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Sportswear meets fashion for Athleisure trend Print
Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Munich - The subject of 'Functional Athleisure' focuses on the breaking trend at the next Performance Days on 3-4 November, 2015.

The topic will be in addressed in the Performance Forum, the Performance Gate, and in the presentations on day 2. Among the many highlights will be a presentation by international designer Nora Kühner, who is equally versed in both the sportswear and fashion segments. In this exclusive interview with Performance Days organisers, she shares her insights into the future developments of Athleisure.

Performance Days: Frau Kühner, can you tell us what the term Athleisure really means?

Nora Kühner: The term is a new word created from the words "athletic" and "leisure." It was first coined by the media and fashion industry to describe the new must-have look: It involves a fashion that is heavily influenced by performance wear – both in terms of the fabrics and the accessories as well as the looks and silhouettes. The styles may be, but are not exclusively, worn to exercise workouts or sporting activities – quite simply, it is a cool, relaxed look that captures the spirit of the times.

Activewear brands like Lululemon and Nike are incorporating this trend in their collections and developing their own novel interpretations of this look – so called "athletic fashion" – originated clearly from a background in active wear. Athleisure is in effect a combination of sport and fashion and can be adapted easily by both segments.

In the past, the term was often narrowly interpreted as one of style alone and the functional potential of technical textiles was not fully appreciated.

PD: What key factors must be considered when designing a functional athleisure collection?

NK: Think about the true target market and the actual range of application. Forget about Superman out there in the outdoors, exposed to the wind and weather - the real challenge for most people today is the complex daily life in the city. They are looking for clothing that provides comfort, function, and fashion. Just like the "sneaker," which managed to go from being a simple running shoe to a fashion statement and, being both comfortable and trendy, to an accepted part of everyday dress. These shoes have become a permanent part of our daily wardrobe and the athleisure collections have the potential to do the same.

PD: What role do the fabrics play?

NK: The fabric can play a very important role because of the desire for comfort and function (especially, for freedom of movement) in athleisure collections, but also in everyday clothing and this can be implemented only with performance fabrics. In addition to freedom of movement, just consider the other functional characteristics such as comfortable climate control, good thermal regulation, and odor control treatments.

PD: Why is this seen as an up and coming trend? Is it a sign of a changing society?

NK: Yes, absolutely. Sport has become an integral part of today's lifestyle – staying healthy and fit is now mandatory and a well-toned body is a real status symbol. Athleisure is the ideal response: There is no need to be constantly steeling your muscles, but instead, you can radiate fitness by wearing the appropriate clothing.

Of course, this style of dress is also a signal for a general blurring of the boundaries within the modern society and we cannot overlook the practical desire for versatile clothing – the busy appointment calendars do not allow for frequent outfit changes – what could be better than having workout clothes that are also suitable for the office?

PD: What brands and segments are most interested in athleisure?

NK: Athleisure can be a very diverse topic in the textile industry. Generally speaking, when designing the collections for the future, we will have to pay more attention to the customer's demand for comfort and functionality in daily life. I am not speaking about offering a rain jacket that can be worn in the mountains as well as in the pedestrian zone, but rather about developing designs with a sense for more attractive looks, a kind of hybrid collection segment. That can fit equally in the sports as well as in the fashion branch. In addition to the spirit of fashion, it is important to use the right functional fabrics and ensure they are properly integrated.

And finally, of course, these hybrid collections have to be accepted and promoted by the trade. Until now, the sport segment has been somewhat reluctant when it comes to the stylish interpretation of sportswear.