It’s been official for a while now: Australia loves activewear. The recent MBFWA dedicated an entire day to showing fashion-forward sportswear, athleisure, activewear and streetwear to the local and international fashion set. It was a logical move considering activewear is a $2 billion business here that’s only set to grow.
Does that mean Australia is an industry leader in athleisure? “I don’t think Australia is specifically more advanced, but we definitely lead the rest of the world on being obsessed with activewear,” says Jeremy Somers, co-designer of the label We Are Handsome.
We Are Handsome was among the brands on show at MBFWA this year. The brand established itself as a swimwear label in 2010, but about 18 months ago, it expanded into activewear. The brand sells to more than 40 different countries but hasn’t seen activewear proliferate in the same way it has in Australia. “We’re in an activewear bubble where it’s become more acceptable to wear it everywhere, whereas in Europe, it’s still very much a shock to see people wearing their gym clothes on the street,” says Somers.
“We noticed a lot of brands at opposite ends of the scale – either making pure performance wear or fashion tights from poly-cotton,” Somers explains. “We saw a gap in the middle to make a good performance product which is fashion-forward.”
Maurice Terzini and Lucy Hinkfuss’s brand Ten Pieces was another lifestyle brand on show at MBFWA. Their range is composed of jogger pants, hoodies and loose tees in jersey and hand-knitted cottons. The duo is quick to assert that Ten Pieces is not activewear. Rather, their clothes take inspiration from sportswear and streetwear, and prioritise comfort.
“We totally design around our lifestyle and what we like to wear,” Terzini says. “We live in Bondi, so the beach, sun and casualness that Sydney has are a big inspiration. But we try to represent the modern style, where you can wear our clothes during the day and then wear it out at night for dinner with a different pair of shoes.”
For more evidence that fitness is coming first, look no further than Pip Edward’s luxe sport line P.E Nation. Debuting at MBFWA, the designs blur the boundary between street and sport, harking back to retro athleisure. Edwards is making it commonplace to pair bomber jackets, sports bras and brightly coloured leggings with a clutch in the evening.
It’s apparent the perimeters of what is classified as activewear, or athleisure, are being constantly redefined. We go from workout to brunch without stopping for an outfit change. “We usually think Australia is the last to receive trends, but in this instance, we’re way ahead of everybody else,” Somers says of Australia’s appetite for activewear. “The more acceptable it becomes to wear gym clothes to lunch, the more brands make good-looking stuff for that, the more we feed the beast.”