WGSN’s Clare Varga pays tribute to the three times heavy weight champion, Olympian and activist.
An interesting thing happens when an icon dies, we all mourn the loss, as we remember their tremendous influence. Those who have never met their icons, still cry because true icons (the best of the best) impact so many of us.
For me, as Active Director at WGSN, Muhammad Ali was an icon who brushed so many parts of my life and I’m saddened by the news of his passing at the age of 74 on the weekend.
I was, and remain a huge fan of the man for many reasons. He was always a big influence throughout my design career but more personally he was also diagnosed with Parkinson’s at the same time as my mum was. So to me, ours was a deeply personal connection, despite never knowing him.
He went beyond what a traditional athlete was. We’ve created athletes to be celebrities in this day and age, and they sometimes seem to exist solely for photo opportunities for social media.
But not Ali, he was THE sport, he was the greatest, he trained the hardest, not for the cameras but for the art of being the best at what he did. In an age where hard work doesn’t seem to hold much value any more, he prided himself on always doing the work, training to the point of punishment and reminding people that you have to work at being the greatest.
One of the most famous and loved sportsmen in history, Ali also had a personality that transcended his sport. I admired him in and out of the ring, as a man and a fighter and as a sportswear designer.
I have been inspired by and referenced his early training style throughout my career. I loved his style because he exemplified the true meaning of activewear, not the loose term athleisure which has become a celebration of leggings and loungewear, but true activewear; performance sportswear that wants you to be your best.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve used an iconic shot of him in vintage sweats in a mood board. It’s utterly timeless. His cut-off sweatshirts, simple white tees and slim high-waisted sweatpants are still relevant to the sports market today. His style was basic, functional yet utterly cool. Time, and time again, Muhammad Ali brought style and grace to the most uncompromising of sports.
RIP Muhammad Ali. Timeless and iconic, #TheGreatest #G.O.A.T. The three times heavy weight champion, Olympian and activist.
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