The Evolved Approach to Athleisure

This trusted fashion insider has the path forward.

Wrapping my head around athleisure is an exciting new challenge. Having styled fashion for thirteen international editions of Vogue, household names including Julianne Moore, Lena Dunham and Tracee Ellis Ross, and runway shows in London, Milan and Tokyo, among others, I have logged my 10,000 hours. But with athleisure being one of fashion’s biggest growth sectors, virally taking over in a way not seen since the Gap-helmed casualwear revolution, I wanted to earn my athletic stripes, too.

Athleisure is a conundrum, for me, certainly, and for the millions of women and men who have adopted it as a staple. On the one hand, it’s not conventionally chic, rarely as flattering as exquisite high fashion, and its synthetic fabrics aren’t luxurious. But when a consumer product takes over as fast and furiously as this has, something serious is happening. Usually it’s a top-down process, runway to high street; yet this sartorial revolution has made luxury houses sit up and take notice to the point they are doing their own commercial athleisure collections and even making their runway collections more comfort-oriented. Does it slightly serve high fashion right? Yes! A rebellion against the tyranny of seasons, trends and must-haves is welcome. After all, fashion has always made change its modus operandi, so it is getting a dose of its own medicine, in extremis. Nostalgia never serves, so we embrace the change.

That it is happening in tandem with increasing ‘disruption’ from the world of tech is no accident. Think of athleisure like that: the Kindle of fashion. As much as we love books and magazines—and they will endure regardless, as will high fashion—we cannot ignore the relief that comes with innovation and practicality. In athleisure that means easy, insanely comfortable, and unthreatening wardrobe pieces. I have thought long and hard why it has taken such a vice-like grip on both fashion and its consumers: it’s almost like being naked, like our ancient ancestors who wore loin cloths—or nothing!  We are set free from the effort required to look as good as our style heroes, or the hordes of “streetstylers” who hijack social feeds. And we can show off, peacock-style, our sculpted gym bodies.

So where does this leave us? With a huge drawer full of hybrid work/play athleisure and not quite sure what the new frontier is. I have mentioned a few rules in the video here to start us off. The overriding one is to soften it up, let athleisure play just a quietly supporting role once out of fitness environments—just a hint of it, mixed with really strong, sharp pieces. As no matter how comfortable we are, we get taken more seriously when dressed properly. 

You have to think of your outfit as a costume: what message does it give, who do you become in it?  That’s what I tell all the actors I work with. Throwing on a perfectly cut jacket or precision knit will lift you, put an extra spring in your post-workout step. A sharp look is the ultimate pick-me-up, empowering and elevating. 

That’s enough for now; more to come. I much look forward to hearing from all of you on the Furthermore social media feeds and will do my best to answer questions and put things to you, the panel and jury—as after all, this is for you. So chime in, join the conversation and let’s all look our best.