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Health, Beauty & Fashion

No sweat sportswear

Sports-inspired fashion goes from casual to luxe and is now good enough for the office
The Straits Times - September 23, 2011
By: Rohaizatul Azhar
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No sweat sportswear

Sportswear is sprinting back into wardrobes - and we are not talking tees and tracksuits.

This season's sportswear fashion is all about workout-ready shapes in street-ready fabrics. In short, belonging everywhere but the gym.

The term sportswear is commonly mistaken to mean sports apparel - which, incidentally, is now known as activewear. Instead, sportswear fashion draws inspiration from athletic gear without being too literal.

For instance, the varsity jacket favoured by American footballers is made over in luxe fabrics such as duchess satin but retains the elasticised bands on its collar and wrists.

What sportswear and exercise gear have in common are easy-to-wear separates made of machine-washable fabrics. Sportswear fashion also often features utilitarian details such as zippers, fastenings and pockets.

So you are in luck if you like clean lines and fuss-free designs with a touch of luxury. On the runways, the fall/winter catwalks were sprinkled with sports references.

Italian designer Riccardo Tischi tipped a nod to American football when he sent models out wearing varsity-style jackets over brocade-print dresses at Givenchy.

Inspired by car racing, Phoebe Philo at Celine produced sleek lines and leather patchwork on clothes that recalled the hot rods of old.

Meanwhile, models at Alexander Wang slipped into silk boxing shorts that were part Rocky Balboa, part Victoria's Secret.

This trend is not about getting a good workout, although it helps to have a gym-toned body to pull off some of the looks.

Says freelance fashion stylist Jumius Wong: 'The sportswear-inspired trend is about being functional and practical but in a sexier, more grown-up way.

'You can definitely wear the look to the office. Just be mindful of the kinds of fabric. Always complete the look with heels as they give the ensemble a more luxe and dressy feel. You don't want to look like a slob.'


Sportswear fashion goes back to the 1920s, when it was used to describe the apparel typically worn by those playing sports such as tennis, football and baseball. It became the antithesis to the structured and art-like couture pieces of Parisian fashion.

Mr Joe Spinelli, principal and programme director for fashion design at Raffles Design Institute, says: 'The Americans started making sportswear for women as many started to take part in sports.

'And because the Americans are all about comfort, they needed to create outfits that were easy to move in.'

Early American designers, such as Clare Potter and Claire McCardell, created innovative designs that were simple, practical and wearable.

Then in the 1980s, sportswear- inspired looks gained popularity as more designers gave their take on the trend. They included American designers such as Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan and Tommy Hilfiger, who created stylish but comfortable and interchangeable pieces of garments combining practicality with luxury.

'Unlike the Italians or French, the Americans do not believe in suffering for fashion. That slowly evolved into what we now know as American sportswear,' added Mr Spinelli.

More designers, such as Stella McCartney and Hussein Chalayan, are collaborating with sports labels including Adidas and Puma. As a result, sports apparel - such as hoodies and sweatpants - have become a part of ready-to-wear.

Mr Spinelli notes that sportswear today means pieces that are easy to put together and not overly dressy. Yet, they still look smart and polished.

Ms Cindy Warsano, 25, a graduate of Lasalle College of the Arts, feels that sportswear has a bright future in fashion as consumers look increasingly for comfort and convenience.

Her graduation collection, which was based on the classic sportswear silhouette, was named one of the 10 'best of class' works by London-based online trend forecaster, Worth Global Style Network, at the Graduate Fashion Show in London in May.

Says Ms Warsano: 'The constant development of innovative fabrics such as dri-fit used predominantly in sportswear is key to its comfort, thus adding to its popularity.

'Women should be allowed to look fashionable without sacrificing comfort.'

Judging by the first looks at last week's New York Fashion Week, designers agree. The subtle sportswear-inspired looks of fall 2011 opened the floodgates to a deluge of sportswear looks on the spring/ summer 2012 runways. But until those pieces hit the racks, Urban highlights the key sportswear trends to rock this season.



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