The Master of Shadows Wants You To Re-Think Athleisure

  • By Nabil Kamal
  • Jun 27
  • 1

Back in the 20th century, clothing is categorized into different activities & purposes. Leisure clothing is for leisure, and sporting clothing is strictly kept for sporting activities. However, as the years pass and now in the 21st century, the general population is much more health conscious than ever compared to the past, and many clothing companies are introducing athletic wear on the runways. Showing that working out & looking good does not have to be separated, a new trend in the name of athleisure was born.

While athletic wear was created for a specific use – sports or athletics, athleisure clothing branches out from that niche, and it’s this versatility that has attracted many consumers to the category. In a Business Insider interview on Athleisure with Deirdre Clemente, a professor of history at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas which research focuses on 20th century American Culture & the fashion industry said:  

“People want less maintenance of their clothes,”

“Technology is such a pervasive part of our lives. To want it in our clothes is simply natural.”

This is especially true as athleisure clothing is generally more durable, with properties like wrinkle and odor resistance incorporated into its weave.

So who started it & when did the trend happen? To see the roots of athleisure, we would have to travel back to 2003, when Y-3, a joint effort by Yohji Yamamoto & Adidas first debuted on the runways. This collaboration was ahead of its time back in the day, way before the likes of Jun Takahashi’s collab with Nike for NikeLab Gyakusou, Rick Owens’ and Raf Simons’ works with Adidas.

Fitting name too, as the ‘Y’ in Y-3 represents the Anti-Fashion designer, Yohji Yamamoto & ‘3’ for the iconic 3 stripes representation by Adidas. Yohji Yamamoto as many would have known then is a very established designer to many. So why in the world would he want to do a collaboration with Adidas & venture into sportswear?

In a recent intimate interview with him to get more insights as to how Y-3 was conceived, he said that he felt that ‘fashion is getting boring’ & noticed that there is significantly lower amount of people wearing his clothes. ‘At that moment,I thought that I came too far from the streets’ was the words the came out from the Master of Shadows. This is especially true during the transition period from the 90s to the new millennium age; fashion trends took a different turn & anti-fashion sentiments are on the low.

It was the time to be sexy again.

‘I came too far from the streets’ – Yohji Yamamoto

So what did Yohji did? He went back on the streets. Through his observation he said: “I watched around the streets of New York, Paris, & Tokyo. There were so many running people, time to care about the body”. With that observation, Yohji had a vision & mission.

“I watched around the streets of New York, Paris, & Tokyo. There were so many running people, time to care about the body”

To many who did not know, Adidas was not Yohji Yamamoto’s first choice when he first thought about athletics. In an interview with (now Vogue Runway) back in 2015, he revealed that he first made a phone call to Nike. But instead Nike replied to Yohji with : “Thank you very much, Mr. Yamamoto, but we are never going to fashion, we are going only to sportswear.”

Right after that call with Nike, Yohji then divert his attention to Nike’s long time competitor Adidas. The reason for that was mentioned in an interview with Interview Magazine : “In Japan, the three stripes were everywhere, and the young crowd did not take them off even when it was time to go to bed.” From that phone call, history is made.

Here is the in-depth interview with the man himself on the brand Y-3:

“In Japan, the three stripes were everywhere, and the young people did not take them off even when it was time to go to bed.” – Yohji Yamamoto

Many were doubtful about the collaboration between the both, as their target markets are vastly different. However that all that doubt went down the drain during the duo’s debut Spring/Summer 13’ collection in Paris. The iconic three stripes, along with the brand new Y-3 logo, were brandished liberally across oversized track pants and hoodies, jumpsuits, robes and blazers. All of which in typical Yohji style, minimal color palettes of black, white and navy worked to temper the boldness of athletic branding.

Adidas was taking a massive gamble that eventually brought overwhelming positive responses while the duo sent more than 60 looks down the runway showing the breadth of creativity with such a simple logo yet cleverly draped onto futuristic clothing.

When asked about the inspiration for Y-3 with Yohji, he mentioned that when it comes to clothing he loves extreme ends of the spectrum, one end being very classy & elegant while the other extreme end is futuristic. If you guys are familiar with Yohji Yamamoto’s own label clothing, the explanation is apparent. It’s very classy – dark & sharply cut tailored clothing draped masterfully, while on the other hand ,Y-3 goes the opposite route, choosing to be extremely futuristic & gave the world a glimpse into what the future will look like.

   Y-3 Debut Show Spring Summer 13’’
Y-3 Fall Winter 18’’

To complete the athleisure look, one can not forget about the sneakers. While Y-3 certainly is not why designer sneakers are so popular now, it cannot be denied that Y-3 is one of the OG brands that were the catalyst to the movement. Y-3’s rise, too, coincided nicely with the steady growth of mainstream sneaker culture. Over his 15 years as the head of creative for the brand, he has made tons of sneakers from iterations of existing sneakers from Adidas to wholly brand new silhouettes.

It came to a point where if anyone thought about unique, futuristic looking sneakers, Y-3 comes to mind. Some of the iconic sneakers such as the Qasa was also reinterpreted to several variations, showcasing its versatility in different cuts and styles. In fact during the wake of the financial crisis of the late 2000s, Yohji’s main label was the one, struggling to make ends meet, while Y-3 saw steady growth throughout due to popular demand, especially when it came to their footwear offerings.

While the brand is relatively young(with only 15 years of history), it does not seem to be slowing down anytime soon. Yohji’s vision of futuristic wear was fulfilled when a space exploration company Virgin Galactic approached the man himself to design flight suits for their pilots. Certainly that was a challenge to Yohji as now he has to shift his focus on not just onto aesthetics but also functionality & purposeful clothing. 

Y-3 and Virgin Galactic – Shaping the future of space

Yohji’s & Y-3 futuristic approach towards clothing also coincides with the rise of techwear brands such as ACRONYM, Arcteryx Veilance, and Stone Island Shadow Projects to name a few, showcasing the demand to have more functional clothes to face all kinds of different climates. This then, proves once again that the Master of Shadows has a keen observation for the future light years ahead. Prophetic, even.

From left to right : ACRONYM, Arcteryx Veilance, Stone Island Shadow Project

It is now 2018 and athleisure is seemingly more like a norm, much more evident now in the streets and offices around the world. While many might not have noticed, it has broken down the perception that we have to adhere to a certain dress code for jobs. Now & more so than ever, we see a rise of more relaxed & functional outfits that white collar jobs from the financial business districts can comfortably wear to some even more serious industries such as the medical field.

What do you guys think? Will athleisure stay, and will it be the future of clothing? Did Y-3 managed to spearhead the athleisure trend? Let us know what do you guys think in the comment section below!

On a final note, while we here at MASSES MY are 100% supportive of the athleisure trend (it is so f*cking comfortable) and believe it makes sense for designers to be coming up with newer & better clothing for racing from spin class to the boardroom, but before things get out of hand, here’s one request: Let’s leave leggings at the gym.




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