How Sport and Fashion Inspire each other

The biggest queues nowadays are not during rare exhibitions. The sales of new Yeezy Boost sneakers cause much more excitement. This excitement is part of a global trend: in all world markets, the popularity of sportswear is growing, and its manufacturers compete among the designers and celebrities involved in cooperation. Although at the end of the fourth quarter of 2024, Adidas Originals, which includes the Kanye West brand, showed a 15% increase in sales, Highsnobiety editor Alik Leach is confident, that this project should not be looking for financial calculation. “Of course, even such a large-scale collaboration as the Yeezy project seems insignificant when you look at the company’s records: Adidas makes billions of dollars a year, and a few thousand Kanye-named sneakers don’t have much of an impact”, says Leach. He believes that the goals of such cooperation are primarily reputation: “In theory, cooperation with Kanye West should affect the image of the entire brand and cause an increase in sales of all collections”. However, Kanye is not solely responsible for the links between the German sports manufacturer and the fashion industry: in recent years, Adidas has created joint collections with designers like Prada, HYKE, and media persons like Tyler “Ninja” Blevins and Beyoncé’.

In recent years, the second corporation from the Bavarian Herzogenaurach has not lagged behind its competitors: there are Rihanna, Kylie Jenner, designers of the McQ studio, SWASH London brand among the latest co-authors of the Puma collections as the art directors. Again, the reports show the success of these businesses – in the first three months of 2019, Puma sales grew by 18.4%.

The American giant Nike, of course, is not inferior to German companies: since 2014, Riccardo Tisci, Creative Director of Givenchy, has created capsule collections for this brand, and model Karlie Kloss has been involved in advertising campaigns. On the eve of the European Football Championship, held in July in France, Olivier Rousteing, who heads Balmain, presented his version of the football kit. “NikeLab x Olivier Rousteing: Football Nouveau” is a designer favourite black and gold scale, and the Frenchman was helped by the captain of the Portuguese national team and the future European champion 2016 Cristiano Ronaldo, whose career you can follow on Over the past few years, Brazilian Pedro Lourenzo, Berlin designer Johanna Schneider and Chitose Abe, who started her career at Comme des Garçons, have also noted collaborations with Nike.

The sneaker collecting culture has played an important role in establishing the fashion status of sports brands, according to Kevin Ma, founder of Hong-Kong-based Hypebeast Ltd., which combines the eponymous website, street fashion magazine and online store HBX, which has more than 300 brands. “The desperate hunt for certain sneaker models is the influence of the sneakerhead community. Moreover, collectors act in different ways: someone buys only models that are suitable for his tribe in this subculture, others are attracted by the historical value of the model. Many, of course, queue up just to resell sneakers on the Internet”.

The release of Run DMC’s song “My Adidas” in 1986 is considered to be the event that made sneakers no longer just sports shoes, but an object of pop culture, a collectable and a form of expression. In the same year, while performing this song at a hip-hop trio concert in New York’s Madison Square Garden, thousands of fans took to the air with their white Adidas. Two years earlier, in 1984, the Nike Air Jordan, designed specifically for Michael Jordan, was quickly taking over basketball courts around the world. In the early 1990s, Noel Gallagher and Damon Albarn became Adidas evangelists for white European youth. Young people and the Beastie Boys were convinced to wear sneakers in any unclear situation.

“Céline’s” creative director Phoebe Faylo has played a similar role in the fashion industry. She has appeared in front of cameras in Adidas Stan Smith and Nike Air Max, and in 2013 she went out to bow to the audience after the shows in navy blue and grey New Balance 574. Faylo also had a hand in the new heyday of Vans, creating a model of classic slip-on sneakers and launching a wave fashion for this shoe. “Faylo used a technique familiar to sneaker collectors for a long time: certain models evoke a sense of nostalgia and interact with teenage memories”, writes Hannah Marriott, deputy fashion editor for The Guardian.

Financial Times fashion editor Joe Ellison also connects the designers’ fascination with sports brands with childhood memories of this generation. “Kids who ran in Nike sweatshirts, Lacoste polos or Champion sweatpants grew up to become designers and started creating their collections that reflect the mascots of their youth. This is a collective nostalgia”.

By 2014, the trend spread to the best Parisian fashion houses. In January, a designer version of sneakers by Karl Lagerfeld was demonstrated at the Chanel show and Raf Simons at the Dior show. In the summer of the same year, Lagerfeld launched black sneakers with the “K” logo as part of his brand (and was sued by New Balance on charges of plagiarism). In 2014, almost every street fashion celebrity rushing to Paris Fashion Week was seen wearing sneakers, from Veronica Heilbrunner in Converse to Miroslava Duma in ASICS. Online retailer Net-A-Porter launched a temporary project called Net-A-Sporter, where items were divided into 10 sections: gym and CrossFit, running, yoga and dancing, tennis, equestrianism, swimming, surfing and golf. Athleisure has flourished, a style that transforms sportswear into casual wear. Athleisure is the result of the fitness craze, running, yoga, Pilates, CrossFit and health in general. In 2014, the term took third place among the concepts from the world of fashion in terms of the number of searches in Google, second only to normcore and health-gothic.

Although most of the collaborations are created in laboratories and giant corporations offices, the global trend is about being picked up by smaller companies. For example, in 2015, the Adidas-owned Reebok brand released sneakers created in the participation of the main hero of Russian fashion Gosha Rubchinsky, who previously worked with Vans, and the French brand Le Coq Sportif brought in the rising star of the world of accessories Amelie Pishar. “Designers are introducing the fashion industry to sports brands that people in the industry might not know about”, says Alik Leach, “Sportswear is becoming a full-fledged part of global fashion.” Moreover, these brands do not compete, for example, with Chanel or Prada, because these are two completely different markets, according to Kevin Ma. He adds: “These two worlds do not compete, they inspire each other.”

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