L'Oréal Blackett meets with the Mancunian designer as he unveils his second sportwear collection with USA Pro
“Aren’t these a bit too pretty to wear to the gym?” I ask British designer and Manchester alumni, Matthew Williamson.
I’m admiring one of the outfits from the designer’s collection of active and yoga wear with sportswear brand USA Pro; a two-piece legging and jacket combo decorated in vibrant lime green palm leaves. Form-fitting and cinched at the waist, it’s an outfit far more suited to a luxurious tropical yoga retreat than a sweaty sesh at the local leisure centre.
“Well no, I’d say it is more leisure wear than gym wear. You know, when you’re travelling and being leisurely? I can't remember the last time I went to a gym,” he laughs playfully, with a hint of his rumoured dry Mancunian humour.
We meet briefly at the launch of his new collection at Flannels, Spinningfields, where nimble Barrecore instructors perform splits and pliés to demonstrate the range's style and durabilty - as pretty as these outfits look they are still designed for action.
...it's a collection that was designed to be seen beyond the confines of Virgin Active.
It’s Williamson's second collection with USA Pro and this time he's inspired by the beauty of nature and exotic travel.
The six-piece capsule collection includes leggings, zip-up jackets and crop tops, detailed with animated palm and flamingo prints in Williamson’s signature bohemian style. Playful, buoyant but not over-the-top, it's a collection that was designed to be seen beyond the confines of Virgin Active.
While he established his near-twenty year career by dressing the likes of Kate Moss in red carpet and catwalk gowns, Williamson’s recent venture into sports attire seems a logical move (after all, he has already lent his talents and eye for colour to furniture, wallpaper, stationary and beachwear). The trend for athleisure (sportswear as regular wear) seems to be here to stay; fashion has dictated that we enjoy both comfort and style of late.
“I view active and loungewear as a key component of our ongoing expansion into lifestyle," says Williamson. "I am delighted to be able to design for another part of every modern woman’s wardrobe - distinct from ready-to-wear yet important for their everyday lives."
The message of 'female empowerment and body confidence through exercise' is a core philosophy of exercise brand USA Pro, whose other collections are fronted by girl band Little Mix.
Brand spokesperson Rebekah Walker says: “We are committed to creating products that empower women. Our consumers recognise that our leisurewear is flattering, comfortable and supportive which helps boost their confidence when working out.”
Each product is produced with durability and functionality in mind, add USA Pro. Factors like flexibility, stretch recovery, muscle compression and 'moisture management' are all addressed in the production of the range - though again, these pieces aren't reserved for treadmill pounding.
Ranging from sizes 6-14, prices are premium but not overly ridiculous with Capri leggings averaging around £80 to a zip-through jacket at £140. As one of the first designers to make high street collaborations, the athleisure pieces will no doubt have mass appeal.
As to whether wearing luxury lyrca will inspire people to work out more... well, at least you'll look the part.