Going from spin class to street in the same outfit was unthinkable a few years ago – but, with the rise of the designer athleisure, not any more. Performance wear is increasingly becoming everyday wear, for reasons that have little to do with exercise. While boutique fitness classes and health-conscious living are on the rise – especially in China, with its 3,000 newly opened gyms in the past five years – much of sportswear is also being purchased just for leisure. Fashionable athletic apparel goes beyond basic trainers and leggings, and has been having a huge global impact on every sector of the industry. This has gone well beyond a trend.
Alexander Wang led the charge, taking style cues from cool urban kids for his edgy, luxury athleisure T by Alexander Wang line, launched in 2009. Other big-name designers and brands have followed: during the past year, for example, NikeLab has teamed up with Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci and Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing (read our profile on the creative director) to bring a luxury spin to its sportswear silhouettes. Even actual atheletes like Serena Williams has gotten into the game to produce her own line of feminine, casual, athleisure.
Athleisure can take several forms. You have the total look, with women wearing a baseball cap, sports bra top, leggings and trainers. But you also see urbanites mixing and matching sweatpants with heels or brogues, or suits with hoodies and trainers. These days jersey fabrics also translate to luxury, glamour and elegance.
The proliferation of trainer culture has also played a huge role in driving the designer athleisure trend; check out, for example, Gucci’s 24 Hour Ace campaign, featuring its latest trainers.
As well as Gucci, Versace, Marni, Givenchy, Maison Margiela, Saint Laurent and Prada all release a collection of trainers every season now.
Sportswear giants are also turning their kicks into pricey, limited-edition collectables, often via collaborations with celebs, such as Adidas Originals’ much-hyped Yeezy collection with Kanye West (see Kanye’s other fashion collaborations) and its silver Stan Smiths designed by Raf Simons, or Puma’s Fenty x Puma line of creepers, trainers and sandals created in partnership with Rihanna. Yeezy trainers as the new Louboutin heels? Don’t rule it out.