Athleisure is not a trend – Cover Story from the StyleGuide Magazine 04/2018
… athleisure is both a philosophy and a lifestyle in equal measures. Munich-based design and planning agency Heckhaus takes workout fashion and translates it into interiors for StYle guide. The exclusively designed vision shows exactly how this theme could be applied to a shop interior.
The Concept Hall (left) is Reebok’s number one presentation room in Europe. Heckhaus planned and carried out the complete reconstruction including the electrical and lighting systems.
at the STYLE GUIDE store lighting elements are also part of the design like a stylised racing bike (right)
Heckhaus has made it its mission to translate brand identities into spacial concepts, creating one-of-a-kind experiences for its customers. The creative team from Munich has already worked with sporting brands in the past, employing architectural methods to physically embody their values. It is essential to understand and clearly define the task at hand if a suitable concept is to be developed – to really get to grips with it, question things and pick them apart.
“The big difference with this brief is that we were able to work more freely than would otherwise be the case in terms of speci cations. We had no budget to hold us back, no need to deal with minutiae like air conditio- ning systems, power supplies and the like. This meant we were able to focus solely on the idea,” explains agency founder and owner Jaromin Hecker. “Despite this freedom, though, it was important that our team did not forget that we were ultimately looking for an implementable approach and that the concept should absolutely be fit for purpose – that is one of Heckhaus’ founding principles. As designers, we never want to develop an idea that we cannot actually make a reality later down the line.”
When tackling athleisure, Heckhaus spent some time investigating where the trend had originated. As is so often the case, it is difficult to pin this down to a single date upon which athleisure was born – but based on all of the research, the movement probably came about as a response to social changes in the way we think about our health and fitness. What is much simpler, on the other hand, is identifying the origin and de nition of the word itself.
American dictionary publisher Merriam- Webster defines “athleisure” as “casual clothing designed to be worn both for exercising and for general use.” the word is a portmanteau, blending the words “athletic” and “leisure”, and is used to describe the trend of wearing sports clothing not only in the gym, but in day-to-day life – or, depending on the job, even in the office. Most of the time, the extent of one’s courage is the only limit to where someone can wear sweatpants or a hoodie. In recent years, more and more people have started paying more attention to their fitness and healthy eating habits, and clothing is used to reflect the wearer’s health consciousness.
According to german research company Zukunftsinstitut, only 19 percent of individuals who buy sportswear actually actively participate in sport. Which begs the question: why do 28 percent of consumers in Germany buy items like leggings if they do not need them for their intended purpose?
According to a survey by the Mackenzie Corporation, which investigated sportswear buying behaviours, 62 percent of respondents said that comfort was the most impor- tant factor to them, followed by value for money and style. For most of the people surveyed, functionality only came in fourth to sixth place.
Form and design language of the concept was reinterpreted from popular gyms. For Fitness First, Heckhaus developed a corporate architecture for their location in Frankfurt, Germany
Training ground or shopfitting? Sports and athleisure as lifestyle makes gyms look attractive and inviting and gives retail spaces a real sporty look-and-feel.
Piece by piece, this information formulates a picture of the athleisure buyer. What is striking is that despite how it may seem at first glance and what reports in the media may lead you to believe, the target group is not predominantly female. According to the portal Hitwise, 40 percent of all people searching for athleisure online are men. This represents a potential target demographic that should not be overlooked.
Due to the popularity of the sporting leisure trend, several brands that originally did not produce sportswear have now responded by either creating their own sports lines or adapting their designs to the trend. As such, athleisure is not only everywhere, but has already begun to exceed its own definition. While there are a number of companies that have adapted and aligned themselves with the trend, until now there have been few recognisable spatial concepts in this vein. The research quickly made it clear that a store concept would have to cater to both men and women. In investigating the target group in more detail, another interesting point arises: it is not homogeneous. Worlds collide within this one demographic.
Taking all of these figures and analyses into account, Heckhaus developed an idea, envisaging a fictional concept store aimed at the heart of the athleisure trend. The design simultaneously focuses on fashion-conscious city- dwellers and health-conscious millennials – people born from 1980 to 2000, also known as generation Y. Heckhaus’ approach corresponds to the agency’s real design process while also reflecting its methodology for creating brand experiences that touch people emotionally. The room had to bring together all of the relevant aspects and objectives in a way that spoke to its audience.
During the design process, Heckhaus focused heavily on the fact that athleisure is about much more than just being able to wear sportswear fashion in multiple contexts. Of course, this is a neat little side effect which has undoubtedly had an impact on its success, but there is much more going on beneath the surface. It’s about freedom. The freedom to live an individual lifestyle – and the freedom to express it.
It’s also about courage, self confidence and mobility, about breaking rules and playing with conventions. The task Heckhaus faced was to tell this story, making it tangible and vivid by illustrating it through architecture. “Spatially, we engaged with the idea of breaking rules and playing with conventions by, among other things, allowing ‘sporty’ objects to act as basic elements within the space. So wall bars become product racks, for example. the catwalk has horizontal bars used as a decorative element, while gymnastic rings are used to frame the scene in the right light,” explains Hecker.
The sense of different worlds coming together is also true when it comes to the fashion itself. Individual pieces are combined in a free, playful way which is true to the “mix & match” concept. A form and design language was derived and reinterpreted from popular CrossFit spaces in city parks and gyms. Striking, geometric shapes lend definition to the interior, maintaining the sporting, urban character of the space while also transporting the target group into the new trend.
Bold colours were specifically selected for the Plexiglas pedestals and shelves, which, because they are transparent, are not too dominant within the space, instead serving as highlight modules on which products can be presented. The four main colours are yellow, orange, pink and turquoise. Yellow and orange represent joie de vivre and energy, while pink screams self-confidence and turquoise represents balance. The mix of colours and their meanings is symbolic of the characteristics and needs of the target demographic – namely “to see and be seen”.
The arrangement of the platforms builds an abstract catwalk which extends over the large mirror wall to the ceiling. True to the athleisure style, sporting elements are used to create contrast, such as the suspended powder-coated metallic product rails, which symbolise stability and strength. At the same time, round decorative lights made out of gymnastic rings soften up the scene. The flooring also contributes to the overall look. With the appearance of a gym hall floor, it actively causes the customer to pause and consciously take in the whole scene.
The entire room and the individual product display units are all clearly structured. This would allow any shop owner to put special pieces right in the centre, with the scenery set in a way that really grabs attention. The shop is laid out not according to product type, but rather by matching different clothing items together.
“The idea is to choose outfits freely, combine them as you like and follow the trend in an unconventional way,” explains the Managing director. “So why not wear an awesome pair of leggings with your high heels on a night out? We have chosen mannequins that represent this idea, particularly highlighting the interplay between sport and high fashion.” another aspect that underscores the thought process of catering to real lifestyle choices and embracing the zeitgeist of our modern times. Visitors can decide for themselves what they want and what they like. Nothing is off limits. Welcome to our era.
Clearly structured elements allow the mix & match concept to develop. At the same time, the shop front reflects with its windows the playfully combined athleisure store