What The Rest of the Fashion Industry Needs to Learn From Sportswear

Beyond streetwear, fashion at large needs to start embracing the tech advancements that sportswear pioneered.


Left: Jacket by Levi’s, Red jacket by Maison Margiela, Tank top by Levi’s, Shirt by Brioni, Trousers by Maison Margiela, Shoes by Ann Demuelemeester, Necklace by Dinh Van
Right: Adidas Sandra 1977 Red Tracksuit Bottoms via Endource

The boundaries between fashion and sportswear are increasingly blurry. Sportswear is, in itself, fashionable – sneaker fever has infected the world, and Adidas tracksuits have been seen on everyone from Cara Delevingne to Barack Obama. Aligning with fashion’s widespread ’90s nostalgia, the popularity of platforms like Wavey Garms and Depop have marked the revival of sportswear as the uniform of the street. While Carrie Bradshaw might have been mortified to step out on to the streets of New York in a sweatshirt and tracksuit bottoms, the former unofficial uniform of post-break-up ice cream eating is now the epitome of cool.

In 2017, we’ve seen activewear co-opted by high fashion over and over again. GmbH’s skin tight tops are reminiscent of base-layer compressions; Prada are making trainers; and the red tracksuit bottoms in Maison Margiela’s latest collection bear a striking similarity to Adidas’ statement red Sandra 1977 pants.

But there’s more to sportswear than just its aesthetics. Engineering and innovation are at the forefront of sportswear design, which places its emphasis on durable, practical materials and technology. It’s all well and good to borrow looks from sportswear, but why stop there? Thanks to years of research into nanotechnology, when we wear sportswear, we wear technology. Nanotechnology streamlines, compresses, coats, and proofs. It helped Michael Phelps to win his gold medals, it allows for the e-textiles which mean you can use your smartphone without taking off your gloves. Thanks to pioneering technology funded by big sportswear conglomerates, clothes can manage moisture, control odour, resist water and stains, and contain anti-wrinkles fibres.

Brands need to be utilising existing technology, pioneered for activewear, and incorporating it into all manner of styles. It’s now well within fashion’s reach to be producing durable, practical products that rebel against fast fashion. Whether or not our clothes look like they were made for the gym, they should be able to meet our modern-day demands. (Is it too much to ask to be be warm in Berlin’s sub-zero temperatures, but not be sweating profusely after five minutes of cycling?)

HIGH TECH, one of the collections under Claire Campbell’s brand, HIGH, takes the technology of activewear as the starting point for its design. Developed from high-performance sportswear made for demanding conditions, the distinctive “everyday couture” designs receive the activewear treatment. The ease, comfort and functionality of sportswear is the inspiration behind of this collection, but its appearance is soft and feminine. HIGH TECH’s shape-retaining clothes in crease, crush and stain-resistant fabrics demonstrate a kind of high-style practicality its hard not to love.

The sportswear aesthetic is back with a vengeance, but it’s high time fashion grabbed hold of its functionality. We want practical, packable and comfortable clothing that looks and feels great.

Check out the HIGH TECH collection here.

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