High fashion takes notes from sportswear
Once you had to choose between looking fashionable or sporty. The modern woman can be both
At his couture show for Chanel in January, Karl Lagerfeld sent his models down the catwalk sporting the very best the atelier had to offer - paired with sneakers. Lagerfeld followed up his style statement with yet more sneakers in his Chanel-themed autumn-winter collection, setting the tone for an extremely sporty 2014.
Lagerfeld has not been alone in turning to activewear for inspiration on the fashion front. Kenzo, Isabel Marant, Saint Laurent and Alexander Wang, among many others across the spectrum, have been responding to our need for practical pieces that suit our increasingly active lives. Gone are the days when you had to choose between being sporty and stylish - now there is a whole fashion system that caters to being both.
Chief among those answering this need are a group of online retailers set up to serve this niche. They include Net-a-Sporter, the new activewear focused section at Net-a-Porter, and Mode Sportif, the Australian e-commerce site that owner Deborah Symond launched last year to address her desire for a wardrobe that served all aspects of her life.
"I started to mix my favourite fashion focused activewear with key leisurewear pieces, my go-to leggings styled with luxurious basics, wearing slides to and from yoga and working fashion sneakers with an active or sports luxe look for the weekend," she says.
"The Mode Sportif style of dressing is a lifestyle, and I saw a gap in the market to deliver a designer edit of both leisurewear and activewear to define off-duty dressing for the modern woman."
That off-duty way of dressing now includes a range of items that bridge the gap between the gym and the restaurant. Take the humble sweatshirt, once a boring staple, now elevated by the likes of J. Crew and Isabel Marant to a must-have. Pair yours with track pants en route to the gym, or with a leather skirt by day or night, and you now have one of the most versatile pieces in your wardrobe.
Turn to Fendi or Saint Laurent this season and you can even take yours studded, embellished or emblazoned with fur. Sneakers are totally acceptable fashion wear now, whether you choose an animal print from Isabel Marant, a leather pair from Valentino, or the real deal courtesy of Nike's Flyknits - which are a fashion week must-have for many bloggers. When it comes to trousers, look for silky track pants such as those just unveiled as part of Cara Delevingne's collaboration with DKNY. Style them up with minimal sandals or down with high tops and you have another crossover item that is as sporty as it is chic.
It's a theme that is continuing on the high street, too. Topshop has tapped Beyoncé to collaborate on a new range of active, sports and dance wear to launch next autumn, while H&M's Alexander Wang designer collaboration is almost exclusively activewear.
A new wave of sports specific brands have added a touch of high-fashion to their performance-focused clothing. Cycling wear label Rapha, for example, combines technical fabrics with elegant shapes in its City collection, with pieces such as the breton top, which will look as good with your leggings as it will with your leather trousers. The brand's printed bomber jacket may look like a piece of streetwear, but is also reflective, making it a genuine article of cycling gear that also happens to be bang on trend. Vie, an Australian label stocked at Flex Studio, has done something similar, creating pieces such as leopard-print shorts and bra tops in moisture absorbent merino wool.
When it comes to more gym-focused clothing, you also have the likes of Lucas Hugh and The Upside. Both are cult names among people who spend as much time and effort on their workout wardrobes as they do on their daywear. Their printed performance wear is as much of a status symbol as a branded high-end handbag.
As Symond explains: "Activewear is exciting, and the fusion between high fashion and high performance by labels like Lucas Hugh and The Upside is delivering a product that women want to wear beyond the gym.
"Comfort, function and fashion are all coming together to define a new style of dressing. This isn't merely trend-driven, this is catering to a lifestyle."
Therein lies the crux of the issue. The healthy side of our lives has finally become as fashionable as the professional and the social, creating a desire for a wardrobe that delivers on the fashion front for both.
These days it's as stylish to be savvy about your green juices as it is to be about your Givenchy, as hip to be dedicated to visiting the newest kind of barre class as it is to be hitting that new restaurant, and our wardrobes reflect that.
"Healthy living is celebrated," Symond says. "And the activewear market is catering to the changing nature of the modern woman's lifestyle."
Cara Delevingne x DKNY satin crepe tailored pants (HK$1,860), bomber jacket (HK$2,580) from Net-a-Porter.com
Rapha merino breton (US$170) from rapha.cc
Equipment silk sweatshirt (A$305, HK$2,031) from modesportif.com
The Upside printed leggings (A$159) from modesportif.com
Nike Flyknit trainers from Nike, G/F Chinachem Leighton Plaza, 29 Leighton Rd, Causeway Bay. Inquiries: 2838 1169
Vie black leopard print shorts (HK$590) and zip bra top (HK$590) from Flex Central, 15-17 Wyndham St, 3/F Man Cheung Building, Central