As comfort competes for a place in the fashion arena during NYFW, sports brands jump on board the runway. WGSN’s Sarah Owen reports.
If you’ve caught any of the New York Fashion Week shows this season, you’ll agree that sportswear dominated the catwalk. It’s fair to say the intersection of sportswear and high-end fashion has superseded everyone’s expectations. But herein lies the problem. There are still a handful of terms being thrown around to describe this emerging shift in fashion – think athleisure, streetwear, and sportswear – but none that really do it justice. The enigmatic, all-embracing trend invaded the fashion world many moons ago, but now it’s reached a level of mass-acceptance that is further fueling consumer demand.
This blurring of style and comfort was evident in collections such as Baja East who paraded an unlikely pairing of velvet tracksuit pants with open-toe Fila slides, or at Kanye West’s third season with adidas showing compression leggings with Yeezy boots. The examples are becoming more and more prevalent as each season rolls around, and even sportswear brands want a piece of the action.
Puma also teamed up with Rihanna for their catwalk show, and for Puma, this convergence of design and functionality is right where they want to be, ultimately creating a collection where the customer dictates whether it’s sportswear, streetwear, or athleisure. “That’s why for us this is spot on,” says Björn Gulden, CEO of Puma. “We can take the direction of Rihanna and she can lead us from a fashion point of view. Then we can come behind that with technology and performance and merge them together. From there the consumer decides if she’s wearing it for performance or if she’s wearing it for leisure.”
Designers such as Lacoste’s Creative Director, Felipe Oliveira Baptista have been challenged with forever fusing active elements into an elevated aesthetic, for a customer who is firmly focused on both comfort and style. “We are a sportswear brand, not luxury, but definitely not a high street brand,” says Baptista. “We’ve been working on stretching the sport and weekend aspects into a daily experience. They (consumers) want a strong look, and they still love fashion, but they want clothes that are easy to live in.”
The future success of sportswear in the women’s high fashion arena will require a focused lens that truly mirrors the consumers’ aspirations – and commerciality is a big part of that. “I think the female customer wants more for herself,” adds Gulden. “If you look at concepts like Lululemon, that didn’t exist years ago but was very successful because they took the female consumer seriously. I think brands like ourself need to focus on the female as the female consumer and not only do a collection that is unisex. You’ll see that this (collection) is very directional and not all of these pieces are sellable, but they will be inspirational for designs that trickle down in the more commercial collection.”