Within an ever-evolving sector, consumer demand for technical activewear is on the rise. A recent report by data analytics firm, Edited, estimates the global sportswear sector will be worth USD$231.7 billion by 2024. It states that traditional sports brands and retailers increased their assortments by 33 percent since 2016, while sportswear offerings at luxury retailers like Net-a-Porter and Matches Fashion skyrocketed by 99 percent.
Luxury brands have long drawn inspiration from sportswear. Major players like Gucci and Balenciaga have expanded into the category in recent years, often placing them in direct competition with sportswear giants. Brands are also capitalising on this by including sport-specific styles such as cycling shorts into their ready-to-wear collections (see Chanel and Tommy Hilfiger.) Edited reports that since 2017, sales of cycling shorts from non-sports brands have risen by a staggering 2000 percent, according to figures, and this has also led to a 363 percent sales increase in the product for activewear brands.
This is indeed a two way street. Vice versa, Sportswear brands are tapping the luxury sector, giving rise to collaborations that balance function with aesthetics, perhaps most notably Adidas by Stella McCartney. Another brand to reap benefits is Nike. In May 2018, it teamed up with Italian ready-to-wear brand, Alyx Studio, to create a data-driven line of workout wear using computational design and atlas maps to analyse motion, heat and sweat zones.
Lesser-known sports brands like Carbon 38 are finding success in luxury partnerships. In January 2017, the label collaborated with New York-based womenswear brand, Jonathan Simkhai, on a collection of jumpsuits, sports bras and leggings with lace-up details. Though an unlikely pairing, Simkhai’s elegant, figure-hugging aesthetic translated surprisingly well, and the collaborators launched a second instalment later that year.
Aside from a surge in unexpected brand collaborations, the growing demand for sportswear has opened the floodgates for the creation of a new wave of luxury activewear brands. In 2015, Joanna Turner, Sarah Donnelly and Donna Harris, launched UK-based label brand, Lndr, with a minimal aesthetic designed to transition between occasions (it now counts prestigious retailers like Selfridges and Lane Crawford as its stockists.) Another leading label is Sydney-based P.E Nation. Normalising activewear on the catwalks, the brand has presented at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Australia and Paris Fashion Week since launching in 2016. In 2018, it introduced menswear, boxing, yoga, and swim capsule collections.
Active outerwear is another growth category, fuelled by fashion-conscious ski and snowboard enthusiasts. One such brand tapping luxury alpine gear is Templa, launched in 2017 by Rob Maniscalco, Dellano Pereira, and Anati Rakocz (former global commercial director at both Haider Ackermann and Ann Demeulemeester.) Known for its elevated aesthetic and functional detailing, the label designs high-performance wear for extreme weather conditions.
As well as catering to consumers in colder climates, the brand targets monied destinations like Russia or Ukraine with severe weather conditions year-round, making a seasonless model ideal. In addition, Rakocz outlines how their online stockists like Net-A-Porter and Matches are able to connect with consumers 365 days a year, anywhere in the world.
“We understand today’s consumer cares about the quality and technicality of materials, the details and the finish,” says the label’s commercial director, Anati Rakocz. Templa’s quilted down jackets, ski and snowboarding coats, and knee-length anoraks are all engineered from waterproof materials. “Instead of releasing collections according to the traditional fashion season, we release them by editions,” Rakocz adds. “This also ensures our pieces are never out of fashion.”