Luxe sportswear style isn’t going anywhere. Dirk Schönberger, Creative Director of the Adidas Sports Style Division declared, “it’s a moment of sportswear in fashion,” and it seems to be a lasting one. The influence of activewear abounds, from the catwalks of Alexander Wang to Kanye West's Yeezy collection. Stella McCartney is collaborating with Adidas and Chanel has brought out its own trainers.
But when did fashion get so into fitness? Not long ago, pairing sneakers with jeans would have branded you a gym-bunny and wearing running leggings anywhere other than a park would have raised eyebrows.
It's possible that the sports luxe trend grew from the fashion world-endorsed clean eating movement. If you’re going to spend hours each week working out, you don’t want it be in ill-fitting shorts and baggy tees. While actual sports might have ignited the trend, the music and fashion industries have stoked the fire. We've taken a closer look at the contemporary evolution of sports clothing.
Musicians and athleisure
Sportswear style has been wrested from the grip of yummy mummies and fitness aficionados and given an appealing dose of grit. Labels Lost & Found Rooms, Off-White and most notably Hood By Air are responsible for this change.
The latter’s ready-to-wear 2016 collection was unveiled in New York with a dramatic flourish, set to Beyoncé’s ‘Formation’. Shayne Oliver’s decision to align his brand with politically charged issues was echoed in the clothes themselves, with corsets fashioned out of airport baggage tape referencing the current refugee crisis.
Beyoncé’s own Ivy Park collection echoes Hood By Air in positioning activewear as a lifestyle choice. The monochromatic palette is enlivened with flashes of bold blue (a likely nod to daughter Blue Ivy) and rendered in close-fitting leggings, crop tops and micro shorts plastered with the brand name. The aesthetic reflects the essence of its creator – bold, confident, and utterly unapologetic.
Kanye West's label Yeezy is characterised by clothing that flouts practicality, instead emulating the enigmatic musician’s own interpretation of sports luxe. It features graphic tees, oversized jumpers and distressed details, all in elegantly muted tones. Like Hood By Air, the Yeezy Season 3 catwalk was heavily politicised, opening with over 1,000 people crammed into an overflowing pen and featuring several references to Black Lives Matter.
It’s not just celebrities who are pushing the sports luxe trend forwards. Alexander Wang, who has collaborated with big names and high-street brands including Balenciaga and H&M, attributes his near-universal appeal to what he calls “active, easy” wear. His brand is synonymous with sportswear, despite the fact that the designer himself has confessed to never setting foot in a gym. For Wang and those buying his clothes, activewear is an aesthetic.
Sportswear in fashion also has a subversive edge: the insouciance with which Karl Lagerfeld paired Chanel sneakers and couture on Cara Delevingne in 2014 was well-received by critics. Not only did this match the model’s own laid-back attitude, it signalled the rise of the versatile high-fashion sneaker.
Done right, trainers can give formalwear a contemporary edge – think Leonardo DiCaprio wearing a collarless black suit and matching plimsolls on the red carpet. Trousers with a slim, tapered leg create a refined silhouette, and work well with monochrome Y-3 trainers.
The ubiquitous Adidas Stan Smith trainer also complements tailored clothing – try cropped trousers with distressed jeans or ankle-length trousers. Pharrell Williams' collection for the brand features colourful palm prints in vibrant green or bold – perfect for adding a touch of summer to your outfit.
From high fashion to high performance – Stella McCartney’s 2016 Adidas collaboration collection put practicality and technical detail first. This is sportswear style that delivers on the promise to keep you comfortable while you work up a sweat.
Cuts and fabrics were chosen to optimise performance rather than solely for their aesthetic appeal. Lightweight materials and internal cooling spots have been placed inside Stella McCartney’s sports clothing to target the parts of the body that get hottest during a workout. The designer’s choice of prints and colours give yoga clothes a bohemian aura, while the fabrics themselves allow for maximum stretch and flexibility.
Whether it's high-end labels such as Chanel and Stella McCartney, or musicians-turned-designers collaborating with established activewear brands, the sports luxe trend occupies a unique position on the runway and in the street. Urban culture and current affairs are fused to create directional clothing with a functional, high-performance edge – but whether it ever sees the inside of a gym is another matter.