Sport has never so permeated the world of fashion as it has these past few years. Whether to create lifestyle, sport or athleisure lines, or re-purpose high-tech materials, the bridges between sport and fashion are numerous. These two universes are sharing their codes and respective playing fields for ever increased everyday benefits: integrated performance, stylish looks, bold colour and fantasy choices.
For this 2018 autumn edition, which presented an offer for autumn/winter 2019, Première Vision wanted to make SPORT the superstar of the show, with a fully fleshed-out itinerary and specialised focus conferences.
Pascal Monfort, fashion expert and founder of REC TrendsMarketing, a specialist in sports, youth and street culture, introduced us to the origins of the phenomenon, new trends and his perspective on what the coming years will bring.
Here is the report of the first conference
A century of love
This first conference was organized around this booming phenomenon, which isn’t actually new: fashion and sport have a lot of common ground.
In fact, sports and fashion share a love story dating back to the early 20th century. It all began in the 1920s, when the post-war era came up with the idea of sport as a focal point for elegance and the upper middle classes. Lanvin and Chanel, the period’s Haute Couture, pioneered looks that would later be called sportswear. As early as the 1920s, sport became a symbol of emancipation thanks to the swimsuit created by couturier Jean Patou. It was also a symbol of independence and liberation. Nicknamed « the Divine, » Suzanne Lenglen was the first international women’s tennis star, and through her, « sportswear » was born. It’s important to recall that at the time, sportswear was designed first and foremost for performance.
In the 30s, emancipation via sport apparel continued, first with the invention of the polo by sportsman René Lacoste and industrialist André Gillier, (invented in 1926 but commercialised a few years later in 1933), then with the « divided skirt, » created by Elsa Schiaparelli. A pleated pant skirt, it was designed to enhance sportswomen’s comfort and ease, making couturier Elsa Schiaparelli another pioneer in the world of sport.
In the 50s and 60s, sports became synonymous with modernity and a way of life for the upper classes, and Hermès creates the first ski suit.
In the 70s, sport was democratized. It captured a spirit of freedom and the « American lifestyle ». On the other side of the Atlantic, the Norsport brand offered many sportswear and activewear items. One striking image of this « sport & fashion » decade is that of American actress Farrah Fawcett in flare jeans and Nikes on a skateboard. The birth of Nike marks a major turning point in the history of sportswear: sports brands are now born around a sports specialty and performance-enhancing technology. The rise of sports in the 20th century helped these brands expand to become multi-sport, and, also, multinational.
The 80s symbolised power and « full » control. Basketball player Michael Jordan became one of Nike’s first faces / ambassadors, bestowing his name to the mythical « Jordans« . With their colours, logos, and cool attitude, « Jordans » became the first « must-haves, » with an appeal that expanded well beyond the athletic field. Young people at the time were gripped by « Jordan » madness. Michael Jordan’s dazzling aerobics and fluorescent 80s dress style reflected a desire to bring a certain aesthetics to the sports world, a growingly common phenomenon.
The 90s streetwear boom marked a new turning point in the history of sport, with the cool skateboarding culture and brands like Girl, as well as the arrival of American hip-hop celebrities like the Wu-Tang Clan from New York. Levi’s entered the world of skateboarding and made a fortune by creating baggy trousers. The 90s are also a symbol of the avant-garde, with the many sports brands becoming more and more fashion-oriented (Fila, Ellesse, Helly Hansen …). The Nike « Air Max » (1997) became the new iconic sneaker thanks to an air bubble in the sole. Prada, with Prada Sport, was the first luxury brand to create a sports line fully integrated into its collections. Thus, Miuccia Prada became the first fashion designer to bring new technical fabrics onto the catwalks. Also in the 90s, the famous Parisian concept-store Colette opened its doors, a creating a veritable road to ruin for lovers of limited edition sportswear and « must-haves« .
In the 2000s, sport symbolised a powerful connection to youth culture. Yohji Yamamoto, a designer not particularly well known to a younger generation at the time, collaborated with sports multinational Adidas to create Y-3, a brand fusing sport technology with fashion aesthetics. It met with unexpected enthusiasm on the part of both the media and a young public. Y-3 then initiated the new ‘athleisure‘ phenomenon, the next major 21st century trend. At this point, activewear was becoming the new everyday norm, with sneakers, jackets, parkas, tee-shirts, glasses, shorts, skirts and pants all increasingly inspired by sport lines in their cuts and textile technology. There are many examples: Aurique, Amazon’s new athleisure brand (2018), conveyed this desire to introduce sport into everyday; H & M created a sustainable activewear collection each season; and many fast-fashion brands created the first high-end, accessible sport garments (Fila x Weekday, Forever 21 x Honda, Asos …).
Today we’re seeing a growing alliance not only between fashion and sport but also between luxury and sport, leading to « athluxury », a blend of ‘athletic’ and ‘luxury’. A series of collaborations with the biggest luxury brands and the creation of the « luxury » Nike City Ready line now places the giant Nike brand in the pages of the leading fashion magazines. Vogue and other fashion media are hugely focused on these successful collaborations!
According to Pascal Monfort, « The inclusion of sport in fashion is no longer simply a trend, it’s a necessity for many fashion brands, whether they come from the fast fashion or luxury worlds. » In his view, 2020 will be the pinnacle of this success, the ultimate incarnation of the love affair between sport and fashion.
A win-win tale
The sport ecosystem has never been bigger than today. The most astonishing collaboration of recent months has certainly been that of Louis Vuitton and FIFA, to create a trunk for the world football cup.
Fashion is flirting with sports franchises. Iconic brands like Supreme, the cool NY skate brand, and Kitsuné collaborate with the NBA. Even Celio, a brand from fast fashion, was given the chance to collaborate with the prestigious basketball league. These logos, where were untouchable just a few years ago, now give rise to new fashion statements: Gucci x NY Yankees is just one of these surprising collaborations.
For most major fashion houses, the connection to sportswear is usually done via sneakers, a great way to connect with young consumers. In 2014, Chanel created its first sneaker collection, which was sold at Colette.
Pascal Monfort however stressed – and this is a somewhat anecdotal figure – that « 80% of sneakers have never been run in, nor seen a gym. Sneakers have definitively become fashion footwear. » Countless collaborations have been initiated between sports brands and fashion designers (Alexander Wang x Adidas, J. W. Anderson x Converse, Sacai x Nike, etc.)
Recently, Matt Powell, vice president and industrial advisor for the NPD group, said brands and stores should continue to nurture this trend, for a growing fashion economy.
High-end brands surf this trend by creating their own iconic shoes. Louboutin, Balenciaga and Louis Vuitton are creating the new « must haves » of the 21st century. These brands offer novel designs and new shapes that are revolutionising sneakers, broadly transforming their positioning and image in the youth community.
Sport and athleisure inspire the fashion world during every fashion week, at young designers, luxury brands and young labels too, such as Patrick McDowell, the promising new designer and St Martins graduate (already showcased in Dazed & Confused magazine).
The latest sport champions, driven by media coverage, have become the stars of these new clothing brands. Sport stars are now simply stars, dressed Monday to Friday in the colours of their sponsors. These athletes have also become the new stars of fashion shows, stealing the spotlight from the usual first-row cast, and of major fashion campaigns as well.
Brands’ creativity is such that they successfully create real stories about the athletes they showcase in their video campaigns.
The fact is that fashion designers love sportswear. It lends a really fresh touch to fashion houses. Some stores have even become testing areas to promote initially trend-averse brands with the young community (The Broken Arm in Paris & Salomon).
The power of streetwear and sportswear designers is overturning norms. The most recent example is undeniably the appointment of Virgile Abloh (Off-White), a multifaceted American designer, as head of the House of Vuitton, an event which created quite a surprise in the fashion world.
Pascal Monfort concluded the conference by noting that « Sport is EVERYWHERE (the Netflix documentary « Shoe Dog » dedicated to the founder of Nike; James Jebbia, designer at Supreme, named designer of the year at the CFDA of NY) … even on the feet of Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of American Vogue! »
Read the reports of the other 2 Sport & Tech conferences: