Or maybe its the sportification of luxury.
Both directions of influence tell a story with the same conclusion: athleticism is more in style than ever. And this shouldn’t be a surprise. Luxury goods and the greater fashion industry inherently value beauty and aesthetics. Whether by social construction or otherwise, bodily beauty has been defined as smooth muscle tone and proportion, neither of which are easy to achieve without the sweat and tears of intense exercise.
As I tell myself when the temptation to skip the gym creeps: a fit body will always be in style.
From my limited recollection, the two worlds of sport and luxury were mutually exclusive until the last ten years, when brands like Y-3 were born. Today, a lengthy list of designers and labels blend the two worlds to varying degrees, for ‘active’ clothing you can mix into a daily wardrobe. What you choose depends on what you happen to be doing that day, or at that moment. Or, whatever look you desire.
Sneakers in particular, as a shoe type and genre, have exploded in the luxury fashion world. Valentino Garavani probably never guessed his eponymous line would produce haute, comfy footwear made from panels of mesh, rubber, and suede. Likewise for historic couturiers Hubert de Givenchy, Cristobal Balenciaga, and Jeanne Lanvin.
Some of the more and lesser known examples of sport x luxury crossovers:
- Adidas x Stella McCartney
- Adidas x Rick Owens
- lululemon athletica
- Helmut Lang
- Nike x Undercover
- Common Projects
- Russell Westbrook xo Barney’s New York
- Iffley Road
I have always embraced sport x luxury. When I first discovered lululemon, nearly five years ago, I was taken with its stretchy synthetic, nearly indestructible fabrics and athletic cuts. That I could get away with wearing them to work and as part of dressier ensembles was a revelation.
That standard has changed for the brand, but the principle lives on. Close-fit, comfortable clothing you might wear to work out can also be high quality, long-lasting, and look expensive.
Many designers who got their start in traditional fashion realms, like Rick Owens, design sleek, monochromatic pieces, much like functional mainstream brands like lululemon. However, flowing fabric and architectural drape does not lend itself to movement or high intensity interval training (HIIT). Nor do ‘fashion sneakers,’ which lean toward form more than function.
What’s clear is the sport x luxury dynamic is not a trend. The boundary will blur even more, as cultural activities and social conventions evolve. Luxury will get sportier, and sport will become more luxurious.