Just as the novelty of comfort-forward clothing started to wear off, designers got creative by spawning a more luxury-leaning approach to athleisure. In what's now considered the early stages of the ‘athluxe’ trend, Balenciaga’s Demna Gvasalia unveiled multiple inspired takes on the traditional tracksuit — miniskirts, gown-like jackets, wide-leg striped trousers — in the label’s Resort 2022 Collection. Shortly afterwards in New York, Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez sent models down Proenza Schouler’s Spring 2022 runway in fringed bike shorts and technical nylon gowns. And, with the highly anticipated collaboration between Gucci and Adidas hitting stores this Fall, the athluxe trend is too impossible to ignore.
Not just on the high-end runways, but the fashion crowd is now gravitating toward luxury leaning athleisure as opposed to the standard lycra legging or matching jersey set. “High-low dressing is nothing new, but a comfortable sensibility has been adopted over the past two years and has changed the way our customers dress,” says Libby Page, senior market editor at Net-A-Porter. “Sweatpants, hoodies, and leggings have become second nature, and when it came time to venturing out into the world again, our customers [are elevating] this attire while still holding on to the comfort they [have] come to know and love,” Page describes.
Los Angeles-based HÉROS is a prime example of the sophisticated take on activewear Page refers to. “I wanted to create an activewear brand through a fashion lens, rather than wellness — styles that can just as easily be worn to lunch as Pilates,” details Joni Kilmurry, founder of the emerging label. “We use beautiful Italian fabrics and each of our styles must be as beautiful as it is functional,” she explains of her design process.
Furthermore, luxurious athleisure expands beyond refined workout-ready garments. It can manifest in an overtly high-fashion manner, too, signaling the trend might be more about the general aesthetic of activewear — an insouciant attitude and an always-on-the-go lifestyle — as opposed to activity itself. Nylon gowns, ornate crochet hoodies, and sequined bike shorts now present as options to wear to a celebratory event instead of just a sweat-inducing workout class. High-heeled football cleats have now hit the market, too (you can thank Nike’s partnership with the ever-inventive Comme Des Garçons for that one).
As you can likely observe on your own, there are many facets to 2022’s athluxe trend. Ahead, more insights from Page and other experts on elevated sportswear, as well as a tightly curated edit to shop. Ready, set, scroll!
We at TZR only include products that have been independently selected by our editors. We may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article
Anti-Sport Details & Materials
For those who’d rather lean more into the fashion angle of the athluxe trend, choose garments with a sports influence but manifest in ways that feel almost antithetical to exercise. Consider, for instance, a pair of Proenza Schouler’s bike shorts adorned with flirty fringe, which — let’s be honest — would hinder you in a spin class, or a Tom Ford racer-back tank top covered entirely in light-reflecting sequins. For an even more outlandish example of anti-sports sportswear, the hybrid Premier shoes from Comme Des Garçons collab with Nike resemble a football sneaker that spontaneously sprouted a heel one day.
Plan C’s Founder and Creative Director, Carolina Castiglioni tells TZR that creating fashion-driven athleticwear is a well-calculated operation, one she’s become an expert at. “In my work, I try to find the perfect balance between functionality and decoration by using unexpected details, such as velcro closures for comfy pants or uncomplicated silhouettes enriched with a cascade of sequins,” she offers.
Consider making a dramatic impact in leather sportswear, whether it be via a wearable pair of trendy short-shorts or a perforated hide blouse that resembles the pinny jerseys you once wore when running laps in gym class. In particular, Page shouts out sweatpants made of luxurious leather, suggesting you style a pair “with a bralette, an oversized blazer, and classic pumps for an effortlessly modern look.” Alternatively, she offers, “leather joggers can be paired back with retro sneakers and a T-shirt for an easy, day-to-day take.”
Once you’ve mastered the luxe track pants trend, level up to the next fashion tier related to the sportswear: revamped trackwear. Inspired designers are breathing new life into the iconic set by reimagining it in newfound, albeit unconventional silhouettes — seen via Balenciaga’s nylon miniskirt, Palm Angel’s fire engine red striped sweater, and Rokh’s sweatshirt-slash-blazer hybrid garment.
In Defense Of The Sporty Singlet
Another sportswear garment to receive a contemporary redux is the unitard, now known more colloquially as a playsuit or, when in a knee-grazing silhouette, a bike short bodysuit. You can expect stretchy one-pieces to be especially popular throughout the rest of the season, as they were prevalent on the Spring/Summer 2022 runways — namely on Saint Laurent’s, where models donned singlets straight out of an ‘80s jazzercise class.
The sports-centric garment pops up frequently in the indie fashion scene, too. “The Italian scuba unitard is our trademark hero piece,” explains HÉROS’ Kilmurry. And the founder finds them to be surprisingly wearable outside of a gym-related context: “One-pieces lend themselves well to everyday wear — paired with a blazer, for example — and provide great coverage while still being sexy, making them incredibly versatile,” she offers.
High-Tech Meets High-Fashion
Performance-driven fabrics like nylon and polyester allow for the wearer to easily shift into sports mode if need be. And when the materials are translated into traditionally feminine silhouettes, the result is a charming amalgamation of high-fashion-meets-high-tech. For sartorial examples, look to Plan C’s tiered midi skirt or Prada’s strapless gown made of its signature upcycled signature nylon.
“Athleisure can be about comfortability, rather than just practicality,” says Page. “Knitwear has always been synonymous with comfort, so it isn't surprising we are seeing this fabrication more and more within this space,” explains Net-a-Porter’s Senior Market Editor. “Fine wool and cashmere automatically elevate an outfit, whereas traditionally ‘sporty’ fabrics such as lycra, jersey, and elastane are more associated with sportswear.”
In particular, Page shouts out Nagnata, a “sustainable activewear brand [that] specializes in ‘technical’ knitwear that can be worn during workouts as well as lounging at home.”
The Reprise of Yoga Pants
Yoga pants, as you likely know if you keep tabs on the athleisure trend cycle, underwent a rebrand in recent years. No longer as strongly associated with the black jersey iterations from the noughties, the stretchy bottoms have adopted a new moniker: flared leggings. And according to the Spring/Summer 2022 showings, yoga pants — er, flared leggings — will reach a trending apex this season. You’ll see the elastic bottoms done in decadent chocolate hues or fabricated out of knitwear and sleek materials, giving the pant a more sophisticated spin.
“It was a practical decision to add a spat to the leggings,” explains Norma Kamali on her eponymous brand’s stretch-jersey, split-hem bottoms. “The slit in the front allows for platform sneakers, shoes, or pointed shoes to come out. And,” adds the industry legend, “the fabric then opens up, so the back and sides go straight down to the floor, [resulting in] is a long-leg silhouette.”