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New York Fashion Week kicked off today with a debut from Athleta. Instead of filling the room with skinny models in overpriced clothing, Athleta used a handful of fitness models to show off their workout apparel. Some 42 looks were put to the test with a two-floor fashion show split into "scenes," making the presentation feel more like performance art than a fashion show.
The models performed routines of yoga, ballet, street hip-hop à la Beyoncé, and impressive Parkour jumps—all to pop lady funk and a soundtrack of runners' breathing and racing heartbeats. The performance was even sequenced by a choreographer that's worked with Rihanna, Beyonce and Britney Spears. At one point, one small model breakdanced for around 35 seconds on her shoulders before waving to the crowd as she walked off like it was no big deal; another flew around stage on a harness, scissor-kicking her long legs.
Photo by Getty Images
Athleta's impressive show confirms two of our suspicions. The first: that fitness apparel has morphed from an afterthought to a dominating category. Brands like Athleta, Under Armour and Lululemon have captured the full attention of consumers, and workout gear has become a booming industry—to the extent that everyone from Tory Burch to Net-a-Porter are scrambling for a piece of the pie.
Our second hunch is that this Fashion Week might be greeted with a 2.0 kind of attitude. Critics have long been complaining that the shows are boring and rarely meet expectations—the New York Times even declared last year that "Fashion Week was losing its relevance." And last February's' Fashion Week was met with tons of empty seats and unusually quiet social chatter.
Athleta's performance—which comes days before Opening Ceremony puts on a play and Rebecca Minkoff's fashion show features Brooklyn band Little Daylight—may signal awareness that brands need to step up their game to impress audiences and maintain the hype Fashion Week used to live up to.