Casual, Yes! Comfortable, Yes! But Couture?

By Lorraine Brett

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She waved at me as her limousine sped past. I caught a glimpse of her in the backseat. I saw her white gloved hand. And it saw me! I am convinced of it. And he was there, too. And, then, she was gone. Our sovereign, our Queen, and Prince Phillip. “Long live the Queen,” I thought. I felt euphoric.

It was 1983. The Queen was 57 then, as I will be next year. I was wearing my best dress shorts accessorized with a baby on my hip. My shorts were red cotton, gently worn, pleated, high-waisted, fly front and purchased from the Salvation Army Thrift store. During our student days, my husband and I bought almost everything we owned there for a shekel or two. Looking back, I wonder about that fashion choice.  Shorts? Being seen by the Queen in shorts?

Recently, Maclean’s magazine asked fashion designers across Canada how they would dress the Duchess of Cambridge. I secretly wondered how they would dress me for my next chance encounter with the Queen or the Duchess.  

“The latest buzzword in fashion is "athleisure," one of those made-up terms that is so ridiculously nonsensical as to be perfectly descriptive,” says Eric Wilson, Fashion News Director of In Style magazine.
“Athleisure is about the melding of your life in the gym with your life out on the street. It’s about looking as stylish as you can while you are working out, but also bringing that love and that passion for fitness out as a badge of self-expression in your everyday life,” says Lindsay Drucker Mann, Specialty & Athletic Apparel

Senior Equity Research Analyst with Goldman Sachs Research.

Vogue recently shared The 5 Golden Rules of Athleisure: Is It Really Acceptable to Wear Yoga Pants All Day Long? I took note of Golden Rule #5, “When in doubt, stick to neutrals.”

“I think if you’re in your 50s and 60s, it’s a bit of a risk to put yourself out there [in leggings] and wear something very vibrant that makes a statement,” says Onzie designer Kimberly Swarth. Canada’s own athleisure star, Lululemon sells a quiet statement-maker, black and white legging, Nulux, for $138.

If athleisure is about a comfortable life in leggings, and jogging pants, how did we all get to be so sporty?  

“[Athleisure] is really the collision of two very longstanding secular shifts in fashion,” says Drucker Mann.

“First of all, the casualization of attire. Everything from velour track suits to ‘casual Fridays.’ And second, a longstanding demographic shift of consumers towards a healthy, more active lifestyle.”

With “secular shifts” and “collisions” in mind, Vancouver can make some pretty big claims. In the 1970s, it birthed Greenpeace, and Greenpeace birthed a global environmental movement.  

Begun as a backcountry gear supplier for and by mountain climbers, the Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) attracted a hard-core outdoor enthusiast tribe. Today, as consumers continue to adopt the athleisure trend (Morgan Stanley reports the size of this retail market in the US to be $83B in sales by 2020), MEC is onside to profit. The climber, the commuter cyclist, the yoga practitioner, and the dog walker all happily meet under the MEC umbrella for their climbing gear, cycling kits, marino wool t-shirts and yoga pants (leggings).

MEC’s product mix is “a blurring of the lines between back country and lifestyle,” says Andrew Sutherland, PR at MEC.

As an example, MEC sells the Costantia pant ($135) treated with Durable Water Repellent (a tech innovation that Sutherland explains is a key driver of the success of athleisure). Like a black skinny jean with pockets, rivets and a fly front, this pant can take you from brunch on Granville Island to the top of the Grouse Grind.
I asked Sutherland if MEC could recommend what I might wear to greet the Queen or the Duchess. 

Leggings it is!


november 2016 INSPIRED senior living


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