Fashion: The Olympics inspires the most stylish sports wear ever

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Ellesse crop half zip hoody, �40, from JD Sports on www.jdsports.co.uk
Small top Ellesse crop half zip hoody, �40, from JD Sports on www.jdsports.co.uk
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As the Olympics inspires not just sports participation but also fashion trends, Stephanie Smith takes a look at what’s in vogue at the gym.

Rio 2016 has been the most stylish Olympics to date, featuring some of the world’s biggest names in designer fashion.

Stella McCartney for Adidas created both the official opening ceremony outfits and the sportswear for the Team GB, her designs praised for their super-stylish and subtle patriotism, while Lacoste designed for the French team, Ralph Lauren for the US team and Hermès is the official sponsor of the Brazilian equestrian team.

Sports stars are 2016’s world fashion icons, as gladiatorial strength and looks become inspirational for all, not just for health and fitness reasons but as a must-have aesthetic. Leeds champion boxer Nicola Adams features in this month’s Vogue, and across the globe Olympic athletes of all nationalities have been modelling both sportswear and fabulous day to night wear.

Sport has always influenced fashion, from Fred Perry to Polo Ralph Lauren, but the emphasis has tended to be chiefly in terms of leisurewear. As the 21st century proceeds, the increasing collaboration and crossover between the worlds of fashion and sport – plus a hefty dose of pop music – reflect a new philosophy, a shift in the way in which we view our time, our interests and our whole life.

We don’t compartmentalise the different activities of our day any more because we don’t have time to. So work and play, day and night, sport, leisure, socialising and professional life all gets mixed up and blended.

As the fashion industry becomes increasingly preoccupied with health and fitness, with sports-inspired athleisure influencing not just casualwear but also day and evening wear, so sports wear becomes increasingly trend-driven. This means that designer detail – and it’s all about the detail – reflects both technical and catwalk innovations. Mesh, for example, is a flexible, breathable sports fabric that now features on all sorts of clothing, even floor-length evening gowns.

On the catwalk, anticipating Rio 2016, Lacoste presented a spring/summer 2016 collection of zip-up polo shirts and oversized jackets while Stella McCartney gave us checked racerback vests, polo shirt dresses and mesh creations in flag-like primary colours.

The High Street has followed suit with speed and super-keenness. Topshop has its new Ivy Park line by Beyonce, a characteristically all-American look inspired by baseball, with cropped fleecy hoodies and cropped leggings.

New Look, meanwhile, has come up with a sleek street-style look, in Lycra mesh with patterns in camouflage and animal print.

Lipsy has ultra-wearable pieces ranging from relaxed and cosy cotton sweat suits to California-style neon-bright vests.

Marks & Spencer has been pioneering all sort of sports fashion and performance technology, from fabrics that dry quickly and help keep the body cool while exercising to high impact sports bras.

Just as High Street fashion stores have been getting in on the act by offering increasingly sport-inspired ranges, so too have sports stores been offering increasingly fashion-inspired collections. JD Sports has a devoted website called JD Woman, featuring Ivy Park alongside brands including Ellesse, Pink Soda, Emporio Armani and Fred Perry, while Nike and Adidas are both targeting the female market with performance sportswear that is so comfortable, easy to wear and fashionable that women want to wear it pretty much all the time, not just as they head out for the gym.

The sports trend is not going to fade any time soon. Hopefully, by keeping it stylish, we’ll not enter “shellsuit” land – because no one wants to go back there.

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