BLAME it on the Olympics. Fashion, like the rest of the planet, is about to high-dive into a period of sporting mania.
While not quite doubling as Olympics kit, new collections due in stores this month carry more than a hint of the sportswear aesthetic.
Think racer-back tops, cotton-cashmere hoodies, mesh fabrics, bodycon dresses, fitted leggings and even tracksuits all elevated to legitimate style status.
Not that you would contemplate actually exercising in this gear. At $279 for Acne’s metallic sweatshirt, say, or $189 for a pair of Nicholas leggings, the only kind of sweat this trend will induce is over the price.
”No, this is definitely not stuff you would wear to the gym,” says David Bush, head of fashion at David Jones. ”It’s very much a street fashion trend. Much of it’s in very high-tech fabrics with amazing properties or it’s in the more luxe fabrics, like merino tanks or cotton-cashmere tracksuits or silk jersey zip-through hoodies.
”You could see influences of it in several international collections last season and, locally, Josh Goot, Jac + Jack, Dion Lee and Ksubi have a strong sportswear look this season.
”It’s not just a fashion trend, it’s a lifestyle trend that has started to find its way into fashion – that relaxed, easy, active sportswear dressed up as fashion. It has a luxe feel so you feel like you are diving into your doona.”
Much of its popularity can be attributed to designer Stella McCartney, who has designed Britain’s Olympic uniform and has long incorporated a sporty style into her collections.
But it’s not just high fashion that is cashing in on stylish sportswear. At the other end of the fashion spectrum, legitimate exercise gear is also enjoying renewed interest, thanks to a growth in the number of women’s fitness outfitters such as lululemon athletica, Lorna Jane, Bloch and Icebreaker, which fuse aesthetics with high-performance functionality.
Lululemon, the pricey Canadian sportswear label which does yoga pants for $98, has embarked on an accelerated rollout of its brand in Australia. It now has seven stores in Melbourne and 22 around the country.
Last year, president Christine Day told analysts the company’s decision to more than triple its rollout plans in Australia was fuelled by sales growth of up to 30 per cent from its existing store network.
Lorna Jane Clarkson, founder of Lorna Jane, which has more than 120 stores in Australia and three in California, says sportswear is now designed to take women through their entire day, ”from dropping the kids off at school, to doing the grocery shopping and having an afternoon coffee with a girlfriend”.
”We are very lucky to not be feeling the strain of the current retail environment, as activewear is considered a crucial tool in living a healthy life, rather than a luxury purchase, say like buying a new dress.”
At New Zealand activewear brand Icebreaker, designers have fashion backgrounds and closely track seasonal trends.
”Our design inspiration comes from what’s happening in fashion,” says creative director Rob Achten. ”Fashion brands lead the trends, which is why we follow them as opposed to other sports brands.”
Malachi Moxon, who stocks UK cyclewear label Rapha at his Northside Wheelers store in Prahran, has noticed an increase in the range of cyclewear for women.
”Until recently,” he says, ”a lot of womenswear was incredibly bland and boring. There was a lot of pale pinks and flowers and women were just not interested. Rapha has been selling well because they specialise in stylish high-performance cycling gear in classic colours. Melbourne is such a stylish city, people want functionality in their sportswear but they don’t want to compromise on style. Why should you have to look daggy while you’re exercising?”
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