When athleisure first started gaining traction—way before it had a place in the dictionary—it followed a simple formula: Look to the runways, translate those high-fashion trends into sweat-ready clothes, repeat.
But as the activewear market has become a force all its own, a shift has started to take form. While workout-approved brands big and small (from Aday to Sweaty Betty) are still taking notes from New York Fashion Week, big-name ready-to-wear and couture labels are increasingly getting inspiration from the activewear world—Versace, Chloé, and Emilio Pucci are just a few of the luxury labels that incorporated athletic details into their fall ’16 collections.
So why is all of your clothing starting to resemble your workout leggings (and your favorite sports bra, and workout tanks, and…)? “Activewear is the only sector in fashion today that continues to profit and grow,” explains Michelle Watson, founder of the super-influential mesh leggings brand Michi. “So recently, every designer from Balmain to Louis Vuitton has started to take note of the sporty trends, instead of the other way around.”
“Every designer from Balmain to Louis Vuitton has started to take note of the sporty trends, instead of the other way around.”
That might not have happened if it wasn’t for brands like Michi, which pinpointed the boutique fitness boom early on and saw an opportunity to merge it with fashion. “As I was starting to work out more, I just thought it made so much sense to move into [the fashion] space,” recalls Watson, whose first collection was largely informed by the fall ’09 Gucci runway. “I was so inspired—there were mesh and cutouts in cool tops and skirts, and I had never seen that before. I thought you could put [those elements] into activewear and still be able to mix [those performance pieces] with high fashion.”
As athleisure items have started to attract Birkin bag-length waiting lists, fashion brands have naturally been quick to jump on the bandwagon. Some have started their own gym-ready spin-offs (a la Tory Burch’s Tory Sport) or collaborated with activewear brands—think Cushnie et Ochs and Bandier’s recent collection, Outdoor Voices’ link-up with A.P.C., and the Athleta x Derek Lam partnership—while others, like the labels in this slideshow, are bringing gym class vibes into their ready-to-wear collections.
Could this finally be the year that sweatshirts and track pants become acceptable office attire? Here’s hoping!
Before you make your fall shopping list, check out Michelle Watson’s picks for the season’s best ready-to-wear fashion inspired by your favorite activewear looks.
Temperatures may be dropping, but your workout routine is heating up! Check out our Fall Fitness Preview, your guide to having your healthiest fall yet. And make sure to mark your calendars: Well+Good’s annual Fitness Biathlon in NYC is back this October 22.