PRACTICAL MAGIC – exercise your right to athleisure nine to five
Athleisure’s popularity is assured, and now its spinoff, workleisure, is coming to an office near you. Jessica-belle Greer reports.
If you’ve ever nipped into your local coffee spot in yoga pants or sneakers, knowing full well ‘running’ to the barista is the only form of exercise you’ll do that day, you already know activewear has become a fashion staple. A quick glance at recent runway collections confirms the now dictionary-approved term ‘athleisure’ – meaning casual clothes for both exercising and general wear – is on many fashion designers’ agendas.
An increase in collaborations between sportswear brands and influencers is also upping the cool factor of casual designs, including Alexander Wang’s tracksuit-inspired collection for Adidas and singer Rihanna’s sporty designs for Puma. And it’s no small change: according to global financial services firm Morgan Stanley, athleisure will reach more than US$350 billion in global sales by 2020.
Even the poshest in the fashion pack are embracing athleisure – and wearing it at work. Once quoted as saying, “I can’t concentrate in flats”, Spice-girl-turnedfashion-mogul Victoria Beckham has been endorsing Adidas Stan Smith trainers since she took a bow in them at her Fall/ Winter 2016 show. Telling the Telegraph: “I just can’t do heels anymore. At least not when I’m working,” the mother of four has finally conceded to the need to dress stylishly yet sensibly.
‘Workleisure’ – work-appropriate outfits with an activewear flair – is hitting its stride here too. Stirling Women, sister brand to Stirling Sports, opened New Zealand’s first women’s-only athleisure store at Auckland’s Sylvia Park last year. Marketing manager Stacey Lumsden says she believes athleisure is finding its feet in workwear in part thanks to social media’s promotion of creative careers.
“So many more people have the freedom to design the kind of work life they want these days,” she says. “We live in a fast-paced, visually focused world, which lends itself to a free expression of self and style in most workplaces.”
The visibility of women building successful brands online is changing our perception of what being successful looks like. For example, Australian fitness trainer Kayla Itsines, who has created a multi-million dollar empire through social media, has been known to post photos of herself in workout gear before making an appearance on morning television in a similar athleisure look.
Another local retailer seeing a spike in workleisure is Superette. Director Rickie Dee says the store’s athleisure selection has grown significantly in the past two years, mainly because it’s so versatile. “People love [athleisure] for its comfort, and the fact it’s getting more fashion-oriented means you can get away with mixing it in with other brands, even when you’re not working out.”
Dee says leggings are a great introduction to the workleisure trend and suggests wearing them under an oversized top and a long blazer for a sports-luxe feel. Lumsden at Stirling Women recommends pairing a sporty knit with trousers and mules, or tailored culottes with white trainers instead of loafers.
Both Stirling Women and Superette stock lifestyle and workleisure brand P.E Nation. The co-founders of the Australian label, Pip Edwards and Claire Tregoning, say the business has grown 10 times more than anticipated since its launch last year; it’s now sold to more than 80 countries. Dressing comfortably no longer signals a lack of professionalism, they assert, but a desire to get the job done. “It’s about productivity,” says Edwards.
But why should you spend the same amount on leggings as you might on a pair of tailored trousers? Edwards and Tregoning say the benefit of athleisure is its technically advanced, long-lasting designs – crucial for garments worn for both work and play.
With comfort, practicality and a modern mentality on its side, workleisure is just warming up. “And thank goodness for that,” says Lumsden. “We couldn’t go back to pumps and pencil skirts 24/7.”
Dressing comfortably no longer signals a lack of professionalism. “It’s about productivity.”
Naomi Campbell for Versace Spring 2017, Milan.