Com­fort­able and fash­ion­able are two words you don’t of­ten see in the same sen­tence, but thanks to the fash­ion world’s cur­rent love of all things ath­leisure, it’s never been eas­ier to em­brace a trend, says The Times Fash­ion Di­rec­tor, Anna Mur­phy

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It started at the fash­ion shows, as these things tend to. Not so much on the cat­walk, this time, but on the front row. It was a cou­ple of years ago on the first day in New York, and I re­mem­ber re­luc­tantly cast­ing my eye down my fel­low ‘frow­ers’, pre­par­ing my­self for the usual – all those defini­tively on-trend and un­com­fort­able ex­em­pli­fi­ca­tions of the dif­fer­ence be­tween me and the rest of the fash­ion pack. The spindly heels, the nipped-in and dif­fi­cultto-walk-in skirts, the spindly heels, the nipped-in and dif­fi­cult-to-breathe-in jack­ets, the spindly heels… You get the idea. I was wear­ing my smart flats and tai­lored trousers, as per. Com­fort­able. Bliss. So imag­ine my sur­prise when I re­alised I had been out-com­forted, out-blissed. Ev­ery­one else was wear­ing train­ers – from pu­ri­tan­i­cal Adi­das Stan Smiths to blinged-up Dior ex­trav­a­gan­zas – and re­laxed, elas­ti­cated-waist trousers that looked like they might be track­pants. (Or were they track­pants that looked like they might be trousers? I couldn’t de­cide.)

You can guess what I was wear­ing the next day. What more proof that we live, at last, in the age of com­fort? That even fash­ion’s most diehard masochists have suc­cumbed to the warm – not to men­tion for­giv­ingly elas­tic-waisted – em­brace of ath­leisure? Which means, praise be, the rest of us can, too. That’s right. As long as you buy in the best fab­rics you can af­ford, and look for flat­ter­ing cuts and grown-up hues, ath­leisure can be the very best fash­ion friend you ever had.

It goes with­out say­ing these are clothes you can run for the bus in, but they are also clothes you can – if you get it right – go to the of­fice in, even wow at a party in. If your di­ary fix­ture is some­thing smart, you may want to wear silk track­pants rather than Ly­cra ones, per­haps off­set with a tai­lored jacket and/or heels. (Trust me, those heels will look fab­u­lous, though will also, ad­mit­tedly, rather take the ‘ath’ out of ath­leisure.) Or you may favour a sweat­shirt that’s sump­tu­ously em­bel­lished rather than YMCA ap­pro­pri­ate. Still not con­vinced? That most soignée of dressers, the fash­ion de­signer Carolina Her­rera, was re­cently singing the praises of her £14.99 H&M trackie bums. Told you!

What’s more, this isn’t a trend that’s go­ing any­where. In fact, it’s gone be­yond be­ing a trend. Fash­ion gets in­ter­est­ing when it rep­re­sents some­thing big­ger than mere clothes, when it re­flects the chang­ing ways in which we live and how we want to rep­re­sent our­selves. When hood­ies, track­pants and the like orig­i­nally moved from the ath­let­ics sta­dium, they be­came syn­ony­mous with the un­der­class, with Wayne and Waynetta – with, well, hood­ies, as the thugs du jour were called. But now a hoodie can come cour­tesy of Vete­ments, one of high fash­ion’s hottest la­bels, though it will set you back a princely £580. ‘You can­not un­der­es­ti­mate the power of Vete­ments,’ says Sarah Rut­son, Vice Pres­i­dent of Global Buy­ing at Net-a-porter, who cites its in­flu­ence across the fash­ion


fir­ma­ment. Her must-watch brands for Spring/sum­mer are street-style spe­cial­ists Y/project and Off-white, the lat­ter famed for its luxe track-cum-palazzo pants (yes, re­ally). Yes, the rise of ath­leisure is down to us want­ing to look class­less and con­tem­po­rary, but above all it is about the fact that these days we are all too busy jug­gling our man­i­fold lives – work, fam­ily, that re­ally com­pli­cated Ot­tolenghi recipe – to wear clothes that get in the way of be­ing, of do­ing. Sure, fash­ion la­bels will tweak around the edges of ath­leisure – for the new sea­son it is more sleek and more up­scale, at la­bels like Stella Mccart­ney, Chloé and, well, prac­ti­cally ev­ery­where. But ba­si­cally, ath­leisure is here to stay and – here’s another rea­son to be happy – there is only so much faffing around that can be done with it by the high-fash­ion fairies. Buy well now and it will last you.

So, where to buy? Well, where to be­gin? Such is the lure of ath­leisure that you can pick it up ev­ery­where. It de­pends, as al­ways, on how much you want to spend. High-street brands such as H&M and Zara are bril­liant at it. (Take it from Ms Her­rera, if not from me.) But I would rec­om­mend spend­ing a lit­tle more, too, be­cause the bet­ter the fab­rics – for which read the softer and more draped – the more adult-ap­pro­pri­ate the look. My favourite sources for track­pants in­clude Hush and ME+EM – I es­pe­cially like the lat­ter’s flat­ter­ing black leather ones. Then there’s Clu for beau­ti­fully fem­i­nised sweat­shirts and T-shirts, Kit and Ace for the best cash­mere hood­ies around, and Pene­lope Chil­vers for a great range of train­ers for grown-ups. But you can keep things even sim­pler than that. My spies tell me the de­fault dress code in the Vogue of­fices at the mo­ment is – wait for it – those Adi­das three-stripe track­pants your daugh­ter prob­a­bly wears to net­ball prac­tice, a snip at £32.95. Yes, ath­leisure re­ally is that easy. So thank you, fash­ion gods.

Sofie Valkiers, founder of dig­i­tal plat­form Fash­ion­ata, rocks the ath­leisure look

Sin­ga­pore de­signer Yoyo Cao at Paris Fash­ion Week Su­per­model Rosie Hunt­ing­ton-white­ley demon­strates how to pull off track­pants with heels

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