Last month saw Hermès launch Sport En Ville, the French luxury house’s first range of sports clothing – and the best-looking sportswear I’ve seen yet. A vibrantly coloured collection of jackets (£2,065), gilets (£1,580), shorts (£770) and cuffed trackpants (£1,050) is made from Toilovent, a waterproof canvas exclusive to Hermès, which has a supple, matt handle. The tomato red tracksuit with white zip detailing is particularly knockout.
But Hermès is just one of a number of fashion houses and designers turning to sportswear. Zegna has developed a sophisticated mélange techno-fabric from merino wool and nylon that has thermo regulation and extra breathability for its diffusion line Z Zegna. A jade tracksuit zip top (£253) with narrow trousers (£290), a pair of mottled grey shorts (£253) and a navy gilet (£420) look especially good.
At T by Alexander Wang, the designer’s utilitarian aesthetic is applied to sportswear in the brand’s signature muted palette of washed blacks, gunmetal greys and dusty olives. Tailoring details such as pleats and fly fronts can be seen in the beautifully finished Scuba tracksuit bottoms (£285), shorts with pintuck pleats (£190) and matching hoodie (£415), while the viscose hoodie (£415) and sweat top (£235) channel the oversized trend.
Sportswear also punctuates main collections. Alexandre Mattiusi, creative director of much-talked-about French label Ami, has designed athletic silhouettes for spring that echo early-1980s prestige tracksuits – in bright red or teal jersey with white flocking (trousers £115). Joseph takes sports detailing and fabrication and reworks them splendidly; especially strong is a viscose twill top (£365) in maroon or multicheck and drawstring shorts (£235).
Matchesfashion.com’s Activewear Studio spotlights new sportswear with fashion clout, and one new arrival I have my eye on is Brandblack, from Paris-born New Yorker David Raysse. My picks are the Akira side-zip sweatshirt (£98), Dekkard raglan-sleeve jacket (£160) and Vector tracksuit bottoms (£105) in either silver grey or muted Prussian blue polyester/Spandex – a kind of futuristic neoprene look that’s part space-age wetsuit, part varsity tracksuit.
Elsewhere, menswear designer Tim Soar’s clean, pared-down aesthetic finds compelling new expression in his high-performance, cool-looking label Soar Running. An exceptional piece is the wind- and rain-proof body-con Softshell running jacket (£199) in stretch Schoeller fabric – with back pockets, underarm zip vents and thumb mitts. But the whole collection – all laser-cut and bonded – is worth attention. Take a look at the race vests (£45) and T-shirts (£54), shell jackets (£150) in rich blues and cream for low-light conditions, and ultra-lightweight rain jackets (£150) and gilets (£125).
Nigel Cabourn has also broadened his style focus, applying his rigorous standards of manufacture and design to sports kit inspired by the second world war. Cabourn favours old school over high tech, and the Army Gym range features sweats and tees in raw, rough-looking marl grey and navy jersey made on slow-knit looms. I like the hooded cardigan (£225) and crewneck cotton jumper (£150) with ribbed cuffs and hem and matching knee-length drawstring gym shorts (£99). At 66, wiry Cabourn is fighting fit, working out every day. “I train early morning, and the gym I go to is very cold, so the range not only looks great but is also designed to wear layered up for warmth.”
At the other end of the tech spectrum, Ralph Lauren has just launched the Polo Tech shirt ($295 – available in the US only at present), a shiny black training top with a large yellow polo player that monitors energy levels, breathing, heart rate and calories – intel it feeds into a smartphone via an app to create bespoke workouts.