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Sportswear Evolution

sft_exhibitionbanner_3TORONTO — As competitors suit up for the Pan Am Games, a new exhibit steps from the athletes village explores how fashion and technology have helped fuel fast-paced growth and innovation in sportswear.

“Smarter. Faster. Tougher.” opened Wednesday at the Design Exchange’s satellite site in Toronto’s historic Distillery District. The exhibit was commissioned as part of the Panamania arts and culture festival in tandem with the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games.

“We’re really looking at the wide influence of sportswear both as an industry, as a culture. (And) in terms of performance, what it means for our professional athletes during the Pan Am Games but also for the… athlete exercising on weekends,” said exhibit curator Marie O’Mahony.

Tweed outfits suitable for golf in 1903, 1929 and 1935.

“Smarter. Faster. Tougher.” is divided into four sections: performance, fashion, nature and ethnographic influence. An interactive zone allows visitors to see and feel materials.

Both national and international brands are on display, with apparel and accessories featured for summer and winter sports spanning everything from soccer to skiing.

A special app acts as a digital companion to the exhibit, allowing visitors to use tablets provided on-site to access additional information about the pieces, said Hart Reed, first year master’s student in digital futures at OCAD University in Toronto.

While dazzling colours and patterns allow athletes to make a stylish splash, wearing gear that’s functional remains of paramount importance.

The exhibit showcases many of the advancements made in sportswear — particularly in wearable technology — like clothing monitoring biometric data including heart rate, noted O’Mahony.

Material technologies like compression suits help muscles with blood flow, she added.

“These kinds of technologies, they’re not just for the elite athletes. They start off in that sense but they’re also coming into our stores so that everybody can wear these materials.”

Even more traditional apparel is getting a high-tech boost. O’Mahony pointed to French brand Pikeur which specializes in equestrian clothing and makes use of moisture-wicking fabrics, as well as a hybrid material which combines natural with synthetic from Swiss mill Schoeller.

“Details are really exquisite on these garments, so you’re getting trims that are synthetic fabric, but they look like they’re suede and leather,” said O’Mahony, professor of advanced fashion and textiles at OCAD University.

O’Mahony said collaborations between top-name fashion labels and sportswear brand — like British designer Stella McCartney and Adidas — have been noteworthy. But one of the key influences in the category extends beyond the field of competition to the music industry.

“If you go back just a couple of decades with the very first Run DMC collaboration with Adidas, that was hugely important in opening up that link between the music scene and sportswear… but also in terms of what people are wearing in their regular clothing,” said O’Mahony, referring the hitmaking rap trio’s partnership with the athleticwear brand.

Athleisure trend
Athleisure trend

The ongoing athleisure trend — with garments suitable for both physical activity and everyday casual wear — has also helped further boost interest and growth in sportswear, she noted.

“In a sense…sportswear is all around us. We each have some aspect of it in our lives even if we’re not out there on the playing field.

“Smarter. Faster. Tougher.” will be on display at 39 Parliament St. in Toronto until Oct. 15.

General admission is $16, $13 for seniors and students and $8 for DX members (plus applicable taxes.) Children under 12 are free.

For more information, visit the exhibition homepage or


Source: By Lauren La Rose, The Canadian Press || Follow @lauren_larose on Twitter.

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