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.

Simply You Style - - Contents -

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.

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