Maybe it’s the proliferation of workout-inspired casual wear (think Kit and Ace), or maybe it’s the fact that more and more beautiful people—everyone from Karlie Kloss to LeBron James—are Instagramming their workouts (and simultaneously their outfits), but something is causing a surge in the number of core fitness apparel brands partnering with big-name designers. It's a trend that's been decades in the making, but is now accelerating.
Take Nike for instance, which recently announced the release of an eight-piece collection with Japanese designer Chitose Abe. For Spring 2015, Abe took cues from the the sportswear company’s archives, creating pieces like a skirt inspired by the Windrunner jacket, and Dunks sneakers reimagined as slip-on wedges. But this collaboration is only one in a long line of partnerships bridging the gap between fashion and performance. Adidas and Stella McCartney (as well as Yohji Yamamoto, Raf Simons, Rick Owens, and Mary Katrantzou), Nike and Brazilian designer Pedro Lourenco—it’s a trend that’s grown in earnest since the early 2000s.
So why the emphasis on fashion when functionality of fitness wear should be the priority? It largely comes down to women. Activewear brands know that women make up the largest percentage of growth, and are scrambling to meet the demand with pieces that span the gap between training and lifestyle.
Traditional brands also have to be more forward thinking with the emergence of brands like Oiselle and Shredly who’ve stepped in to fill a longstanding gap in women’s activewear with stylish, well-made pieces designed specifically for women. And while many of these pieces might not fall into the category of top-of the line performance gear, they aren’t show-pieces either. Fit, movement and materials were certainly considerations.
These collaborations certainly aren’t your everyday yoga, run and dance clothes (for one thing, they’re pricier than Lululemon). But if the larger intent is to invest energy and attention in women’s activewear, that's something we can get behind.