Sports wear brands and luxury fashion houses team up

16th April 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 16, 2007 (AFP) - There was a time when the worlds of luxury fashion and sports wear were content going their own separate ways.

PARIS, April 16, 2007 (AFP) - There was a time when the worlds of luxury fashion and sports wear were content going their own separate ways.

But, no longer. Today top-flight fashion houses such as Chanel or Hermes are just as likely to produce labelled sports gear, as Nike or Adidas are to sell trainers specially created by famous designers.

Initiated about 10 years ago by pioneers such as France's Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, who teamed up with Rossignol, or Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto's deal with Adidas, the phenomenon has proved popular in both business worlds.

Hip British designer Stella McCartney has a deal with Adidas until 2010, while the latest 'marriage' prospect joins French luxury goods empire, PPR -- owners of Gucci and Yves Saint-Laurent -- with Puma.

Having been close to bankruptcy about 15 years ago, the German sports gear maker has become a sought-after label, with style-conscious stars such as Madonna and Cameron Diaz sporting Puma apparel bearing the sleek and powerful big-cat logo.

Convinced it will become "an iconic brand" of luxury, PPR chief executive, Francois-Henri Pinault, has bought a 27-percent stake in Puma, the world's third biggest sports items company behind Nike and Adidas.

And the French group says it plans to launch a full public takeover offer for the rest.

"The brand is the most glamorous of the market. The profit margins for its trainers are close to that for a luxury product by Gucci," said Eugenio Di Maria, of Sporting Goods Intelligence, a specialist publication on sports equipment.

Created around the first Olympic Games in Athens in 1896, trainers started to gain respectability in the 1930s and 1940s.

Stars such as Marlene Dietrich or Greta Garbo slipped sports shoes on with their masculine-style suits. Thirty years later, Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger would don a pair of trainers on his wedding day.

At the start of the 1980s, trainers became more technical when US basketball player Michael Jordan became involved in product endorsement, and sports shoes gradually left the stadium to conquer the street.

Indeed, the sight of trendy young executives wearing trainers with their smart work suits soon became a common sight, even in the leading fashion capitals of Paris or London.

Brands such as the tennis label Lacoste, le Coq sportif, dance wear company Repetto, or still, Reebok, Adidas and Nike, took advantage of this swing towards sports wear worn as everyday street wear.

They expanded their product range, offering lines that were eagerly snapped up by die-hard lovers of trainers.

But the trend equally inspired the big names of haute couture -- Chanel turned out labelled tennis shoes, as well as skis and a basket ball, naturally, complete with the house's iconic interlocking Cs.

Dior targeted golfers, while Hermes had its sights set on horseriders, and British designer Alexander McQueen has just created a sports shoe for Puma, which will go on sale for more than 600 euros (800 dollars).

A pair of basic sports shoes sells for about 50 euros.

"While sales of sports shoes saw formidable growth between 1980 and 1995, they have tended to stagnate in volume and to lower in value in Europe for three years," Di Maria said.

Last year, turnover in the sector, as of end-September 2006, stood at 7.8 billion euros, representing a one-percent fall on the previous financial year, he added.

In Britain, where the market is saturated, the fall was especially felt, with sales amounting to two billion euros after a 7.6-percent drop in value, and more than four percent in volume.

France, too, provided only a mediocre market, with turnover at 1.7 billion euros.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

0 Comments To This Article