The fashion week season isn’t meant to be about sportswear. Sure, there’s elements of it in some collections, and of late functional details such as taped seems and waterproof fabrics have been part of the seasonal trends. Like with all trends, that will come and go; next season there might be a reaction against sporty utilitarianism, and all of a sudden formalwear will dominate again. For a few seasons at least. But there are elements of sportswear that transcend fashion fads. Representing a more casual and relaxed part of the male wardrobe, trainers, sweatshirts and tracksuit bottoms are now recognized staples worn by men all over the world – though perhaps the term “sportswear” is a bit misleading as it implies exercise clothing suitable for professional athletes. What we are referring to is more like “leisurewear” for everyday life.
Whatever you call it, there’s no denying it’s everywhere – just look at the past Fall/Winter 2015 show season in London, Milan and Paris. None of those cities are considered “sporty” – especially not Paris – but ironically that’s were lots of great sports/leisurewear was on display back in January. What was interesting to observe, once you’d reached the conclusion that sportswear is still integral to fashion, not as a trend but as a lifestyle choice, is where all that gear came from. Just like with bags, shoes and hats, brands often go to another, third-party manufacturer when producing such items as these brands contribute a unique expert knowledge. In the case of Fall/Winter 2015 sportswear, and trainers specifically, there was no doubt about who the main supplier was: adidas.
No other brand in the sportswear sphere has, it appears, grasped the importance of allying itself with high-end fashion in the same way adidas has. Now, collaborations between trainer brands and fashion designers are not rare, but often it’s just a case of brief partnerships. Alexander McQueen x PUMA, Nike x Riccardo Tisci, Le Coq Sportif x Baartmans & Siegel, Converse x Maison Margiela and Reebok x Palace. The list goes on. These collabs fill a gap and (hopefully) serve both brands well. But what adidas has launched is an onslaught of high-end fashion partnerships on different involvement levels and for various amounts of time. Sure, some of it isn’t that new; the ongoing Y-3 collab brand, in partnership with design legend Yohji Yamamoto, is over 12 years old. But of late, especially since the Y-3 show moved from New York to Paris, it’s fueled by an invigorated energy. The Fall/Winter 2015 collection, inspired by Air Force uniforms, was a testament to that. Today we take Y-3 for granted, but think about it; what other sportswear brand has its own collaborative runway show featuring each season’s collations in Paris, the home of fashion?
As if that wasn’t enough (and most sport brands would be thrilled to be able to pull that off alone), adidas continued to supply two of the giants on the Parisian men’s catwalk schedule with trainers. Raf Simons and Rick Owens have both been collaborating with adidas for several seasons, each time upping their game – and adidas’s – in terms of styles, fabrication and direction. Rick’s trainer silhouettes and Raf’s color scheme are integral to their collections, even though this time Rick Owens did all in his power to move the focus up from the model’s feet to their crotches. Some fell for it, others continued to be impressed by the forward-thinking footwear design. The extra long high-top trainers and his use of the Spring Blade technology has given both Owens and adidas a powerful sartorial look that’s instantly recognizable.
Furthermore the adidas dominance was felt at two other events during Paris Fashion Week. The second outing of the ongoing adidas x White Mountaineering collab was unveiled at a Rue de Turenne presentation. Designer Yosuke Aizawa perfectly blended the adidas ZX Flux trainer into his camouflage-heavy collection. Aizawa is known for pushing technology in his collections and the adidas association will do both good as the German sportswear brand is also constantly challenging itself in that area. adidas is no stranger to working with Japanese brands – old and new collabs include NEIGHBORHOOD, Kazuki Kuraishi from The Fourness and Cash Ca, mastermind JAPAN, BAPE, etc. – but this felt like more of a substantial partnership as different kinds of adidas trainer styles were properly embedded into the collection.
But, famously, there’s a second catwalk as well, one that validates the looks seen months before on the runway: the street. In the last year or so – basically since the relaunch of the Stan Smith – adidas was seen on nearly every other person attending shows. At least that’s what it feels like. The plain retro feeling of the Stan Smith really struck a chord with the fashion community, with its minimal design perfectly framing the intricately detailed clothes that make up the rest of the fashionista uniform. As the aforementioned Raf, Rick and Y-3 trainers started appearing on shop floors, industry insiders increasingly put them to the test in real life with a shocking number of pairs seen in our ongoing Street Style coverage over the past few months. Now, with the ongoing Superstar relaunch, it’s only a matter of time before London, Paris and Milan are literally overrun by multicolored shell toes.
Finally, adidas also launched a proper brand collaboration with (another) Japanese brand, Kolor. The line perfectly marries adidas’s high-tech approach with Junichi Abe’s avant-garde take on contemporary fashion. Focused on luxurious exercise clothing, the capsule collection can perhaps be likened to Nike and UNDERCOVER designer Jun Takahashi’s very successful Gyakusou line. If so, adidas is going after Nike in one of the few areas where the American brand has gained ground in the lucrative sport/fashion hybrid area. Gyakusou managed to excite both runners and contemporary customers looking for stylish and effective sportswear. It’s also quite far removed from Takahashi’s UNDERCOVER aesthetic, which is good as it means it’s not just a water-downed diffusion style collection. Gyakusou is honest and it remains to be seen if the adidas x Kolor collab can match that.
What can be confirmed, though, is that if there ever was any doubt about what sportswear brand unofficially “owned” the Fall/Winter 2015 European menswear season, it was adidas. Through its own catwalk line and several partnerships with some of the most established and revered brands and designers around, adidas seem to be very comfortable in its Prime-Knitted Boost throne.