There is a particular catwalk trend that has added poignancy and relevance to the fashion world this year: the sportswear trend. This is not considered a momentary trend but instead a particularly nationalistic celebration of British style. In a year that has seen Boris Johnson herald the fashion industry as crucial to British creativity, excellence and economics at the September London Fashion Week we, seven months later, have witnessed Stella McCartney unleash her Olympic kit designs on a host of the country’s elite athletes.
There are numerous reasons why the sportswear trend in designer womenswear has been this season’s biggest success. Not only does it embrace the most notoriously avoided ‘practicality’ within the fashion spectrum but it also cohesively links high fashion to popular culture through the national celebration of the Olympic Games held this year in London.
While the collaboration of Stella McCartney and Adidas as the current public face of this union provides the most direct link between sport and style and between fashion and culture – the trend is not exclusively a British one. American designer Claire McCardell was the forerunner for sportswear as a form of high fashion in the 1950s, championing ballet flats and the notion that sporty and practical could be, at the same time, feminine and fashionable. Similarly Coco Chanel had previously sent out this message with her designs featuring casual blazers – both long-line and flannel structures. These grounded Chanel’s core ethos of feminine simplicity early on; a central aspect of high-end women’s sportswear as a whole.
This season we can look to Lanvin, Antonio Beradi, Hakaan, Victoria Beckham, Rag & Bone, Marc Jacobs, Lacoste and Isabel Marant to name but a few for the development of the sportswear trend. Victoria Beckham took inspiration from the everyday - her son Romeo running through the kitchen in his baseball jersey led to baseball caps and sports jackets in her Spring collection coupled with racer-back necklines and drop-waist tennis dresses. This provided a fresh, relaxed aesthetic to the designer’s brand and a departure from her previous form fitting dresses and structured lines.
It is perhaps through the example of Victoria Beckham that we can see the ethos of the sports wear trend come to life. By taking inspiration from her family and their love of sports she has, as a designer, been able to create a collection that combines the two – in a grounded and accessible way.
Antonio Beradi, Lanvin and Hakaan all pursued the trend with silk track pants emphasizing the elegance and the advantages of relaxed, soft tailoring in order to achieve both daytime and sleek evening looks in an effortless way. It is the blend of the comfortable shapes and styles with luxury fabrics that gives the trend a modern edge.
Rag & Bone too, have focused on the sport trouser, redesigning the – much loved for comfort (and laziness) - jogging bottom in order to allow us to wear them outside with pride and no damage to our fashion credentials. Having said this, they matched their jogging bottoms on the catwalk with a sheer shirt and skyscraper heels suggesting the look may not be as comfortable on a second examination.
The high top trainer has made a come back recently too thanks to Isabel Marant’s sell out high top platform designs. While these
are pricey and seemingly now unavailable, the high street has provided alternatives and a new take on the trend while brand’s such as Converse have seen a resurgence of popularity in their high top designs. This aspect of sportswear has received a wide celebrity following with, for instance, Beyonce sporting the Isabel Marant sneakers in her ‘Love on Top’ video.
While celebrities are known for giving a positive endorsement to designers’ collections, the sportswear trend has opened this up – even shifted this spotlight to the athletes. British Olympic athlete Jessica Ennis has featured in Vogue as well as been on the cover of the February Marie Claire and is of course a model for Stella McCartney’s Olympic kit. This does not just apply to the fashion industry but has also influenced the beauty industry with Olympic athlete Kerri-Anne Payne to be the face of the Max Factor False Lash Effect Gold Mascara campaign.
Being active is a part of our every day lifestyle whether this is a luxurious or ‘normal’ lifestyle and this simple idea is at the core of the sportswear trend. The designs presented on the S/S catwalk emphasise how high fashion and sport can fuse together, the high street have interpreted this to our everyday requirements in order to be relatable, accessible, workable and timeless; while Stella McCartney conveys the best of British fashion with the best of British sporting talent on a global stage.
The distinguished theme of gold prints and embellishments running through Stella’s Olympic collection illuminate clearly that she, and the sportswear trend, are holding the torch for Great Britain in the fashion stakes this year.
Written by Sophie Cowling