Beyond the Hype: Why Luxury & Sportswear Keep Collaborating

From CDG x Salomon to Jacquemus x Nike, luxury fashion and sportswear collaborations are everywhere. We investigate the reasons behind this ever-booming trend.

By Harriet Miles

My first memory of a luxury x high street collaboration was the wildly popular H&M x Jimmy Choo collection in 2009. My mum went crazy for it, snagging a pair of ridiculously chic (and ridiculously cheap in the world of designer shoes) leather cut-out stilettos for £80. 14 year-old me, surrounded by a whirlwind of designer frenzy, learned a valuable lesson that day: luxury, even a sliver of it, could be attainable – sometimes for the price of a fancy night out.

Anine Bing x Reebok

The Reign of Designer Activewear

Fast forward to 2024, and designer collaborations, particularly sportswear collaborations are everywhere you look. From the Reebok x Anine Bing collection that’s currently occupying a significant chunk of my brain space (maybe that statement oversized jumper will finally be mine!), to the endless stream of luxury houses partnering with sportswear giants flooding my Instagram feed, it feels like these pairings are more prevalent than ever before. But what’s driving this obsession? Is it just a clever marketing ploy, or is there something deeper at play? Are we starting to tire of these constant collabs?

If I’m being honest, the term “athleisure” makes me cringe a little, but there’s no denying it – I am an athleisure enthusiast. I am hooked. Since COVID, the idea of squeezing into a dress and a pair of non-trainer shoes fills me with dread. Comfort is king (or queen) in my world. This got me thinking – why are we all so obsessed with wearing sportswear everywhere? Is it because we still crave a sense of luxury, but on our own terms? Maybe traditional luxury feels a bit stuffy, so instead of “getting dressed up,” we’re giving our comfy clothes a high-fashion upgrade with designer labels?

Sportswear has transcended its gym-bound beginnings, evolving into a coveted fashion statement. But why the shift? Well, the rise of athleisure seems to be a major factor. Studies by Euromonitor International predict a global athleisure market reaching a staggering $540 billion by 2027. This shift in consumer behaviour – a preference for comfort and versatility, further fuelled by the pandemic – has led to this impressive prediction. Think about it: how many times have you spotted someone sporting a pair of leggings while doing their Tesco shop, or a hoodie paired with statement earrings? Trainers in the club? It’s everywhere.

Then there’s the ever-growing emphasis on health and wellbeing. Reports by McKinsey & Company highlight a rising global focus on preventative healthcare and personal wellbeing. Sportswear, once solely associated with athletic pursuits, has become a symbol of this trend. Wearing activewear signifies an awareness of health and a commitment to an active lifestyle, further boosting its cultural significance. Social media and the power of influencers have also played a significant role in elevating sportswear. Platforms like Instagram and TikTok have become powerful tools for celebrities and influencers to showcase their personal style, often featuring activewear as a key component. This constant exposure subconsciously normalises the use of sportswear beyond its functional purpose, solidifying its place in the fashion conversation.

Sha’Carri Richardson is the muse for the latest Nike x Jacquemus collection

But the allure of sportswear extends beyond practicality and its association with health. Let’s face it, there’s a certain cool factor involved. Sportswear often embodies a sense of youthfulness, energy, and a rebellious spirit. Streetwear brands, with their roots in skateboarding and hip-hop culture, have woven cultural narratives into their designs, creating a sense of belonging and identity for their consumers. Limited-edition releases and exclusive collaborations with coveted brands further elevate the perceived value of sportswear, fostering a culture of collecting and trading that goes beyond mere functionality.

However, while sportswear has been on a meteoric rise in cultural significance, luxury fashion has grappled with maintaining its relevance. A stagnant market, coupled with shifting consumer preferences towards experiences and value-driven brands (especially amongst millennials and Gen Z), has forced luxury houses to adapt. A 2023 study by Boston Consulting Group found that 73% of Gen Z consumers prioritise spending money on experiences over material possessions. This focus on experiences, along with the rise of digital natives – consumers who have grown up surrounded by technology – has also pushed the industry to create seamless online experiences to keep up with the ever-evolving fashion landscape.

The Rise of Accessible Luxury: Designer Collaborations and the Power of Attainability

Always wanted a Jacquemus Chiquito bag but balked at the £500+ price tag? Don’t worry, Nike x Jacquemus have you covered. This unlikely alliance between the luxury brand and the sportswear giant perfectly combines designer Simon Porte Jacquemus’ iconic Parisian style and Nike’s vintage ACG pieces. The collection is versatile enough to wear anywhere, and  doesn’t come with an eye-watering price tag. This highlights a key shift in fashion – what you wear down the gym or down the pub is just as socially significant as it was back in the day where you’d be sporting your £500 tiny handbag at the club. Plus, you’ll get a lot more wear out of a piece of clothing you can integrate into your daily life.

Faced with a more discerning consumer, luxury houses have identified a strategic goldmine in partnering with sportswear brands. These unlikely alliances offer several advantages: reaching new audiences, particularly the younger, digitally-savvy demographic sportswear attracts. It also taps into a market that’s increasingly value-conscious. A 2022 study by Deloitte LLP found that 72% of millennials prioritise experiences over material possessions, and this shift in spending habits is impacting the luxury fashion market.

adidas x Gucci, 2022

Exclusive Drop

adidas x Gucci, 2022

Cast your mind back to 2022, a time when a red wool Gucci jumper could be yours for a cool £2,200. No matter how pampered the sheep, that price tag was in a whole other league. But a £450 adidas x Gucci jumper, on the other hand, seemed… almost attainable? Okay, let’s be real, that’s a stretch, but the perception of these collaborations is that they offer a piece of luxury (or at least a designer label) at a slightly less eye-watering price point. I confess, I fell victim to the hype surrounding the adidas x Gucci collab. For months, my Instagram was a constant loop of this ‘exclusive’ drop, with pieces listed on resale sites for five times the price before they even hit the shelves.

This feeding frenzy perfectly exemplifies the double-edged sword of scarcity in designer collaborations. Despite initially appearing to democratise access to luxury, it can actually create a new level of exclusivity. Limited-edition drops and skyrocketing resale prices on platforms like online resale platforms fuel a fear of missing out amongst consumers, further emphasising the perceived value of these co-branded pieces. A study by Stack Overflow found that 62% of Generation Z respondents are willing to pay a premium for limited-edition items, highlighting the power of exclusivity in the current fashion landscape.


The hype creates a sense of urgency and a desire to own a piece before it disappears – bragging rights included. But this FOMO can be a real trap, leading to impulsive purchases that don’t reflect your true style. Today, two years later, that same £450 adidas x Gucci jumper still boasts a staggering £1,200 price tag on the secondary market. Maybe I should’ve thrown caution to the wind, but let’s be honest, even if I’d snagged one, what would I have done with it? Lived in constant fear of ruining it? Spent my evenings fielding offers from enthusiastic (or maybe just confused) eBay buyers? Truth is, I can’t remember my login to my PayPal account.

adidas x Wales Bonner
AURALEE x New Balance

So, are we growing tired of these collaborations? Nope.

The trend shows no signs of slowing down. One glance around the London Tube during rush hour earlier this year, and you’d likely see a person (or three) sporting a pair of adidas Originals x Wales Bonner Sambas. This collaboration, I think, perfectly exemplifies the power of designer x sportswear collabs. Grace Wales Bonner, a rising star in the fashion world, infused the classic adidas Samba with a touch of her signature London cool, creating a unique and highly sought-after piece that could be worn all day, every day. And before adidas, how many of us knew the name Wales Bonner? Collaborations act as a gateway to discover up-and-coming designers in the fashion world. Suddenly, a New Balance collaboration has you Googling “Auralee,” a Japanese brand you never knew existed but now can’t wait to explore further. It’s a win-win for everyone: established brands reach new audiences, and smaller designers gain well-deserved recognition.

Barbour x Ganni

The beauty of designer collaborations lies in their sheer diversity. Craving a touch of timeless British heritage with a modern twist? The Barbour x Ganni collection offered the perfect blend, featuring high-quality, durable outerwear. In the mood for a bold statement piece? The (incredibly well-priced) adidas x Farm Rio collaboration bursts with vibrant tropical prints, instantly adding a touch of sunshine to any outfit. These are just a few examples, with collaborations catering to every style imaginable, from minimalist and functional to unexpected pairings like Birkenstock x Tekla creating thoughtful footwear and sleepwear, made for moments of comfort,’ embodying the intimacy and familiarity of home.’ The boundaries are truly being pushed, with established brands like Comme des Garçons venturing into the world of trail running shoes with a collaboration with Salomon.

Is this steady stream of designer-infused sportswear a bad thing? Does it cheapen the value of luxury? Honestly, I’m not so sure.
While some argue it dilutes the exclusivity of luxury brands, I see it as a positive evolution. Collaborations offer a chance to discover new designers or unique pieces that reflect your personal style. Of course, consider your budget and style before getting swept up in the hype. Look beyond the designer label and focus on the quality, design, and versatility of the piece. If it complements your wardrobe and reflects your aesthetic, then a designer collaboration can be a fantastic way to elevate your everyday style. That’s why I embrace the world of designer duos – fashion is, after all, all about having fun!

As always, let us know your thoughts over on Instagram

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