H&M Sport

The Athletic Aesthetic: Activewear’s New Role


It all started with the sports-luxe of yore and a general Western societal trend shift towards fitness and healthy living. Active wear, having been recently cited by Li Edelkoort as the current ‘bright spot’ in apparel, has quite rapidly permeated independently into the overall breakdown of wares. What had previously been relegated to its functional realm of fitness gear is now a trend-driven sartorial medium in its own right. Channeling lifestyle and colour trends as well as the graphic and overall seasonal forecasts, ‘gym kit’ now sits beside and within the once impenetrable chamber of fashion.

Sweaty Betty

Le Coq Sportif

It is interesting how one area in apparel essentially plays two roles and mainifests itself in two outlets. While the original functional purpose is still in tact and increasingly significant as such, the filtration of the athletic aesthetic into everyday dressing that has perhaps provoked the luxury contingency to collaborate more freely with sportswear labels. Stella McCartney got the ball rolling in 2004 in a movement that can perhaps be traced back to the 80’s aerobic craze, but today all it takes is a gander down Hypebeast’s feed to comprehend the popularity of this pursuit.


A recent article from the BoF, asked ‘Is Activewear the New Denim?’ Transgressing into more of a retail perspective, rather than a trend-oriented attitude, there exist certain brands that have done for activewear what the likes of Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger did for denim. Brands like Lululemon or Sweaty Betty, in repositioning the whole fitness apparel sector into a more premium condition, have completely revalued and substantiated it. There is vehement (and fair) opinion that this investment is dangerous if wrongly pursued and that brands should stay clear of erecting an active wear division just to compete.

Premium pricing of denim became the norm, only time will tell if activewear’s growth will equate in returns to the magnitude of its trend spiral.