Athleisure In China

King Karl Lagerfeld once said: “Sweatpants are a sign of defeat.” How ironic that a Lagerfeld cashmere sweatshirt now goes for 253 USD. Ok, ok. It’s a shirt, not pants… Over the past two years, the athleisure trend has spun out of control.

 

I myself believe 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.

 

Sporting Running Tights

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).

I myself believe 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. Why would you? Thanks to their comfy fabrics and adjustable-to-a-very-big-lunch-plus-dinner fit, you will find yourself living on a realm of no-buttons-needed bliss. Run like the wind, dearies!

 Crossing 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 fuerdai (富二代) aka “second-generation money”, are notorious for their ostentatious and beyond lavish antics, from crashing Lamborghini Aventadors to burning bundles of cash. The young and restless wealthy of China go on designer shopping sprees, own the latest exclusive handbags and can probably boast a property or two in their name (abroad). And nowadays, we may add athleisure wear to that list. How about that…

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Political Motivations

Shopping is all about statement buys for these guys. Over the past six months, there has been a turn towards Western sports brands. President Xi Jingping’s campaign to reign in the exuberant expediture of luxury goods at the hands public officials (aka 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.

Chieftain Xi, meanwhile, encourages this trend, hoping to garner more interest in sports before the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

One reason here is that despite China’s sports industry still being underdeveloped anno 2016, an increasing number of Middle Kingdommers is interested in getting healthier. More and more people are heading out for a refreshing run early in the morning or getting their abs-wheel roll on after work hours. 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. 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. Chieftain Xi, meanwhile, encourages this trend, hoping to garner more interest in sports before the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

So how about that? In China, wearing branded sweatpants is apparently a sign of tax evasion, not one of defeat.

 

Photos: Chinese model Ming Xi; Stella McCartney for Adidas.