By HANNAH MARRIOTT
High style and the Olympics do not always make comfortable bedfellows – just ask the Norwegian curling team – but the podium look for Spring/Summer 2016 is unmistakably athletic. Expect to see tracksuits, vests and bright diagonal stripes, as Rio 2016 fever takes hold of fashion-aware wardrobes.
The starting pistol was fired at Paris fashion week, where French label Chloe had fashion editors swooning over its luxe tracksuit tops. If Autumn 2015 was defined by Gucci’s furry loafer – a surreal shoe that reflected the season’s fondness for brainy, faux-vintage glamour - the tracksuit looks likely to characterise spring/summer 2016.
“It’s such an easy look,” says Justin O’Shea, the buying director of luxury online retailer MyTheresa.com, who believes the eyebrow-raising price tag for the Chloe top will not put a certain kind of customer off, even if an Adidas zip-up might suffice for the rest of us.
“Everyone wants to be comfortable at the moment,” he says.
“There were tracksuits at Gucci and Hillier Bartley; you can guarantee Karl Lagerfeld will be putting them on the Chanel catwalk soon."
The tracksuit is also a winner in menswear, according to Simon Chilvers, the style director at matchesfashion.com : “It’s set to become the rollneck for next season – a great layering piece under a lightweight coat or jacket and it ticks the 1990s box, which is a headline trend for spring/summer.”
Other designers are in on the game, too. Lacoste, the outfitters to the French Olympic team, presented a Spring/Summer 2016 collection of zip-up polo shirts and oversized jackets, inspired by athletes draped in their nations’ flags.
Stella McCartney, the designer dressing the British Olympic team, showed checked racerback vests, polo shirt dresses and mesh creations in flag-like primary colours. In May, the world’s most valuable luxury brand, Louis Vuitton, will take hundreds of the fashion world’s most influential buyers and editors to Rio to present its cruise collection.
Olympic-inspired style is not always wholesome, triumphant and upbeat. Hotly tipped Russian menswear designer Gosha Rubchinskiy, for example, took the 1984 Olympics that were boycotted by the USSR as his starting point for spring/summer 2016. Models wore oversized shorts, shell-suit tops and vests tucked into tracksuit bottoms; a Soviet flag was waved in the finale.
“There are so many parts of the Olympics which aren’t clean cut - whether it’s the drug taking or other problems - so someone like Gosha might take that view,” says O’Shea.
Designer fashion’s preoccupation with sport ties into the wider “athleisure” trend, a convergence between fashion and activewear that has sold brilliantly in recent years. According to market research firm Euromonitor , global sales of sports-inspired clothing were up 6% year on year in 2014 to US$22bil (RM94bil).
Euromonitor’s apparel and footwear analyst, Bernadette Kissane, says the boom is tied to “changing consumer attitudes towards health and wellness and an upsurge in sports participation”, much of which was precipitated by the 2012 Olympics. Kissane believes the trend is set to continue: “Firstly, comfort can provide more momentum for a trend, and secondly, athleisure is being driven by a permanent change to people’s lifestyles, rather than being merely a fad.”
On the high street, 2016 brings a raft of athleisure launches – including the first fitness range by Ted Baker and Beyonce’s much-anticipated athletic-influenced line with Topshop, due in April.
Appropriately enough for a trend epitomised by a RM6,500 tracksuit top, buying sports clothes does not mean actually getting sweaty in them, according to Tamara Sender, senior fashion analyst at research firm Mintel.
“Growth is very much being driven by a fashion trend for sporty styles of clothing. Mintel’s consumer research shows that just over half of consumers buy sportswear items for not participating in a sport.” – Guardian News & Media