When a historic luxury brand like Louis Vuitton hires streetwear label Off-White™’s founder Virgil Abloh as its menswear Artistic Director, you know that sportswear no longer has any boundaries. With established luxury brands jumping on the athleisure trend to increase their sales, it means its influence is undeniable: we have changed the way we dress. This spread of sportswear to everyday life is linked to society’s growing obsession with ourselves and our own physical image and the desire to appear healthy and beautiful, such that the daily dress code is becoming increasingly casual.
From athleisure the look has evolved into a mix of sports and streetwear, wherein the key silhouettes dedicated to the world of athletics, reworked in technical fabrics, comprise an everyday, 24/7 wardrobe. Suddenly we have celebrities and influencers promoting the casual sporty look by wearing tracksuits with heels, or luxury-priced hoodies, fuelling consumers’ desires for this fashionable sportswear style. Six newcomers to the world of sport and street fashion share the same philosophy: that there is still much to be explored in high-style performance wear, which has the potential to cater to all customers in the future. It’s no longer a trend; it’s a lifestyle.
Read on below to find out about six of the best brands taking luxury sportswear into everyday wear.
This high society sportswear line has already gained fans such as the Duchess of Cambridge and her sister Pippa Middleton, top models Elle MacPherson and Karolina Kurkova, fitness blogger Faya Saunderse and even fellow designer Victoria Beckham.
Creative Director Stefanï Grosse cut her teeth working at Donna Karan, Calvin Klein and Nicole Farhi, which trained her with a very different approach and design aesthetic than traditional sportswear designers. Stefani underlines how the success of luxe sportswear will never fear a slowing down of any sorts, because now athleticism is at the center of our lives. “There is no reason why sport should be treated differently to well-thought-out day wear or formal wear. Fitness wear is becoming more fashionable because women who usually pay attention to their appearance and spend a fair bit of money on their look, do have the desire to look great, no matter what they do. Gyms, sports clubs and country clubs are also a social platform, where people meet, do sport and generally spend quite a lot of time at– similar to restaurants and cafes. Of course, there is a great importance in functionality, sports clothes need to be functional, durable and comfortable! The versatility of athleisure means it also appeals to those not planning on doing workout, there is less maintenance to the clothes and the performance properties means it will keep them cool and together throughout the day.”
Angelys Balek introduces a unique collection of swimwear as well as the first active clothing line that incorporates the brand’s signature prints, inspired by nature. It invites women to become part of the naturalistic and all-encompassing microcosm of Angelys Balek known as #ABworld. Balek’s use of original prints (based on her own illustrations), unusual European and Thai textiles, and an emphasis on creating wearable art that skews classy rather than kitschy. “Our customers are the fashion-forward ladies who love to look good and feel good. She might wear a swimsuit to lounge around the pool, or wear our activewear to walk around the gym, but she doesn’t necessarily want to swim or want to work out. She just loves to look good doing it. The lines between sport and street is non existent and I believe that what happened at Louis Vuitton will keep going on for a very long time, as it’s becoming a cultural change not just a fashion moment.”
NO KA ‘OI, meaning “the best” in Hawaiian, is a design system inspired by the power of nature and created with superior Italian design sensibility. Founder and Creative Director Simona Finelli created NO KA’OI in 2014 from her interest in wellness, art, beauty and contemporary culture. The collections are characterized by color-block design, an emphasis on construction, eclectic materials, fabrics and color choice. NO KA‘OI presents a new path, bridging the gap between ready-to-wear, activewear and streetwear. The brand has also introduced the concept of “Action Couture”; or high-performance garments that combine comfort and design.
Simona believes her line is a natural consequence to a movement taking place spontaneously: “I have embraced the challenge of responding to this movement with collections that combine elements of high-quality design with athletic and streetwear details. My designs function interchangeably between these lifestyles and I envision a world with no boundaries, age, or stereotypes. NO KA ‘OI women are worldwide, and I celebrate this diversity. I see luxe sportswear continuing to become more of the mainstream style. There will be a complete fusion of the separate worlds and fashion, street, and activewear will be unified rather than existing as different entities. For example, beautiful sportswear will be worn from daily life to the next Olympic games. I think we will see a fashion approach with athletes dressed in activewear that is more beautiful than just technical. It will become the norm. I approach my designs with this mindset.”
This organic cotton technical-knitwear line offers an unconventional approach to the activewear and fashion markets, incorporating high-end fashion constructions with contemporary sportswear aesthetic, through merging directional design, textile innovation and sustainable manufacturing. Laura May, the creative force behind the label, is commited to bringing the conversation to another level. Sports wear is having its biggest moment since the ’90s, but her intention is different than that of big corporations, and instead takes the opportunity to present a different approach based on sunstainable production that will pay off in the long run. The future of sportswear should involve pushing the boundaries of sustainability in design and manufacturing, because the majority of sports fashion is made from synthetic fibers including polyester and plastics with a lot of fabric wastage. Adidas has committed to eliminating the use of “virgin” plastic– including polyester– by the year 2024. All brands should make this commitment especially the other majors in the industry who have the power and influence to lead the way.”
In the sportswear vein but with an erotic-chic touch, body-conscious collection Fantabody is designed for women who want to express their personality freely. The collection is aimed at “real” girls, through the motto ‘be the girl you want to be,’ like celebrity fans Dua Lipa, Solange Knowles and MIA, who can’t live without the brand. The idea for Fantabody took shape somewhere between the vibrations of a Dub piece and a pile of photography magazines from the ‘80s and ‘90s that founder Carolina Amoretti had collected, all of which she claims influenced the aesthetics of the brand. Working with images- in a historical period in which the human eye is overloaded with information through social media- she culls down the important visuals for a sleek and sexy minimalistic line.
Carolina believes that instead of following trends, which seems today almost mandatory for a brand’s success, a better approach is to invoke fun “without too many mental trips.” She says “I think that in today’s world, trends change cyclically and come back in new forms. Increasingly, streetwear is back but in a more sophisticated version than that of the ‘80s, so we are seeing it on the street and on catwalks. Yet it is more accessible, less exclusive. If this helps to balance social inequalities, standardize cultures, customs and thinking, I would like to say that I am part of it.”
Young British label Charlie Cohen translates advanced performance technology into contemporary womenswear and menswear. Founded on the core values of sustainability and transparency, the brand philosophy is defined by the words of its creator who believes luxe sportswear has more to do with the intention of the wearer than the pieces themselves. The same style could be worn as sportswear on the court or streetwear on the street, as she believes sportswear is about a garments function whereas streetwear is more about its meaning and cultural context. “I think sportswear as streetwear is helping to democratize fashion – especially within the luxury market. It speaks to a much more diverse audience in what has historically been an elitist industry, as it’s very community-driven. I think it also represents a movement towards blurring of gender boundaries and of consumers generally asking for more purpose from their clothes than just aesthetic. Advancements in textiles and construction make it possible to translate sports performance technology into much more fashion-led silhouettes- and if you can have both, why wouldn’t you?”
- Tora Northman/Hypebae