Between a large array of sneakers, yoga pants, tracksuits and trainers seen on high streets, the athleisure movement is in full swing. Sports and fitness fashion market is predicted to reach $231,7 billion by 2024 at an annual growth rate of 4,42% (sources: Global Inc, Research and Markets).
In this race, luxury is determined to benefit from the favourable surge towards Nike and Adidas. Not a month goes by without a new collaboration between luxury houses and sports giants.
Comparing 2016 and the last 12 months, the mentions of luxury and streetwear collaborations on Instagram have increased by 25% among influencers posts, according to Heuritech data*.
*This analysis is based both on Heuritech’s computer vision technology with bags and shoes we detect on Instagram and natural language processing, i.e. analysis of text and hashtags along with pictures.
Luxury’s rebellion and the cool factor of sportswear
Sport and luxury met in 1998 thanks to Jil Sanders, which was the first fashion brand to invite a sportswear firm, Adidas, for a co-creation project. Since then, luxury brands are getting inspired from sportswear shapes and culture.
According to Bain, high-end streetwear helped boost global luxury personal goods by 5% in 2017 to an estimated $309 billion.
Experts stated the trend will last at a steady yearly pace of 5% throughout 2020. The boom in sales that resulted from streetwear led houses to embrace both fashion and sportswear.
Take for example Chanel which bejewelled trainers at its haute couture SS14 catwalk conveyed a more fashion laid-back image.
The luxury x sport collaboration usually starts with the iconic sneaker — to name a happy fews: Cortez, Air Max, Air Jordan or Vapormax.
Indeed, the mentions of shoes collaboration on Instagram have almost doubled on influencers posts (+100%) comparing first semester of 2016 and the last 12 months, according to Heuritech data. On the other hand, mentions of bag collaborations have increased by +34%.
This activewear trend took off primarily thanks to millennials who were more than enticed by the luxury incursion in bold design sneakers through major subculture figures collaborations. Take for example the Atmos x Nike Air Max 1 “Animal pack”, the YCMC x New Balance 990v4 “Benjamin Bread” or Comme des garçons x Nike Air 180.
For traditional luxury players, it was an opportunity to rejuvenate their image and audience whereas streetwear makers needed an improvement of their production abilities.
The beloved child is Nike, world’s most valuable fashion brand, with $28 billion worth.
The swoosh brand recently projected it would hit $50 billion in sales by 2022.
The brand’s aura already attracted Louis Vuitton, Balmain, Off-White, Supreme or Comme des garçons, among others.
It latest victory is a fashionista’s wildest dream: convincing Anna Wintour to cocreate 2 pairs of sneakers for Nike Air Jordan’s brand displaying Vogue’s colors.
In front of this sportswear heavy-weight stands the climbing challenger, Adidas, 4th most valuable fashion brand.
It already invited Alexander Wang, Jeremy Scott, Opening ceremony, Junya Watanabe.
Before making the catwalk hype along with luxury icons, sportswear used to be devoted exclusively for athletes and exiles.
As a consequence, fans carried on all kinds of derivation, often reworking established logos without the trademarks holder’s approval.
Interestingly enough, yesterday’s unconventional fans that were sued for image infringement — Dapper Dan, Supreme — are now cool kids for luxury.
But back then, many brands were afraid with the threat of ghetto youngsters reappropriation of the well-off stylistic codes. They didn’t want to replicate Lacoste and Burberry unpleasant experience which put the traditional audience off in the early 2000s.
ll luxury brands are embracing streetwear — “the vibe of the time” according to Virgil Abloh.
As Hugo Boss created Boss Orange, Valentino launched the VLNT line, Prada rebooted its Linea Rossa line and Philipp Plein built a whole brand dedicated to sports. And for those who don’t have one yet, the project is already in the pipeline, like Lanvin thinking about silhouette reshaping, away from romantic aesthetics drawn by former artistic director Bouchra Jarrar.
In fact, the two worlds have already collided since Louis Vuitton’s Virgil Abloh met Kanye West when he worked for Fendi, Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci learnt streetwear from Puma and Dior’s menwear designer Kim Jones already worked for Iceberg and Umbro when he came to Louis Vuitton.
In da name of the “drop”: duplicating LV sportswear thriving foray
In 2017, Louis Vuitton was the first luxury brand to embrace so openly and loudly the streetwear movement with its capsule collection endorsing a skater culture emblem, New York’s Supreme.
Its iconic red color adorned both monogrammed products and the brand flagship floor. It resulted with a furtive sold-out effect, on sale for only a single day.
The success was such that it represented 23% of the LVMH’s total income for the first half of 2017, reaching $23 billions revenues.
Mentions of collaborations in influencers’ posts reached its peak during the second semester of 2017, with a +50% increase of mentions yoy, according to Heuritech data. This means that the engagement rate was really strong still a few months after the Louis Vuitton x Supreme release.
Since this milestone, standing against a respectable sportswear brand is the new normality.
As Jarrett Reynolds, brand’s senior apparel design director for Nike sportswear and Nikelab, said “where collaborations used to be really niche, now, collaborations are pop culture”.
Surprising and striking could be the relevant adjectives to describe limited editions releases — also dubbed “drops” by streetwear enthusiasts.
Contrary to mass-market collaborations, entry prices are hefty due to the scarcity marketing nurtured by luxury brands: time-limited edition and limited number of items. These high-priced cult objects fuels a resale market where prices can climb 10 times higher than retail prices.
According Regis Pennel, CEO of L’Exception “the brands merger has to be both surprising and relevant. To work accurately you need a discrepancy.”
Karl Lagerfeld will release on October a new eager-to-expect capsule collection with Puma with 13 pieces emphasizing on the black-and-white aesthetics of the French polymath designer with the sports universe influence.
Moncler recently announced no fewer than eight collaborations such as Valentino or Simone Rocha.
The subversive Russian designer, Gosha Rubchinskiy, introduced Burberry in the streetwear collaboration waves through an interpretation of the signature check pattern after incorporating logos from Fila or Kappa.
Scottish instagram’s artist, Reilly was recently invited by Karl Lagerfeld to fuse Fendi’s logo with embroidered Fila’s vintage tricolore logo with a serious sense of humour.
According to Michael Dupouy, streetwear expert from laMJC consultancy, “more than collaborating with talents, brands do it with networks: they choose guest brand collaborators not according to creative input but because of their highly engagement on social media platforms.”
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