With odd timing, Nike and Adidas are launching their highly anticipated haute couture collaborations next month, with Jacquemus and Gucci respectively, marking a new chapter in the well-known rivalry between the sportswear giants.
Also in the ring are Ellesse, who this month launched a collaboration with Emily Ratajkowski with Michael Kors; New Balance with cult fashion brand Aries, launched in March; and Fila, whose tie-up with London-based Serbian designer Roksanda Ilinčić is slated for August.
Previously, the battleground for sports brands was about trainer launches and sports star endorsement deals, but as Julie Pont, creative director of the French fashion news agency, told Heuritech, it was difficult for brands to ensure the exclusivity of players.
“For example, [the Argentine football player Lionel] Messi is personally sponsored by Adidas, but his team, Paris Saint-Germain, is sponsored by Nike. So maybe the new opportunity is to get out of this game and start a new competition in a different field.
While the ties between sportswear and fashion aren’t new (with Nike partnering with Louis Vuitton, Balmain and Comme des Garçons, and Adidas with Stella McCartney, Raf Simons and Yohji Yamamoto), it feels different, Pont said. . “These fashion brands are very far from the sportswear industry: when you think of Jacquemus; it’s the south of France, it’s fashion shows in a field; it’s not related to sports.
A statement from Roksanda described her upcoming collaboration with Fila – which includes puffy dresses and quilt coats – as “a coming together of two very different identities to create a new one that is both unexpected and authentic.”
The logic behind these partnerships is to increase the trend of sports brands, while facilitating entry points into fashion for young customers.
It is unlikely that we do much sport in these clothes. “You are not going to run in the [£900] Adidas X Gucci tank top,” said Emily Gordon-Smith, head of fashion at trend intelligence agency Stylus. “The pieces are practical, but they are not always designed for the activity. There is a strong streetwear vibe.
“During the pandemic, sports brands have focused on performance and comfort,” she added. “Now is the time to inject a touch of high fashion into these everyday comfort pieces.”
The Adidas X Gucci collection, which lands on June 7, made headlines last week when social media users in China complained that its £1,300 ‘umbrella’ was not waterproof.
And who would dare to sweat in the pearl white cycling shorts of Nike X Jacquemus (which will be released on June 28 as part of a 15-piece collection)?
The collaborations result in “remarkable pieces of hypebeast,” she adds, predicting that the accessories – for example, the Gucci bucket hat and Gazelle sneakers, the Roksanda moon boots and the 1980s-style barrel bag, the Jacquemus X Nike Humara sneakers – will sell out first.
While most people won’t line up for these collaborations, their presence is expected to influence the fashion landscape and elevate the aesthetics of athleisure (a market expected to grow at a rate of 8 .9% per year, reaching $662.56 billion by 2030).
“It’s sportswear that goes back to the roots of the 1920s,” Pont said, “with everyday wear that lets you look stylish and comfortable. The lines between fashion and sportswear will become harder to distinguish.
Gordon-Smith predicts that this new wave of collaborations will have a significant impact on the high street. “It wouldn’t surprise me to see elevated sporty looks at stores like Zara in June.”