Helen Seymour on the brands shaking up activewear
Jeremy Clarkson does not test drive workout leggings, but if he did, it’s fair to say Lululemons would be top of his list when it comes to precision engineering. Lululemon leggings are second to none. They suck you in, hike you up, and flatten you out. All at the same time. Once you’ve worn them, it’s pretty hard to wear anything else. Lululemon tops, on the other hand, are less exciting. Recent collections all seem to have the same colours, uniform styles, limited creativity, and what is it with all the round necks? Where are the Vs? Where’s the curvy girl range? Where are the tops for girls with big boobs? Where’s the fashion? Where’s the fun?
To be fair, this is a question which could be asked of most major high street sports brands, who seem to favour function over fashion, or have somehow missed the memo that you can have both. Rihanna’s favourite designer, Adam Selman, clearly felt so, as he recently launched the cheekily named ASS (Adam Selman Sport) in direct response to the lack of exciting workout wear he found available when he returned to the gym after a four-year absence.
Launched on Net-a-Porter, Selman’s ASS collection is designed “for an active metropolitan lifestyle, taking its wearer from deadlines to deadlifts, from sit-ups to sit-downs, and from working to working out”. Rhinestones, crystals, leopard prints, bold colours, and sheer detailing make up the playful collection. What’s more, with XS to XXL sizing and given that 85 per cent of the collection is made from recycled poly and nylon materials, ASS is as versatile and inclusive as it is sustainable.
Terez is also a particularly energetic brand, whose recent partnership with the estate of the late pop graffiti artist Keith Haring resulted in a bold, vibrant collection. This is not dissimilar to the wonderful collaboration earlier this year between Dunnes Stores and the artist Helen Steele, and the more recent launch of FlowState, a collaboration with the Irish artist Maser, which has resulted in
“Workout clothes should inspire the energy you need to head out for that run, climb on that bike, or show up on that mat.”
a stunning yoga mat that doubles as a piece of art for your wall. Thankfully, Selman and Terez are not the only ones that recognise that workout clothes should have energy. Brands like Spiritual Gangster, Varley, Beyond Yoga, Blanc Noir, and No Ka’Oi also seem to recognise that your workout wardrobe needs pieces that provide support, function, versatility and style.
The go-to websites for the above brands and many more are Carbon38 and Bandier, who’ve opened up a whole new world when it comes to breaking a sweat. Both sites are portals to the latest in on-the-rise activewear. Be warned: with over 175 designers on Carbon38 alone, you will spend quite some time browsing, but the worlds of creativity and design that await will be worth it. You are literally entering two worlds of Willy Wonka workout wear – sites like these are the golden ticket when it comes to choice, so sit up straight (no slouching) and enjoy the ride.
Workout clothes should have energy. They should inspire the kind of energy you need when you head out for that run, climb on that bike, show up on that yoga mat, or hit the Reformer for Power Pilates. And they should be versatile enough to seamlessly flow into different aspects of your daily life. Or nightlife. A friend of mine recently went to a restaurant and noticed a girl at a nearby table having dinner in sheer workout pants teamed with a glamorous top and killer heels. She’d clearly come from class, yet with a few simple tweaks had not only worked her workout wear, she looked strong, sexy, and original. She literally brought energy to the room.
The folks at Nike are betting on girls like this. Their most recent women’s wear launch, Nike City Ready, is an athluxury collection that targets modern women in urban centres, and offers nine versatile pieces that can take the wearer from the gym to the club. Nike has always been grounded in pinnacle performance innovation, but the design challenge for this collection was “fun”… to re-imagine Nike’s innovations through a fashion lens.
The simple fact is, the way we work out, and the way we dress to work out, is changing. The days of “two pairs of workout pants and a few pairs of tops” are long gone. Women want workout clothes that will literally move with them across their day, from the school run to the gym to the office to dinner. Check out Ultracor’s Swarovski-studded Tuxedo hoodie, with track bottoms to match, as a perfect case in point.
While tuxedo hoodies might be a bit extreme for some of us, workout clothes are definitely a statement about who we are. Athleisure can be chic. The ultimate luxury is to feel comfortable and look good at the same time. Sometimes, after a tough workout, what you really want is a warm hug. Soft, oversized sweatshirts, cashmere hoodies, gentle wraparound tops… Layering luxe pieces that blend seamlessly with your everyday wardrobe. And let’s face it, a tough day at the office can be a workout in itself, and sometimes simply feeling good in the clothes you’re in can make all the difference.
ABOVE LEFT Space triangle yoga mat, €160 at No Ka’Oi