He­len Sey­mour on the brands shak­ing up ac­tivewear

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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

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