How gym gear morphed into casual wear

ELIZABETH CLARKE
Last updated 14:19 07/08/2014
GYm gear
Stylerunner

SWEAT-SPIRING: Australian online store Stylerunner was created to fill a gap in the market, and its range of on-trend sportswear is now more successful than ever.

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Lining up at my local for coffee this morning, it dawned on me I was the only woman over 30 not wearing workout gear.

This is partly down to the cafe's close proximity to the local gym, but mainly I suspect, to a chronic fashion epidemic that no one seems to be talking about. The rise-and-rise of gym wear as casual.

Whilst once strictly relegated within the confines of the circuit studio, active wear is now styled-up and worn to be seen.

"It's convenient," explains one convert. "I just don't have time to change outfits, and the right combination of fashion and fitness wear will literally take me anywhere. Plus it looks modern."

And she is not alone. With an increasing number of fashion savvy women rethinking their casual wardrobes, our once classic off-duty uniform of tee, denim and two-tone slippers has been ditched for a more functional and stretchy alternative. One that, despite its scarily high percentage of synthetic fibres, actually looks chic.

Back to the coffee queue, and I spy an impressive bottom ahead clad in a pair of new season Nike Pro Core Compression pants. She has added a pretty printed sports bra, Kenzo hoodie and zebra print Saint Laurent tote. Haute.

Behind me is a pair of new season Stella McCartney (faux) suede sneakers in a chic shade of burgundy. On her arm swings an enviable Givenchy Pandora bag and clasping it, a fistful of diamonds and nails the colour of night.  

You see, the new standard of off-duty casual day wear is not just gym gear. It's a clever, highly styled mash-up of cool sports wear and covetable designer must-haves.

It's Lululemon meets Lanvin, so polished and thoughtfully put together it can take you from said coffee queue to the supermarket and on to lunch. In-between, you may even step onto a treadmill.

"Whether you actually make it to the gym or not is irrelevant," explains another follower. "I can go all day, not get to yoga and still be ready for school pick-up!" Bliss.

While clever collaborations between sports companies and designers is not new, think Alexander McQueen for Puma and the highly successful Stella McCartney for Adidas lines, fashion houses from Karl Lagerfeld to Zimmermann are now looking to the workout floor for fresh inspiration.

Designer Jodhi Meares traded fashion for her active wear label, The Upside, turning out cool sportswear basics as suitable for a spin class as they are for a shopping spree. And it doesn't stop there.

When savvy sisters Julie and Sali Stevanja realised a gap in the market for on-trend gym wear, they founded Stylerunner, an online store devoted to fashionable fitness wear.

Fresh dispatches of sports bras, running socks and cycling pants are wrapped and packaged as if they are couture, complete with a handwritten note addressed to the lucky recipient.

This year, Net-a-porter, everybody's favourite luxury e-tailer, joined the race, launching Net-a-sporter.

Next to its stellar line up of active wear brands like L'Etoile Sport and Nike, sits mid to high-end fashion brands Rick Owens, Current/Elliott and T by Alexander Wang.

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Name your sport and your wardrobe is filled, from yoga and golf to tennis and equestrian. Sure it's not cheap, ($399 cashmere track pants anyone?), but just think how versatile and fashionably functional it all is.

If gym wear as casual wear is not your fit, don't sweat it.

New season collections by Australian fashion houses like Manning Cartell, Bassike and Scanlan and Theodore are smattered with plenty of sexy sports inspiration.

This spring, expect to see cropped tops, cut-out bodices, chic hoodies and slouchy sweatpants swinging cheerily on a shop rail near you.

Simply add glittery trainers and a chai latte and you are smack bang on-trend. Gym bunny or not.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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