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China’s Athleisure Wear: From Style To Political Statement.

Thanks to their comfy fabrics and Subway lunch meets Haidilao hotpot dinner adjustable fit, the athleisure  trend has sustained its momentum in China. Temper wonders... Is this hype a matter of style or politics?

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 how one Lagerfeld cashmere sweatshirt can now 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.

 

Ming Xi Athleisure YAHOO
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 scene 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.

 

Urban Revivo 2 ELLE CHINA
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.

 

Urban Revivo Light 1 ELLE CHINA
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 simply 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 shoppers 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, the fact of the matter remains that 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.