Fashion’s bright sport

As the lines between regular clothing and sportswear blur, more designers are teaming up with sports brands to create a new genre of apparel

Once upon a time, fashion designers would have baulked at the idea of creating sportswear. After all, was fashion not about fantasy, an occasion, a showcase? And sportswear was unsexy, none of those things. As Karl Lagerfeld famously said: “Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life so you bought some sweatpants.”

Then the world picked up pace and as people began juggling a burgeoning number of roles, places and activities, the lines between everything got muddied. Sneakers were worn to work; sweatpants to nightclubs (sorry, Karl); and yoga pants hit up the grocery store almost as many times as they went downward dog.

All of which made designers realise that they needed to produce clothes that fit into this new crossover lifestyle. At the same time, sportswear brands raced to ace their design game. Nike president Trevor Edwards told Business of Fashion last year: “One of the things that we recognise, certainly in the women’s business, is that there is no performance without style.”

Or maybe it was the money. According to Bloomberg, activewear sales increased 14 per cent year-on-year compared to total apparel sales in 2015—a “rare bright spot in an otherwise sluggish clothing industry”.

Whatever the case, both fashion labels (from traditional houses to newer ventures by celebrities) and sportswear companies are diving in on the trend. The result? An impressive number of collaborations between the two industries in recent years that are rewriting the genre on their own. Here are five game-changers to watch.


Vetements X just about everybody

This cult couture Paris label broke new ground at its Spring-Summer 2017 show in July, collaborating with not just one, but 17 companies on 54 looks. Some of its collaborators included outdoor sport brands Canada Goose and Eastpak, whose familiar designs the Vetements design team reworked with pimped-up prints and a high-fashion aesthetic. Each brand will produce the goods for Vetements, which ensures the performance of each piece. Vetements’ Spring-Summer 2017 collection will retail from November.

NikeLab X Riccardo Tisci

Following the roaring success of Balmain designer Olivier Rousteing’s collection with NikeLab (the sportswear brand’s design-driven arm) comes this one with Givenchy creative head Riccardo Tisci, who first worked with Nike on a version of the classic Air Force One sneakers in February. His second collaboration with the brand encompasses two capsule collections that celebrate summer and sports, and come flavoured with his signature bold prints combined with Nike’s performance technologies, such as Dri-FIT and Flyknit.

Adidas X Kanye West Yeezy

Never mind that some of West’s Yeezy shoe designs for Nike never made it to retail, or that influential New York Times fashion critic Cathy Horyn denounced the artiste’s design leanings, saying the “drab, broken-down basics” of his independent Yeezy Season 2 collection proved he can’t be taken seriously as a designer. Anything from Ye still flies off the shelves and Adidas has taken note. The sportswear brand first worked with West in 2014 on a Yeezy for Adidas Originals hip-hop fashion line; in July, it signed a fresh partnership with the megastar to kick off a new adidas + Kanye West line plus Yeezy-branded stores—a move that it ambitiously called “the most significant partnership ever created between an athletic brand and a non-athlete”.

sportswear3Puma X Rihanna

If the immense fashion sway that celebs-slash-amateur-fashion-designers possess is the reason why sportswear brands are zeroing in on them as collaborators, then Puma’s tapping Rihanna for its Fenty Puma by Rihanna collection makes perfect sense. Their first partnership resulted in a series of creepers, thick-soled shoes that became the must-have footwear of 2015. Earlier this year, Rihanna released her first full collection for the German brand. The Japanese-inspired range is packed with gender-neutral streetwear styles that have a sexy, tough slant to them—and while not groundbreaking, there’s no doubt they will sell. The collection will retail from September.

Bandier X Cushnie et Ochs

Cushnie et Ochs counts among its fans Michelle Obama and Karlie Kloss—though they know the brand more for its modern, easy-to-wear gowns. Now the New York-based fashion label has teamed up with fitness emporium Bandier to create a line of activewear that is functional, yet—and this is what sets it apart—wouldn’t look out of place in a club, on the stage or paired with other pieces at a formal dinner. The all-black pieces are capable of stretching eight ways and have been sliced with lasers to create flattering, dramatic cutouts. Faux leather accents and crisscross straps only serve to raise the style quotient of this covetable collection.



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