Sport is a significant source of inspiration for summer 2014. Both luxury fashion firms such as Prada or Céline for women and Givenchy and Louis Vuitton for men, as well as those addicted to street style such as Marc Jacobs or Dries Van Noten, have been carried away by one of the most influential looks for fashion in the last century.
To judge by the catwalks, in the coming season wardrobes will more than likely devote a large amount of room to sweatshirts, waterproofs, polo shirts, boxing shorts and a long etcetera of garments that, far from hiding their sporting origins, will revel in them. And so it should be, because summer 2014 will be their moment. Although we’ve seen a series of examples recently: from the creation of Y-3, the combination of Yamamoto’s talent and Adidas in 2003, to recurring references in the Balenciaga collections by Nicolas Ghesquière who declared, on the rare occasion he granted an interview, that , together with science fiction, sport was his great source of inspiration.
Moreover, far from being a passing fad, fashion gurus are claiming that sport will be around in fashion for some time to come, albeit filtered through the tastes and opinions of its creators, the designers. These are responsible for creating an attractive transformation from the courts, stadiums and sports routines to the street. A formula that, like a mantra, is repeated again and again, filtering into creative workshops that reinterpret, with a contemporary sensibility, the colour codes, simple lines and comfort that have characterised sportswear since the beginning of the 20th century.
That was when many of the garments originated that occupy our wardrobes today, so accustomed to the street and everyday life that it’s easy to forget their sporting origins. Loden and gabardine for cycling and driving, the Lacoste chemise for tennis, sailor’s trousers, canvas shoes, striped shirts, golf dresses, comfortable knitted pyjamas and dungarees for sailing are just some of the examples that illustrate the close ties between sport and fashion for the last one hundred years.
The fact that comfort became particularly important in 20th century fashion right from the start was probably decisive in sports codes making their way onto the catwalks, although what made them irresistible was how they became, in the first few decades of the last century, a symbol of a lifestyle that only the wealthiest social classes could adopt. Millionaires, the bourgeoisie and aristocrats who enjoyed their leisure in the open air by swimming, sailing, playing tennis or golf, riding horses and playing other sports and who, with a healthy tan acquired at holiday resorts such as Deauville, the Côte d’Azure, Italian Riviera, Palm Beach or ranches in the American West, did away with paleness as the ideal of beauty. For the first time in millennia, having a tanned skin was no longer a sign of working in the fields but of spending the winter cruising the Caribbean. Gabrielle Chanel was one of the first to display a bronzed face and also to enjoy these sports, inspiring her to create a new language of fashion, of knitted outfits for strolling along the beach, jodhpurs and shirts for horse riding, wide cardigans and skirts for excursions in the mountains, which filled the wardrobes of the most style-obsessed and elegant women in their long, glamorous sports sessions.
Fashion took over the closets of this ever-growing exquisite clientele that needed alternatives to dress their leisure pursuits. The origins of an essentialist style that incorporates new fabrics and combines pure lines with luxury materials. Looks that would epitomise the fashion of both the 20th and 21st century.
Chanel, Patou, the great Vionette, Schiapparelli and even Jeanne Lanvin were some of the names that would get to work on creating, applying fashion codes, the garments of this new genre, their boutiques opening up sections devoted to sport. Some of them dressed the sports stars of the time, such as Gienna Collet, the first female American golf champion, who in 1929 received her trophy wearing a sweater from the legendary Trompe l’Oeil collection by Elsa Schiapparelli, which made her famous. Gienna and also tennis star Suzanne Lenglen were muses and sources of inspiration both for the visionary Elsa and for some of the most important designers of the age. Lenglen filled the covers of newspapers and magazines in 1925 dressed in a comfortable sweater and pleated skirt designed by Jean Patou, allowing her complete movement on the court; a stylish uniform she wore for her sixth victory at Wimbledon. It goes without saying that the corset had disappeared from the “sports bag” of such stylish female athletes since the beginning of the 20th century, Paul Poiret being one of the most active instigators of this new genre (by the way, also the mentor and patron of Elsa Schiapparelli). Years later, in 1931, the creativity of Schiap once again caused controversy with a tunic and trouser skirt made of silk knit jersey, designed for the Spanish tennis player Lili de Álvarez who played in Highbury, North London. Then came the interwar collections, integrating the Tyrolean cap and loden fabric, so popular at Tyrol ski resorts, in this Italian designer’s creations. And sport brought with it the germ of transformation with a need for comfort, striking the complicated balance between appearance and comfort, not fully resolved until the 1920s. It also brought with it the germ of experimentation, quickly incorporating materials such as loden, gabardine, rubber and fleece in garments that, thanks to the talent of designers, would jump from the sports locker to eventually transform fashion. And it also brought the germ of imagination and creativity that still seduces today’s designers in their creations. Summer 2014 is a good example of this. À suivre!