It's no wonder sportswear has grown to inspire ready-to-wear. We haven't got a graph or a pie chart handy to back up this theory, but it appears that the percentage of time wearing what we call activewear is starting to match the time we wear, well, just about everything else.
Everybody will have noticed that working out has become much more than a health-driven obligation. Of course, what we are wearing has had to up its game to match our motivation. Evening trousers over a bodysuit or leotard that take you from ballet beautiful to a easy and chic for a quick coffee and catch-up. Tight leggings that, post TRX training, make you feel sleek and organised with the five minutes extra you have to grab lunch. A tank top that you literally never want to take off, because its 5 times more comfortable than any bra you own. Running shorts that are elegant, full stop. Designer leggings that make you feel even more like the dream version of you that yoga every Sunday morning is steadily enabling you to realise.
Designer hoodies have had their day in the sun again – thanks, P.E. Nation! – because although it’s great to wear sportswear for doing sport, it’s even more enjoyable to wear when you’re not. Let’s keep them guessing on when or if indeed you ever went for that run? We’ll call it lifestyle fit. After all, we’re quietly confident that we look good picking up Himalayan salt from Wholefoods in a sweatshirt and leggings.
Crouching tiger, hidden side split
As Lena Perminova on a pilates reformer well knows, the best activewear is now phenomenally flexible, radically chic and downright impressive. Unlike the impractical items we absolutely adore (shoes that feel as if they’re made entirely of feathers), your workout gear has to perform. Stella McCartney, reigning queen of the modern woman's lifestyle, has collaborated with Adidas on her high-performance activewear line for over ten years now. In other words, nobody has perfected sportswear quite like Stella. It’s equal parts fashionable and functional. The range often follows a ballet-inspired colour palette – fleshy nudes, soft greys, pastel pinks – and is broken up with a few bright colours to reflect the mood of the season. Her signature shorts-over-tights combination, a jogging bottoms stroke of genius, allows for lots of movement (karate-kicks if need be) and is simply fabulous.
This renaissance period of women's activewear that we are in has led to the launch of labels such as Callens, an Italian luxury sportswear brand that designs garments which are just as at home at high tea at Claridge's as they are on an anti-gravity bike at Equinox. With the rapid technical advancement in fabrics, and refinement in shape and fit, sweating is something that we do but no longer see. Even something as humble as a T-shirt from Nike uses body heat mapping, which is as progressive as it sounds. Y-3, the longstanding collaboration between Yohji Yamamoto and Adidas, still creates instant cult classics.Y-3 does the kind of sportswear that transcends its intended purpose.
Just like baseball, cricket, football or rugby, activewear has its seasons. The difference is that our “season” kicks off with models walking in Paris, Milan, New York and London and essentially ends with the same thing. The labels we love are inspired by ready-to-wear trends of the season, and in reverse, trends in activewear are duly noted by those in couture. (Sequined gowns and sneakers ringing any bells?) Practically speaking, your activewear wardrobe has to suit the different kinds of sports you like to take part in, whether that’s fast-paced window shopping or aerial yoga. It’s important to have the right support in running clothes: tanks that don’t expose anything when doing upside down stretches; tights that stay-up when dancing; or a pair of cotton shorts to throw on after a swim in the ocean. Activewear for women is a wonderful section in fashion, because it’s the clothes you wear, just for you.