The world of sports has always had an uneasy relationship with the world of fashion. Sports, particularly team sports, require uniforms. Therefore, it would logically follow that fashion designers would be at least tangentially involved in the kit design process. Right? Well, sometimes. Historically, sportswear manufacturers have stayed away from the luxury clothing market. In recent times, however, this has changed. This trend began in the 80’s, peaking in the 90’s, and has remained active ever since.
While these two markets are very different in many ways and have maintained something of a mutually agreed upon distance from one another, they have found common ground over the years. When sportswear manufacturers do dabble in more luxurious and stylish offerings, they are often doing so in the hopes of capturing a new market.
You might have noticed that we are still yet to see the likes of Puma or Nike dangling on catwalk models just yet, but this is not through a lack of trying. Until recently, there was very little movement in the opposite direction. That is to say, while the sportswear industry has shown an interest in aping some of the luxury fashion markets, luxury clothes manufacturers seem to feel no desire to ‘go mainstream’ and begin selling more affordable sports clothes.
Over the last few years, however, the paradigm has shifted somewhat. It is now becoming increasingly clear that a significant minority of the luxury fashion world wants to capitalize on the sportswear market. This is perhaps unsurprising when we consider some of the broader trends which are currently shaping these industries.
Modern consumers, on the whole place, a great deal of value on the ability to customize and personalize an experience for a particular individual. Therefore, they will appreciate clothes which are both stylish and functional. Our advanced capabilities in the field of material science mean that we are now able to produce clothes, fabrics, and other materials with properties that would previously have been unthinkable.
One of the most enduring trends in recent memory can be seen in the field of architecture. It is the blending of spaces so that they can serve a variety of different purposes and functions. This is a trend which Is being replicated across a broad range of different industries. We expect the space in our homes to be able to serve different functions, just as we expect our smartphones to be able to perform a number of different tasks. Why not our clothes as well then?
Anyone who has ever had to make a dash for a flight while wearing a suit will be able to attest to how poorly suited our everyday clothes are for strenuous activity. Of course, it makes perfect sense from the perspective of manufacturers and designers. If they are able to dip into one another’s markets, even just a little bit, they will inevitably pick up some new customers who will become loyal and long-term converts.
Finding Their Feet
It is interesting to watch as well-established clothing brands take their first baby steps into new territory. These luxury fashion houses have had to learn the hard way that they are entering an entirely new market. Here there are a different set of rules and, more importantly, a completely different target market. The big fashion houses have had to learn from their mistakes, just the same as everyone else. Of course, they can probably afford to make a few more than most of us!
The entry of the luxury fashion world into the sportswear market was precipitated by years of curious fondling from both sides, but neither committed to any long-term moves. Things hit their peak on the catwalks of 2015, where brands such as Hermes and Givenchy unveiled their own luxury sportswear offerings. Since then, we have seen luxury brands trying their hand at both general sportswear, and more specialist items like weightlifting shoes. Click here for a guide.
But what was it exactly that made that the right time? As is always the case with fashion trends, there is a multitude of different factors and variables which interact subtly with one another. Fashion trends are often rooted in broader social, cultural, economic, political, and scientific trends. So, pinning down an exact cause is probably impossible. Instead, we can point to a number of less significant factors all coming together in a perfect storm.
Advances in materials science have meant that we can now do a lot more in terms of producing materials with specific properties. Previously, we have had to discover materials and deduce their properties. We’ve been able to mix and match to an extent, and this opens up the door to new materials with different properties.
However, it is only very recently that we have been able to come up with a list of properties that we would like and then go and make a material with those properties. Sure, in the past we could decide on a list of properties, look for the best candidates and see if we could combine different elements. But that process is nowhere near as sophisticated as the one we currently use.
The items we saw in 2015 were notable for their quality. These were luxury brand sportswear pieces that excelled as both luxury-tier pieces, and as durable sportswear apparel.
Will it Endure?
This is the big question, one that is hard to answer with any kind of certainty. The fashion world is notoriously eclectic at the best of times. Trying to make long-term predictions about it is fraught with difficulty, however, in this case, we have good reason to be optimistic. For one thing, this trend has already proven itself to be durable. It’s taken some time for things to advance to this point, but it is not for lack of trying.
Our capabilities with regards to material science are growing all the time. This means that we would expect to see materials becoming increasingly more diverse and available for less. What the widespread and cheap availability of materials used in luxury clothing will mean for the industry remains to be seen.
Sports style is a trend which is showing no signs of slowing. It seems that there is ample demand amongst consumers for sportswear that is functional but also comes with a luxury brand tag.