The steady rise of 'WTF workout wear'

JENNA CLARKE
Last updated 05:00 18/06/2014

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Once upon a time trackie pants and workout wear were like mistresses, only displayed in public on the rarest of occasions when you knew you weren't going to be recognised and shamed.

However, even before normcore took off in New York and the titans of Australian high society, James Packer and David Gyngell, both rocked a pair of drop crotch bottoms while boxing on in Bondi earlier this year, casual looking items such as trackies were already infiltrating the wardrobes of beautiful people and bogans alike.

Designers such as Marc Jacobs served up silk-satin boxing shorts, Karl Lagerfeld produced Chanel couture sneakers, Miuccia Prada sent calf compression sock knockoffs down the runway and even Tom Ford jumped on the sporty luxe trend at the recent international shows.

But it's a trend that has been bubbling away on the fashion cook top for almost three seasons now, Aussie designers like bassike, Johnny Schembri, Zimmermann and Toni Maticevski's latest collection boast a plethora of mesh-like panels, relaxed silhouettes and high tech fabrics such as neoprene and bonded lace.

While sneakers have been a ''thing'' in some circles for a while, one thing that stood out from the Paris haute couture collections in January was the absence of heels and the prevalence of AirMax as opposed to air kisses. From the ankles down, the runways were awash with bespoke yet sensible street and sportswear.

Commentators are pointing the finger at the likes of Instagram superstar and sneaker freak Cara Delevingne and the face of Dior, Jennifer Lawrence for making fashion, and the theatre of fashion, more casual.

Interestingly, former Vogue Paris editor-in-chief turned CR Fashion Book publisher Carine Roitfeld, the woman who banned her own children from wearing tracksuit pants, has worn flat shoes to the majority of recent shows.

Closer to home and winter is coming.

This year the cooler months are set to be more Fountain Gate than fabulous as it's all about tapered trackies and socks with Birkenstocks. The old fashion cliché of an outfit that can take you from the boardroom to the bar is done - this season it is all about looking like you're going from Bikram to brunch and then to bed.

Meanwhile, in the realm of actual workout wear, neon, floral and inspirational slogans continue to overrun the racks of Lorna Jane, Lululemon and Running Bare, but labels such as Nike, Tully Lou and Onzie are preparing to reclaim the sporty luxe crown (and consumers) from fashion houses with ranges featuring mind boggling bold prints and street wear inspired lo slung yoga pants.

"They might seem 'zany' at first but like fashion, active wear is just becoming more expressive. Bloggers and fashion designers alike are wearing and creating more stylish, fashion forward pieces for sportswear. It's a roll-on effect from consumer demand and the fact that the line between fashion and active wear isn't as obvious anymore," founders of active wear e-boutique Stylerunner Sali and Julie Stevanja told Fairfax's Life and Style.

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Can't bring yourself to wear a pair of Nike ikat print yoga pants which are best described by the Huffington Post's Dana Oliver as "a cross between men's briefs, capris and harem pants"? Get used to sportswear getting crazy, according to the Stylerunner girls as we'll all be wearing camo print, mesh, leather and even plastic to the gym (and perhaps to work and even the shops) in the coming months.

The Sydney-based siblings also agree the cult of celebrity is only going to make sportswear even more popular.

"Celebrity collaborations are going to be huge. There's an increased interest in active wear as a whole. It's becoming popular for celebrities and influences to work with leading brands to develop stylish, unique prints and designs," Sali said.

Singer Rita Ora and designer Mary Katrantzou both have brightly coloured, high-fashion looking capsule collections coming soon apart of adidas' spring/summer 2014 range, while Heidi Klum's paisley covered sneakers and workout wear range for New Balance launched back in May.

Givenchy creative director, and Kim and Kanye's bestie, Riccardo Tisci designed four styles of trainers for Nike in March. The collection included an impractical knee-high sneaker with a stacked sole.

The entire collection sold out within days, perhaps suggesting we can all take comfort in the fact that comfort, albeit confusing comfort, will be king for a few more years yet.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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