The first time I wrote about the fashion and sport trend was in 2007. Jean Paul Gaultier had just installed glittering aerobics machines on his runway and designers like Dries Van Noten showed luxe anoraks, track pants, and sneakers. Stella McCartney had staged the first runway presentation in London for her collaboration with Adidas. Varsity jackets, mesh, and racing stripes found their way off the streets and into the department stores.
So here we are again, seven years later, and this time even Prada and Gucci are in the sporting mood with tube socks and basketball shorts, and models wore knee and elbow pads and couture Massaro sneakers in Chanel’s spring 2014 couture show. A little déjà vu is inherent to fashion’s cyclical nature, of course, but with sportswear taking the lead, the influence of activewear has only been gaining momentum. Indeed, this ready-for-action attitude has been an indispensible part of ready-to-wear for the past century. We’ve seen it transpire in literal iteration as well as within the subtleties of fabric innovation.
Coco Chanel discovered jersey in 1914, functional fabrics were all-important during the Second World War, Claire McCardell brought ballet flats out of the studio in the 1942, Pierre Cardin embraced metallic leggings and jumpsuits in the 1960s, crop tops and baseball hats took up the mainstream in the ‘90s, and in 2003, model Natalia Vodianova glided down the Chanel runway holding a surfboard. We might not have Azzedine Alaïa’s body-con dresses or comfortable skinny jeans without references to Jane Fonda’s spandex sportswear. Plus, your metallic tee and wet-look leggings are possible thanks to technical fabrics originally developed for a less than fashion-forward function.
This year though, as sport and fashion have once again come to the forefront of trend reports, there’s a new, even more lasting impression. Trends have always had an influence on activewear, but there has been a surge of reciprocity producing a wide range of collaborations and stylish gym kits that blur the lines of street and sport. Luxury fashion retailers are expanding their activewear offerings, designers are producing their own lines of workout gear, and brands like Nike and Adidas have given us an excuse not to change after a pilates class. Plus, that whole “normcore” conversation? A baseball hat, Patagonia fleece, and New Balance sneakers might be fashionably bland, but they also make it easy to hit the park and the bar in one afternoon.
The second time around, the collision of fashion and sport feels less like a trend and more like a movement. There is a very important line between athletic-inspired workwear and wearing yoga pants to the office, but if this is a sign of a healthy and fit lifestyle going mainstream I will gladly tip my glass of green juice to that.