Cover Story Fashion Lifestyle Sport

How fitness got hijacked by fashion and lifestyle

Style and social media have become as integral as sweat to startup fitness brands.

4 Oct 2016

Blame LA. The health-conscious Californian city has been luring the fashion world to its sunny streets; perhaps as significant a factor as any behind the coming together of fashion, food and fitness.

What used to be called ‘exercise’ has, for many, morphed into something far broader and more appealingly packaged, now sold as ‘lifestyle’ and broadcast on the all-conquering lifestyle channel: Instagram.

And this fitness-as-fashion ethos has been exported across the US and beyond in recent years. New York in particular has adopted it with gusto, especially through boutiquey class-based fitness. There were 23 new independent operators in New York’s Chelsea district alone last year (an area with five times fewer residents than Islington), and it has become commonplace for people to attend two or even three classes per day. Business people are taking clients to spin classes at hip studios instead of restaurants.

Instead of changing into and out of gym gear before working out, gymwear has become a kind of urban uniform. The mainstreaming of the ‘athleisure’ segment in fashion is testament to the confluence of these two worlds beyond simply being skinny, which up until recently, had arguably been the extent of the fashion world’s attitude to fitness.

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The influence of new boutique fitness firms as both cause and effect of this shift can be seen everywhere. Frame, which recently expanded to four London sites, has relentlessly used fashion soaked images to grow its brand and is now set to launch its own range of activewear.

It follows American firm SoulCycle, which has been at the forefront in layering aspirational lifestyle over fitness and cultivating a sense of exclusivity and clubbiness.

The format of classes itself has been especially conducive to the halo around SoulCycle. Candles burn in a darkened room, models often have their spots reserved on the front row. A scramble ensues following the Monday noon release of spaces.

Added up, it’s engendered what appear tribal, even devotional followings that are hard to imagine would exist in a bog-standard gym.

This story is taken from Courier Oct/Nov 2016.