As ready-to-wear designers continue to poach elements from the streamlined world of sportswear, a clutch of independent activewear designers are busy flexing their muscles on the specialist exercise scene.
With names such as SoulCycle (New York’s cultish version of spinning, set in a partially candlelit room with motivational mantras), the latest fitness classes, online workouts and boot camps are fashionably niche, as are the brands being flaunted in class.
Take Weargrace, for example, a contemporary yoga label designed and produced in Italy by Karen Joyce, former director of image for Gucci Group. Then there is Bodyism, the fitness and nutritional system founded by husband-and-wife duo James and Christiane Duigan. In addition to its bestselling Clean and Lean Diet book and model following (among them Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Lara Stone), its latest workout collection includes the all-important sports bra. Featuring digital prints, it is stylish enough to wear as a crop-top to any high-impact class.
Earlier this month, Net-a-Porter launched Net-a-Sporter, its first dedicated fitness division, to showcase these and a host of international sports labels. And in November Mary Katrantzou will launch her first collection of clothing and footwear for Adidas.
So should you be upping your game? “Fitness and fashion are now so closely entwined,” says Sandy Macaskill, instructor and co-owner of Barry’s Bootcamp London, which puts a fashionable clientele through its paces. “And because you’re always bumping into people you know here, be it a work colleague or an old acquaintance, you don’t want to be caught out in dirty old trainers!” Here are some pointers on what to wear to the latest classes.
What? London’s latest spinning workout involves ducking and weaving to give the body a head-to-toe workout as you pedal (and whoop along) to motivational dance tracks. Light hand weights and yoga moves are also incorporated to tone the upper body, while movement out of the saddle is said to increase the engagement of core muscles in each 45-minute session.
Where? Central London
What to wear? Hold the Asics trainers as studded cycling shoes are provided here. It is advisable to keep hems away from the gears, so leggings work best. Live the Process, founded in New York by brand consultant Robyn Berkley, has three-quarter-length versions (£115), while Stella McCartney’s range for Adidas features Capri styles (£65). Pair with mesh-lined crop tops by Every Second Counts (£41), a British label started by former fashion director Sally Dixon, or racer-back tank-tops from another London-based activewear brand, Lucas Hugh (£90).
What? Founded by fitness guru Niki Rein in 2011, this workout mixes low-impact core training on the floor and the ballet barre alternated with holding poses and stretching. You won’t sweat too much in class compared with an aerobics session, so this is your chance to wear a longer-sleeved T-shirt over full-length leggings. It’s never too late to pull off a Flashdance look – with plenty of 1980s references – or take a cue from Viktor & Rolf’s ballet-inspired spring/summer 2014 couture collection.
Where? Chelsea and Mayfair, London. Virtual classes can also be beamed direct to your chosen screen – though you might want to invest in the Barrecore accessories pack (£36), which contains an inflatable ball and non-slip socks.
What to wear? Sweaty Betty has long-sleeved yoga T-shirts (£39) that you could pair with leggings by Bodyism (£95). For the dancer look, try Ballet Beautiful’s stretch nylon leotard (£110) and knitted jersey legwarmers (£80). Stella McCartney for Adidas has slouchy hoodies (£95), and Amsterdam-based basics designer Zoe Karssen, has colourful sweatshirts to choose from. If you can’t carry it all in your day bag, Monreal London has colour-block leather and canvas kit bags (£540).
What? Think off-duty LA – Victoria Beckham, Kim Kardashian et al scurrying from jeep to studio backdoor to avoid the paparazzi. Owner Barry Jay opened the first Bootcamp studio in West Hollywood in 1998. Today one-hour drop-in classes (£20) combine high-intensity interval training on Woodway treadmills (used by the US Navy Seals) and floor work using weights and resistance bands. With strip lighting and dance tunes, there’s a nightclub vibe to boot.
Where? International locations including London, Oslo, Miami, Boston, Tribeca and the Hamptons.
What to wear? Invest in a pair of black Cassini leggings by activewear specialist Hey Jo (£145) and pair with a lightweight tank-top over a fluoro-coloured sports bra. Alala, a women’s activewear brand created by New York-based triathlete Denise Lee, features crop-tops with cut-out backs and zippers ($75) while Los Angeles-based Koral has a West Coast-cool vibe that comes across in sleeveless hooded tops. Nike’s Air Zoom Pegasus 31 (£85) would add another pop of colour.
What? An urban alternative to soul-searching yoga retreats, perfect for those who think sun salutations work better from a vertiginous vantage point. Mandy Jhamat, co-founder of Yogasphere, which runs classes on the highest accessible point of London’s Shard skyscraper, says: “On warmer days, classes and meditation sequences are held on this breathtaking open-air platform, exposed to the elements and sounds of the city below.”
Where? Yogasphere runs classes (£40 each) on level 72 of the Shard. Elsewhere, the London division of New York-based Serene Social holds vinyasa flow classes (£25) in the rooftop garden of Coq d’Argent, a French restaurant in the City with views of the Gherkin and Cheesegrater, and the price includes a post-yoga breakfast. In Los Angeles, Serene Social offers classes on a helipad on top of the Loews hotel in Hollywood.
What to wear? Weargrace produces sari-front trousers (£135), while cult US sports label Lululemon makes pullovers (£78) light enough to layer over vests during the cool-down. For slouching, Los Angeles-based sports label Clu has soft jersey track pants (£155). A non-slip yoga mat is essential – see Liforme (£100) – as are organic shower products. Try Liz Earle’s Bergamot and Ginger Shower Nectar (£12.50) followed by Aesop’s Rejuvenate Intensive Body Balm (from £25).
Stockists in this article and this week’s other Style articles
What’s next: Training trends
Women think about their workout wardrobes in a very different way these days. They want exciting, stylish options that make them feel great and look great. I love to wear prints when I work out and I’m always game to try new styles and shapes. I try to be as adventurous with my workout clothes as I would be with my everyday wardrobe, writes Calgary Avansino.
I always look to LA and New York for amazing new classes. People are very focused on exercise in those cities, so there are constantly new classes emerging that push your body in different ways. I tried a terrific Pilates class called SLT the last time I was in New York and last week I went to an antigravity yoga class in LA that I left feeling like I was walking on air.
TRX is a new workout that uses adjustable straps to suspend your body weight. I think it will become more popular and widely available. Another class I’m dying to try is paddleboard yoga.
For Pilates and barre classes, I wear a breathable short-sleeved top and Capri leggings. For spinning I prefer a lightweight vest over a bright neon sports bra and tight leggings for maximum comfort on the bike.
As for nutrition, lately I’ve been trying Elle Macpherson’s new green Super Elixir. Your main objective should be to limit sugar – many other supplements and “sports” drinks are loaded with it. I always eat a small but nutritionally dense snack before class, especially if I am feeling tired. Sometimes I grab a handful of almonds, an apple with some almond butter, some carrot sticks with hummus or a green veggie smoothie.
Calgary Avansino is a contributing editor at Vogue UK