If it can be said that sneakers have a “culture,”
If it can be said that sneakers have a “culture,” and the fastest growing segment of the apparel market is a new fusion of casual styles called “athleisure,” it should come as little surprise that the Design Exchange museum’s new satellite show for the Pan Am Games turns out to be a fashion exhibition.
Indeed, Smarter.Faster.Tougher., as the show (which opened just last week and runs until October at the Distillery) is called, intends to give us a look behind the seams at how much of a part design plays in athletic performance. And then, in turn, how new, high-tech developments in athletic wear come to influence fashion trends.
“All the research and development that has gone into creating high-tech, performance wear for athletes in competition eventually comes to affect all of us and what we wear on a daily basis, even if we are not involved in sport,” says the show’s curator, OCAD’s professor of advanced fashion and textiles, Marie O’Mahony, who describes the relationship between fashion and sport as “cyclical.”
Adidas, for instance, was first founded by Adi Dassler, who registered a patent in 1949 for a running shoe with the now-iconic three stripes. It’s a shoe that has now been stylishly reimagined for the street perhaps as many times and in as many ways as the Absolut bottle by fashion designers and celebrities from Yohji Yamamoto to Raf Simons, Rick Owens, Jeremy Scott, and most recently, Pharell Williams and Mary Katrantzou.
Alongside Karantzou’s new offerings are items from Adidas’ new mi Coach line of wearable fitness devices that can track the intensity of a workout like the fashion equivalent of a personal trainer.
The mi Coach sports bra, for instance, conceals sensors to monitor the body’s performance under its fast-drying wicking fabric technology.
Climate-controlling Supernova leggings and the Adizero ghost jacket keep the wearer cool, while he or she consults Adidas’ FitSmart watch. Even the soccer ball here is smart, with embedded sensors that give instant feedback on a kick’s power, spin, strike and trajectory.
Whether this much Intel will become fashion’s next big thing is hard to imagine, even in this Information Age.
And yet, as an inventive line of bathing suits reveals, innovation can be just as pretty as it is clever. Blue Glue’s Lingot bikini, for instance, features a delicate ruffle of seaworthy gold foil that is handcrafted through a 3D printing process.
The Sea Zen bikini by Jay Alders is made from a new weave crafted out of discarded fishing nets called Econyl, which is both soft to the touch and offers UV protection of 50+, while being environmentally sustainable.
Gesturing to a crew of mannequins in seamless, ultralight wetsuits, including a lovely shark-preventive one from Elude designed to dazzle the predators with a disruptive, Hockney-like watery camouflage, O’Mahony notes how much of the innovation in athletic wear has come from the refinement of new fabrics and materials.
“Twenty years ago, we didn’t have anything like the kind of lightweight and flexible fabrications designers are able to work with today.”
Ultimately, the smartest of the inclusions in the exhibition are the ones that consider this play back and forth between fashion and sport: the fabulous, futurist gowns by Swedish designer Ann-Sofie Back, for instance, which utilize such elements as tagging, chevrons and knit trims, and effectively reimagine them as high fashion.
Or the lovely camouflage parkas from U.K.-based Maharishi, which reconsider a military motif as a pleasingly pastoral print.
As Hollywood understands, it is really the romance of sport that moves us. Says O’Mahony, “the whole thing that launched sport into fashion was Esther Williams in a bathing suit.”