“Athleisure,” a term that was coined over the last two years, is all about taking yoga pants and sports bras out of the gym and into everyday life. Not only is it acceptable to wear skintight activewear out to brunch or to a museum, it has become downright cool. So it makes sense that street artists, who create art in public spaces, might see the yoga pant as an interesting canvas for their work.
This is the thinking behind Bandier‘s latest capsule collection, launching this week to coincide with Art Basel Miami Beach. Bandier, a high-end multi-brand activewear retailer that launched last May, is partnering with three contemporary artists from around the world who have designed special prints that will appear on leggings, sports bras, track suit tops, and sneakers. “It’s a collision of creative forces and it’s fun,” says Jayne Harkness, Bandier’s chief merchant.
U.K. and Spain-based artist Malarko Hernandez, for instance, is known for painting colorful, quirky monsters on buildings throughout the London’s East End. His art is inspired by 1990s video games, skater culture, graffiti, and record covers. Bandier paired him with the sportswear brand Ultracor to create several limited edition products imprinted with his quintessential designs. One pair of yoga pants features a three-eyed cat in a boxing pose and a one-eyed bat about to take flight.
“All of the colors and patterns are really vivid and bright,” says Ashleigh Hults, Bandier’s director of PR. “The artists were leveraging this new medium of activewear, in which people would be on the move in these outfits. It was a way for them to bring their art to life through movement.”
Bandier brought on another artist, Upendo Taylor, to create a special collection with Reebok that will be exclusively available at Bandier stores for six months before being released to other retailers. Taylor is an L.A.-based street artist who combines hand drawings, computer design, and spray paint. His work often features cartoon drawings, graffiti, patterns, and printed words that address political and social issues.
“I was attracted to this partnership because it was something out of the ordinary,” Taylor tells Fast Company. “It’s a juxtaposition of visuals from the street and apparel that has purpose and function. I am a big fan of the lifestyle of yoga and this was a way for me to put my stamp on it. It’s strong, it’s bold, but it is also fluid with movement and that is parallel to my art.”
Finally, Bandier called on New York-based artist Christopher Lee Sauvé to partner with activewear brand Strut-This to create a graphic pattern that will appear on sports bras and yoga pants. “I am influenced by JC de Castelbajac, Francois Marie Banier, Basquiat, and ’80s punk rock,” he says. “I love the movement of sport. I find it quite inspiring and I tried to convey this movement in my print.”
By partnering with artists, Bandier is also making the case that activewear can have a place in the world of high fashion, where artist collaborations are common. Other designers, such as Stella McCartney and Tory Burch, have jumped on the athleisure bandwagon, creating high-end spandex outfits alongside gowns and purses. “People talk about athleisure, but what we’re really talking about is fashion for a new generation of consumer who is really active,” Hults says. “These are outfits that are suppose to go from day to night and that can support a mobile lifestyle.”