainbows”, reinforcing the feeling of body-positivity and mindfulness. We were impressed by the team’s focus on customer delight, right from easy product discovery to attractive and reusable packaging. Early customers loved the flexibility of choosing from 8 sizes, sustainable, breathable and high-quality fabrics with delightful packaging and community support.
Community-first D2C approach for building customer love
Even before launching commerce on their website, aastey has built an engaged community of over 14,000 women on social media in a very short span of time. Community influencers, models and experts routinely feature in their “live aastey” podcast, sharing views on body positivity and mindfulness. The aastey brand is built around a community-centric model with frequent collection drops, brand and artist collaborations as well as broader conversations on the relationship women share with their clothes. The team’s emphasis on creating unique and original content, community-led social events to drive commerce stood out for us.
Passionate and purpose-driven founders
The founders, Jeevika and Kanupriya, bonded over their common struggle with their bodies and soon discovered how universal body image issues are. When they understood how fast fashion was pressuring women to fit in, they decided to build a slow fashion athleisure wear brand where women find comfort in what they wear. Jeevika and Kanupriya understand their target market very well; their passion and clarity of thought stood out for us. Early signs of an engaged community and focus on long-term brand building strengthened our conviction in the team and product at a very early stage.
As a part of the CXXO programme, the investment in aastey holds a special place in our portfolio.
We believe strongly in aastey’s vision of building a size-inclusive and sustainable lifestyle brand with a special focus on women’s fashion, and we wish to support them in their journey of empowering thousands of women across the country.
Priyanka Gill, co-founder and President of the Good Glam Group, and founder of PopXo, who was a part of the CXXO investment committee says “There is clearly a huge market opportunity to create a leading D2C, women-centric athleisure brand that caters to the unique needs of Indian women. When we met Jeevika and Kanupriya, their passion and energy stood out for me, as they live and breathe the brand. I am thrilled to be a part of their journey as they build and scale a community and content-driven lifestyle brand”.
Managing Director, Vani Kola writes
“Technological innovations in fabrics and the body-positivity movement are spurring demand for athleisure products, a trend that we believe will fundamentally change women’s fashion. When we met Jeevika and Kanupriya – we truly saw them as changemakers who could create a vibrant lifestyle brand and community centred on centred on sustainable fashion. Their passion and energy, coupled with a deep understanding of women’s activewear needs, truly resonated with us. We are proud to be early partners in their journey through our flagship CXXO programme.”
Kalaari Capital is an early-stage, technology-focused venture capital firm based out of Bengaluru, India. Since 2006, Kalaari has empowered visionary entrepreneurs building unique solutions that reshape the way Indians live, work, consume and transact. The firm’s ethos is to partner early with founders and work with them to navigate the inevitable challenges of fostering ideas into successful businesses. At its core, Kalaari believes in building long-term relationships based on trust, transparency, authenticity, and respect.
If you are a female founder (or know female founder) building an early-stage company, write to us at email@example.com