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Fashion

Australian activewear: why Kanye West, the Kardashians and other influencers love it

Activewear is expected to outsell luxury fashion within two years, and Australian labels are expanding aggressively and gaining recognition around the world, impressing celebrities and influencers alike

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 June, 2018, 6:18am
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 June, 2018, 6:52pm

Athleisure is big business.

A market currently worth US$48 billion in the US alone, according to the NPD Group, athleisure – or sport-inspired clothing – is all over the catwalks and high street stores.

It’s of course part of a broader boom in activewear, an apparel segment that Morgan Stanley predicted in 2015 could grow 30 per cent to over US$350 billion globally by 2020. By the same year, according to Euromonitor, sportswear sales in China could eclipse those of luxury goods.

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Little wonder Melbourne-based high-performance sportswear brand 2XU has announced expansion plans in China.

Thanks to a deal stuck with the GXG menswear fashion group, 50 2XU stores are due to open across the country over the next three years.

Beyond 2XU, which is rapidly growing internationally – and, thanks to Kanye West, also gaining street cred – there has been a plethora of new activewear brand launches in Australia.

Here’s a round-up of some of the better-known names.

P.E. Nation

Sydney-based P.E Nation has achieved a lot of recognition, thanks to the profiles of the brand’s co-founders, Sydney It girls Pip Edwards and Claire Tregoning. Of course, plugs for P.E. Nation on Instagram and Snapchat by super influencers Kylie Jenner and Khloe and Kourtney Kardashian haven’t hurt.

Edwards and Tregoning met at Sass & Bide, where they worked in design positions, before Edwards went on to become design director at General Pants, the premier Australian streetwear chain with more than 50 stores in Australia and the US.

Over the past year, P.E Nation has won two of Australia’s most prestigious designer awards: best emerging brand at the 2017 Australian Fashion Laureate Awards, followed by the 2018 National Designer Award.

That is no mean feat for a vintage sportswear-inspired brand whose stocks in trade are “P.E.” logo emblazoned, colour-blocked crop tops, leggings, track pants and nylon spray jackets. Now offering womenswear, menswear, yoga, denim and swimwear, P.E. Nation is stocked in over 100 stores worldwide, including Lane Crawford and I.T. in Hong Kong, Net-a-Porter, Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus.

Dead Studios

In 2013, another General Pants alumnus – the company’s former head designer and menswear buyer, New Zealand-born graphic designer Sam Moore – launched his own line called Dead Studios, spotting a niche in the Australian market for streetwear with a sporty edge.

After launching menswear, Moore added womenswear in 2015, which now accounts for 60 per cent of the business, with activewear making up 40 per cent of that.

In October 2015, Kylie Jenner put Dead Studios women’s activewear on the map after posting images of herself on Instagram in the brand’s sports training tights – generating a 500 per cent traffic spike for deadstudios.com.au and a phone call from Hollywood gossip juggernaut TMZ asking what kind of endorsement deal Moore had struck with Jenner. None, according to Moore, who says he has only ever given products to celebrities, and has never paid influencer fees.

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Others photographed in Dead Studios swag include Jon Boyega, Ashanti, Sofia Richie, DJ Tigerlily, A$AP TyY and Khloe and Kourtney Kardashian.

Beyond its web store and flagships at Bondi Beach and soon, nearby Surry Hills, Dead Studios is stocked in over 60 stores in Australia, New Zealand and the US, including General Pants, Culture Kings, Urban Outfitters and theiconic.com.au.

Ten Pieces

Maurice Terzini has helmed almost 20 restaurants and bars in Sydney, Melbourne and Bali including the glamorous Bondi Icebergs Dining Room and Bar.

During Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia in 2015, Terzini and his partner Lucy Hinckfuss, who once ran her own fashion label, debuted a 10-piece unisex luxury basics line called Ten Pieces at Icebergs, staging a much buzzed-about show in and around the drained ocean pool. The line was picked up by General Pants and Germany’s MyTheresa.com.

The duo has now presented four collections at MBFWA. The latest is the ‘Rude’ Resort 2019 collection of elevated streetwear that included some louche merino wool tailoring and nylon spray jackets, alongside the brand’s signature hoodies and sweats.

According to a rep, the brand is currently in negotiations with retailers in Asia, the US and UK, with the new collection due to launch in a Bondi pop-up store and on tenpieces.com.au in September/October.

Stylerunner

Founded in 2012 by twin sisters Julie and Sali Stevanja, Styleunner is a multibrand e-commerce site specialising in premium activewear brands. The business grew a reported 1,736 per cent in its first three years – during which time Sali left the business – with Julie named young retail entrepreneur of the year at the World Retail Congress Awards in Dubai in 2016. Last year, at the age of 36, she made her debut on The Australian Financial Review’s ‘Young Rich’ list, with an estimated net wealth of A$30million (US$22.2 million).

Now shipping to 100 markets, Stylerunner currently stocks more than 40 brands including Adidas, Puma, Under Armour, Vans, Reebok and Champion, as well as Australia’s P.E. Nation, The Upside and 2XU. There are now also three private label brands: Stylerunner, a line of activewear basics; the premium Flightmode line; and streetwear line New Guard.

2XU

Australian high performance sports apparel company 2XU is stocked in 4,000 outlets in 71 countries and counts Olympians, US Navy Seals and NFL and NBA players among its customers.

The 2XU logo is also increasingly visible on the high street, where the company’s signature compression leggings, that were developed with the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and the Australian Institute of Sport to aid athletic performance, have also been adopted by many as fashion items.

Those photographed in the brand include Victoria Beckham, Sofia Vergara and Kim Kardashian – the latter has been promoting an ongoing collaboration between 2XU and Kanye West. Kicking off in early 2017 with some co-branded 2XU x Calabasas neoprene “Scuba” leggings, wetsuits and vests in Yeezy season 5, the collaboration has continued on into Yeezy seasons six and seven.

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2XU was founded in Melbourne in 2005 by former Australian advertising executive Clyde Davenport and New Zealanders Aidan Clarke and former champion triathlete Jamie Hunt – with LVMH’s Singapore-based private equity arm L Catterton Asia acquiring a 40 per cent stake in 2013. Around 50 per cent of 2XU’s A$75 million sales are from compression wear.