This year sees the nations of the world compete in the 2012 Olympic Games and the fashion world is turning its attention to the athletic shapes and high-performance fabrics of the sporting arena. The sports luxe trend, which has hovered on the edge of mainstream fashion for several seasons now, has emerged as a strong story for spring/summer 2012.
The catwalks have featured frequent references to glamorous sportswear, many juxtaposed with smart tailoring. Stella McCartney offered mesh panels and racer-back mini dresses, while Kenzo added go-faster stripes to panelled skirts and all-weather hooded jackets. Christopher Kane and Donatella Versace took the Versus collection back to the classroom with a gym kit-inspired collection, while Alexander Wang fused tight-fitting leggings with plastic panels. Overall, the message was one of versatility: some designers borrowed details from the upper echelons of the sports world, others sent out collections that wouldn’t look out of place in the local gym.
Adidas has led the field in wearable, fashion-conscious sportswear through its collaborations with designers such as Yohji Yamamoto and Stella McCartney. The brand’s latest range has all the bases covered, from ski gear to golfing playsuits and running kit that could even double as officewear or streetwear. Adidas creative director Dirk Schönberger has long supported the integration of the worlds of sport and fashion; Schönberger believes that the stricter silhouettes of past seasons are relaxing in favour of more casual pieces. Stella McCartney’s work with Adidas has come to the fore since she was named the official Olympic designer for the British teams. However, her skills have not been confined to the athletics track: her mainline collection featured sporty references such as tennis-style mini dresses with racer backs and sheer panels.
Sportmax has continued to adapt the sporting look, adding casual details and pairing sports style with more formal cuts. Office-appropriate pencil skirts were adorned with racer stripes while tailored shorts drew inspiration from the tight-fitting silhouette of cycle shorts, made wearable by the use of dense fabric and the addition of a kitten heel. As its name suggests, Sportmax effortlessly combines a sports-casual aesthetic with the refined elegance associated with Max Mara, its parent company.
Even brands not normally associated with a sports theme have embraced the look for spring/summer. Kenzo, known as a purveyor of luxurious prints and voluminous, feminine cuts, refreshed its collection with bright block colours, playful printed sweatshirts and hooded jackets fastened with exposed zips and slung over panelled mini skirts and cigarette pants.
Fashion commentator Margaret Sche believes that sports luxe’s versatility has allowed the trend to take hold this season. ‘Versatility is always a good indicator of a brewing big trend. It gives smaller brands the possibility of coming up with their own version while still referencing the runway.’
While fashion brands are taking their cues from sportswear this season, sportswear brands are, in turn, producing high-performance clothing with a high-fashion edge. US-based designer James Perse is an example: Perse has transformed a childhood obsession with baseball caps into a career in West Coast lifestyle clothing and his range is now stocked as far afield as Munich’s Theresa boutique and Unger of Hamburg. Like Perse, Lucas Hugh specialises in chic, contemporary performancewear cut to flatter and support the female form, with strategically placed headphone eyelets adding extra practicality.
Sports luxe ranges from gym-ready outfits to subtle sporting details and this trend will fit into any wardrobe thanks to its versatility, casual outlook and designer support. How better to sprint to style success this summer?