The athleisure fashion trend: Worn at the runway or at the gym?

It’s now become acceptable — even chic — to wear leggings to work under a dress, or out to dinner with a cardigan

Mimi Raad

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Several genetic research reports have confirmed that athletes have special physical qualities. Some of them are explained by mutations of a certain gene.

Our 23,000 genes form together a particular phenotype (the sum of all our physical and cellular characteristics) add to it the role of the environment, childhood, teenage years and of course an athlete’s training program and competitive spirit, and you will get a certain genetic profile specific to each one of us. It shows whether we are inclined to certain physical activities or none at all.

We usually choose our physical activity in relation to our psychological profile. And we usually choose our outfit in relation to our environment and mood.

Blame it on the push toward a more active lifestyle, or call it an extension of the fascination with fashion, either way, these days jogging suits are just as likely to be seen on a runway in New York as a treadmill in a less than average gym.

A photo posted by STYLERUNNER (@stylerunner) on

Workout clothes for women, once relegated to the back of the closet, are moving to the front of the fashion scene.
Yoga pants are the new jeans.

It’s called activewear or should we call it athleticwear? sportswear? athleisure (athletic and leisure )? Whatever we call it, it promises a whole day’s wear from a single outfit, taking women from spin class to the coffee shop to the office and then out for a cool evening.

It’s like a new uniform

This wear-anywhere sports-influenced clothing is a rare trend that escalated the fashion ladder all the way up from the mass market to the high end, instead of the other way around.

And the designer’s world made it stylish, with sneakers and sweatshirts seen on the runways in recent seasons at Alexander Wang and Chanel, among others.

A photo posted by @athleticleisure on

A big reason athleisure is available in most stores is that the clothes are comfortable. Brands at all price points have something to offer, from traditional athletic names to specialty chains to high fashion labels.

Much like denim before, athleisure is increasingly being integrated into daily attire.

It’s now become acceptable — even chic — to wear leggings to work under a dress, or out to dinner with a cardigan.

Like denim before it, activewear is also experiencing the “luxurization” trend. A few years back it was considered rare for anyone to pay a three-digit bill for something as basic as a pair of jeans. Now, it has become common to see fashion-savvy female consumers pay a $400 for jeans.

With more consumers adopting this trend, it’s natural for many labels to create products that resonate with the consumers’ needs and demands.

A number of traditional ready-to-wear and accessories brands have added an activewear category to their collections.

Additionally, classic sports brands like Nike and Adidas are joining forces with luxury designers like Jeremy Scott, Mary Katrantzou, Pharrell Williams, Kanye West, Riccardo Tisci, Raf Simons, Opening Ceremony, Y-3, Sacai.

The global influence of street style has a lot to do with these collaborations. (May I remind you that fashion editors started adopting the classic Adidas Stan Smiths sneaker during Fashion Week following Céline designer Phobe Philo’s endorsement).

A few weeks ago, Beyonce launched her new line for Topshop, which encompasses clothing, footwear, and accessories across dance, fitness, and sports categories. It will have technical performance characteristics as well as an athleisure side.

I believe many designers are also inspired by what is worn on the streets all around the world. They know if they collaborate with these active brands they are sure to reach consumers that are familiar with the brands, and also introduce new consumers to their own brand.

So whether your genes carry or not the sporting fever, there’s a high percentage that the fashion-conscious will adopt this trend, and wear activewear both inside and outside of the gym, at least for a while.

Once a faux pas

Now why is it suddenly socially acceptable to wear gym clothes 24/7? Not long ago, it was considered quite a faux pas to be seen in your workout pants and sneakers outside the gym. It just wasn’t chic. But, voilà, today you can go just almost anywhere in your leggings, forgetting about dressing up and sartorial codes.

I think Alexander Wang summed it up perfectly (he too had launched his sporty line for H&M few years back): “I live in gym clothes. When you go out on the street, it’s the uniform now.” He also admitted that he is not an athlete!