China’s Athleisure Wear : From Style To Political Statement

Yoga-pants, stretch­ing all the way from gym to desk. Thanks to their com­fy fab­rics and Sub­way lunch meets Hai­dilao hot­pot din­ner adjustable fit, the ath­leis­ure  trend has sus­tained its momentum in China.

Athleisure : “A weird hybrid of business casual and athletic wear, which has essentially created an entirely new category of clothing.” Professor Of History Deirdre Clemente, University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Exist­ing only in a realm of no but­tons bliss, the ath­leis­ure trend over the past two years has been spin­ning out of con­trol. King Karl Lager­feld once said : “Sweat­pants are a sign of defeat.” I would hereby like to point out the irony of one Lager­feld cashmere sweat­shirt now can become part of your ward­robe for a cas­u­al 253 USD — admit­tedly and tech­nic­ally speak­ing, we are talk­ing about a shirt here, not a pair of pants. All mes­mer­iz­ing insights aside, I hold the per­son­al belief that once you start sport­ing (oh my, the pun is killing me) those run­ning tights any­where oth­er than your actu­al sports arena, you won’t make it to the actu­al act of run­ning any­more.

Nev­er­the­less, there’s no deny­ing the power of this new ward­robe cat­egory. Clem­en­te in her inter­view with Busi­ness Insider explains the buildup as fol­lows : 

“Many of the clothes that people now con­sider work-appro­pri­ate incor­por­ate sports-inspired mater­i­als, like span­dex, Lycra, and oth­er syn­thet­ic fibers. It’s com­bin­ing two trends that have dom­in­ated Amer­ic­an cas­u­al cloth­ing — dur­ab­il­ity and com­fort — in a ver­sat­ile way. Styl­ing is evolving to merge busi­ness cas­u­al and sportswear into one. Dur­ab­il­ity of sportswear and the ver­sat­il­ity of busi­ness cas­u­al — put those two things togeth­er, and who’s not going to want to buy it ? People want less main­ten­ance of their clothes. Tech­no­logy is such a per­vas­ive part of our lives. To want it in our clothes is simply nat­ur­al.”

Wheth­er it’s about people focus­ing on health and fit­ness who want to feel the touch of lycra all day long or about those people who simply can­not but­ton up any more — the non-PC yet IMO very true obser­va­tion to throw out there — one thing remains bey­ond the realm of doubt : Ath­leis­ure wear has become a cash cow.

 

China’s Athleisure Wear: From Style To Political Statement
China’s Ath­leis­ure Wear : From Style To Polit­ic­al State­ment
Chinese super­mod­el Ming Xi boast­ing her back to basics box­ing look. Copyright@YAHOO Style

 

A Run For Design

P.E. Nation, Charlie Cohen or Sweaty Betty… The num­ber of com­pan­ies who have since 2014 got­ten into the run­ning-bal­let-yoga game, with clothes that are described as “après sport” or “gym-to-the-office”, has taken ath­leis­ure from a trend to a full-blown move­ment — pun inten­ded. The China Fash­ion seen too has wit­nessed the rise and con­quest of ath­leis­ure, with magazines such as Vogue China and ELLE China devot­ing full-fledged spreads to the trend. Brand-wise, we see how cas­u­al wear examples such as Urb­an Revivo have tucked into the mar­ket with rac­quet­ball boun­cing off the walls brio. And their cli­ents await with a thirst that can nev­er be quenched….

As we cross over to The East then, we can see how China’s ueber-wealthy (Rich Kids of Ins­tagram, step aside) have taken the sportswear-any­where trend to the next level. The chil­dren of China’s elite, also called the fuer­dai (富二代) or “second-gen­er­a­tion money”, are notori­ous for their osten­ta­tious and bey­ond lav­ish antics, from crash­ing Lam­borghini Aventa­dors, to burn­ing bundles of red Mao cash. The young and rest­less wealthy of China reg­u­larly go on design­er shop­ping sprees, always own the latest exclus­ive hand­bags and can per­petu­ally  boast a prop­er­ty or two (abroad) in their name. And at the risk of stat­ing the obvi­ous, in this year of 2017, we may add ath­leis­ure wear to that list. Design­er ath­leis­ure wear, that is.

 

China’s Athleisure Wear: From Style To Political Statement
China’s Ath­leis­ure Wear : From Style To Polit­ic­al State­ment
The Urb­an Revivo Light Series 2017. Copyright@ELLE China

 

 

Faux-pas dodge ball

Before we con­tin­ue with our favor­ite kid­dos du mois, ath­leis­ure wear does come with a tip and trick or two. ELLE China used the Urb­an Revivo (UR) 2017 light cam­paign series to inter­pret this high-end fash­ion sports trend, leav­ing read­ers with three sets of fit­ness guru man­age­ment skills :

  1. Go for con­trast. The latest UR Light Series show­cases a strong con­trast, i.e. some mono­chrome aes­thet­ic. If you do opt to don your­self in the same col­or, make sure to use dif­fer­ent mater­i­als to cre­ate a subtle sense of fash­ion­able knowhow ;
  2. Leg­gings. These con­tro­ver­sial “pants” have become a basic sporty fash­ion staple over the years, so try to infuse them with some play­ful per­son­al­ity ! The UR Light Series chops the leg­gings into two pieces or even simply opts to wear knee-high foot­ball socks. In order to find the per­fect leg­ging or sock length for YOU, look at the shape of your leg. In order to sport some optic­ally longer and slim­mer pins, for example, leave the sock some 3 cm below the knee. Fin­ish off the look with cas­u­al slip­pers or a hot pair of san­dals ! Just a little fash­ion­ably ath­let­ic FYI ;
  3. Metal, jungle and fluor­es­cent. If you’re com­fort­able with it and have the per­son­al­ity to pull it offf… Then go all out ! The UR 2017 Light Series fea­tures a pleth­ora of high-pro­file eye-catch­ing products. Psy­che­delic col­ors, jungle pat­terns imprin­ted with a rich body od col­or bring about a strong visu­al impact. Go nuts and throw the likes of green, blue, orange, black and oth­er col­ors into the mix as to cre­ate a three-dimen­sion­al effect.

The year of 2017 is all about that unres­trained fash­ion­able act­iv­ism — I use the term on pur­pose. There’s nev­er any­thing wrong with mak­ing a state­ment ; style or oth­er­wise.

 

China’s Athleisure Wear: From Style To Political Statement
China’s Ath­leis­ure Wear : From Style To Polit­ic­al State­ment
The Urb­an Revivo Light Series 2017. Copyright@ELLE China

 

Political Statements

We find ourselves back in the cas­u­al com­pany of the rich kids on Sina Weibo. Shop­ping is all about state­ment buys for this bunch. In the past year or so, their shop­ping pat­terns too have seen some twists and turns : A turn towards West­ern sports brands, to be spe­cific. How about that…

Pres­id­ent Xi Jinping’s cam­paign to reign in the exuber­ant expendit­ure of lux­ury goods at the hands of pub­lic offi­cials (or “mom and dad” to the fuer­dai) has hurt sales of lux­ury brands ran­ging from Guc­ci to BMW. Nev­er­the­less, as the profits of pres­ti­gi­ous products dwindle, inter­na­tion­al sportswear brands such as Adi­das and Nike remain robust. The Fin­an­cial Times reports:

“Ana­lysts say that Nike, Adi­das and New Bal­ance, which com­mand higher prices than loc­al brands, are viewed by Chinese con­sumers more as fash­ion labels than sportswear. ‘Glob­al brands are still very strong in shap­ing fash­ion trends espe­cially in the female mar­ket,’ says Spen­cer Leung, an ana­lyst at UBS. Their sales growth stems from con­sumers upgrad­ing as incomes rise, as well as the grow­ing accept­ance of sportswear in leis­ure and work set­tings. Adi­das in March 2017 said its sales in great­er China rose by some 28 per­cent last year — the fast­est pace of any region, adding to net glob­al profit growth of more than 60 per cent, while Nike repor­ted ‘double-digit’ sales growth in China in its most recent quarter. Great­er China is the second-largest mar­ket for both brands, which togeth­er account for about a third of the country’s sportswear sales.

The rul­ing Com­mun­ist party has also boos­ted the uptake of sports. Facing an epi­dem­ic of obesity-related dia­betes and oth­er life­style-asso­ci­ated ill­nesses, China’s gov­ern­ment has pledged that the num­ber of foot­ball pitches across the coun­try will rise from roughly 50,000 to 70,000 by 2020 — by which time it aims to have increased sports ven­ue area per cap­ita from 1.6 to 1.8 square meters.”

Chief­tain Xi is one happy cook­ie as he backs the ath­leis­ure trend in the hopes it will gen­er­ate more interest in sports before the 2022 Beijing Win­ter Olympics kick off. Now that’s one frugal politi­cian mak­ing a style state­ment.

 

Where­as one reas­on for the drop in “real lux­ury” rev­en­ue may very well be that an increas­ing num­ber of Middle King­dom­mers inter­ested in get­ting health­i­er, I dare say that another more polit­ic­al reas­on is that those big for­eign sportswear brands are sim­ple the safer bet for many a label con­sumer pon­der­ing the polit­ic­al implic­a­tions of their ward­robe and access­ory kicks. The lust for labels still sim­mers with China’s elite. 

Those Chinese big spend­ers wor­ried about flaunt­ing their cash now opt to buy products that clearly come with a big price tag, but are not excess­ively glitzy. Now slap me with bread and call me a sand­wich — yes, when in writ­ing, I stick to the PC chaste ver­sion — but per­haps this is what it’s all about… 

The wealthy brand-boast­ing shoop­ers of China are not sweat­ing the small stuff, i.e. style state­ments, by one drop ; they’re just stick­ing it to the politi­cian ! Because in China, wear­ing sweat­pants is not a sign of defeat ; it’s a sign of tax eva­sion. 

Nike, after all, is the Greek god­dess of vic­tory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Featured Image : Urban Revivo Light Series 2017 for ELLE China. Copyright@ELLE China.
Images : Urban Revivo Light Series 2017 for ELLE China. Copyright@ELLE China.
Copyright@Temper Magazine 2017 All rights reserved.

 

 

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