There is something specific about Kenyans. Our fashion sense is influenced by British formality. As a result fashion is either taken too seriously or not seriously enough.
Fashion is best served easy, enjoyed, with a touch of playfulness we seem unable to embrace. Maybe, possibly, it will come out in 2016 with the rise of athleisure. It enters Webster’s dictionary January 2016. Never mind if you don’t work out. The idea is to look like you do.
At the 2015 P&G Future Fabrics Conference, Barcelona, it was evident designers are grappling with this blend of fashion, sports and street style. It exists not as a fashion trend, but a lifestyle trend. It is motivated by the “healthy concious” industry. It is said to be more than what the pharmaceutical industry is worth.
Athleisure has a side effect. Dr Larry Rosenblum, cognitive psychologist says, “Even without the social feedback from others about how we look and the compliments, what we wear affects our brain directly. And just athleisure on its own improves our
energy levels even if we are not aware of it. It enhances our cognitive skills and athleticism.”
Look at Instagram, the biggest fashion and increasingly, lifestyle platform for a slice of feel good.
When Nike CEO Mark Parker said “Leggings are the new denim,” in 2014 it sounded smug. Who has not longed for the legging trend on our streets to die? Athleisure is confusing and will be more so as you shop for workout gear in line with your
resolutions. What on earth does it mean? What it does not mean is gym to street to office to club. What it means is comfort, function, washability and wrinkle free. These qualities are infiltrating mainstream fashion.
There now exist over 600 fabric combinations because consumers do not want to feel constricted by clothes. Basically, people want to walk around all day in clothes that feel like their fluffy, broken-in PJs.
What started as a menswear trend with polo shirts in the 1960s is now a force in fashion. Yoga pants, sneakers and sports bras have also grown in popularity. Leggings edged out denim, the latter recording an eight per cent drop.
Sports bras are outpacing traditional bras because of comfort, support and style.
Street style and fashion feed each to create trends that are shaped by communities. Ankle boots, stacked heels, sneakers and menswear inspired shoes meet the demands of busing, walking, cycling and skateboarding in a mostly casual style. Kenyan shoes reflect an aspiration towards glamour; colourful, trendy, heeled and often replaceable even if ballet flats.
Paula Reed, director of brand strategy, Boutique 1 an online fashion retailer, says, “This is a global trend transcending class, age and gender. It is a grave mistake to discuss this trend by age. It is affected by street culture. People are now wearing what used to be a faux pas. They want low maintenance lifestyles. It affects consumer behaviour. When they buy clothes they also want to know how to take care of them. This is not fast fashion.”
She adds, “Retailers learnt what people wanted because they returned to us to explain how the clothes behaved during laundry; whether they shrunk, lost shape and were wearable or not. Designers disregard aftercare labels so people have to find out for themselves. 90 per cent of what we are told should be dry cleaned does not have to be dry cleaned.”
Athleisure is taking root in Kenya. Emerging designers are labeled as activewear combine jersey, print and denim. They also take into account the variety of body types in the market. Still confused? Athleisure is smart casual. Except instead of denim there are hundreds of other options, and instead of a button down there are countless other non-cotton fabrics.
Workout gear can glow in the dark for early morning runs, count steps and monitor your heart rate. It can also simply make you feel good.