Aug 15, 2008
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Tracksuit chic explored in London exhibition

Aug 15, 2008

By Francesca Bellometti

LONDON (Reuters) - Is your sweaty old tracksuit a fashion statement or just comfy clothing?

A new exhibition at London's Victoria and Albert Museum explores how high fashion and sport have paired up over the last decade to become a potent clothing and retail force just in time for the Olympic Games in Beijing.

The curator of the V&A's "Fashion V Sport" exhibition argues that the role of sportswear has increasingly come to be viewed as couture rather than just jogging or gym attire.

"More and more we are seeing fashion brands getting involved in sports like the Olympics or Wimbledon or the U.S. Open," Ligaya Salazar told Reuters.

The compact display of the interaction between contemporary fashion and global sportswear brands is on at the museum in central London until January 4th, showcasing some 60 outfits, design drawings, photographs and films demonstrating sporty dress sense, design, advertising and collections.

Some fashion brands taking part in this demonstration of how sport crosses the divide from the frumpy to the fashionable may surprise visitors more used to seeing well-known fashion names on catwalk rather than on the sports pitch.

The show is broken up into sections entitled "Dare", "Display", "Play", "Desire" and features designs by such well-known names as Prada, Stella McCartney, Vivienne Westwood, and Yohji Yamamoto alongside sportswear makers like Adidas, Reebok and Nike.

Emilio Pucci's signature swirls splashed across a pair of trainers, customised tracksuits laced with graffiti, a leather Chanel wetsuit sporting a wave design and Yves Saint Laurent's jumpsuit from the 2008 collection are some of the show's stars.

"Fashion V Sport" also traces the trend of customisation. Sports shoe customiser Paul Nash speaks of his new-found niche with global superbrands such as Reebok, whose customers want to turn their ordinary trainers into personalised fashion pieces.

The final section of the show turns its attention to sportswear collectors who own hundreds of pairs of trainers and people like Japanese fashion designer Hirofumi Kiyonaga, who has created a fashion brand named after his virtual football team.

Sport stars such as David Beckham and Roger Federer have not only become style icons but are also the faces of Police sunglasses and Rolex respectively. The V&A shows how such high-profile athletes have bridged the fashion-sport gap.

Salazar said fashion and sport share a long history, but close collaboration only began about 10 years ago after designers noticed ordinary people increasingly wearing sports gear outside the gym, in emulation of the stars of the sports and entertainment worlds.

The show is an interesting display which explores how sportswear has been transformed by couture and how "street" image has also increasingly influenced our style of dressing in and out of the gym.

So keep an eye on multiple-gold-medal-winning U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps, the other superstars at Beijing and top athletes in tennis, golf, soccer...because the fashion companies expect you'll be clamouring for their clothes.

"It is a great opportunity for fashion brands to get involved in something quite big and heroic," Salazar said.

(Editing by Paul Casciato)

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