When the London-based creative director Anna Laub founded Prism over a decade ago, the brand’s product offering consisted solely of streamlined modern eyewear, but it has since evolved to encompass resort and swimwear — and, in 2019, activewear, under the diffusion line Prism Squared. This most recent venture began with a mission to find a fabric that would give garments not only a comfortable fit but also an opaque finish, a process that eventually led to a signature knit that she now uses for all of the line’s pieces, from seamless ribbed sports bras to elegant long-sleeve leotards. The textile, created from a blend of strong but elastic fibers, is both quick-drying and chlorine-resistant, making it uniquely versatile. “Everything is designed to be used as swimwear, sportswear, underwear or shapewear,” Laub says. “The fabric allows for powerful fits that provide support without a traditional under-wiring structure.” Sustainability is also at the forefront of her vision: Each collection is made in Italy using 3-D knitting techniques that create less waste. Furthermore, clothes that serve multiple purposes, says Laub, encourage shoppers to “buy better and buy less.”
When the designer Kerhao Yin joined the London-based brand Vaara as its creative director in 2020, he sought to create multifunctional pieces that skew “more elegant than technical,” he says. Today, the line — founded in 2015 by the entrepreneur Tatiana Korsakova and originally made up of color-blocked leggings — shies away from the logos and flashy athletic motifs adopted by many leisure-wear brands and instead focuses on wearers’ lifestyles. “A woman can go from home to work to the gym and then on to a night out,” Yin says. “I want our pieces to seamlessly thread through all these events.” To this end, he and Korsakova prioritize performance fabrics, including jerseys and knits, that can move and adapt well in a range of settings. And the brand now releases full collections that comprise fashion-forward pieces such as oversized wool anoraks, nylon bubble skirts and gathered cotton dresses (with collapsible turtleneck collars for added versatility) that organically sync with its core workout-wear staples like rib-knit tanks and scoop-neck bodysuits made from recycled yarn. “We never design anything just for the sake of it,” says Yin.
Struck by the lack of functional, colorful women’s tennis apparel, Marguerite Wade, a creative director and an avid player of the sport, decided to take matters into her own hands and founded Full Court Sport in 2014. Produced in Portland, Ore., the line offers a variety of pieces designed with mobility and ease in mind — think perforated stretch-knit dresses with neon trim, jersey sports bras with crossover straps and form-fitting shorts and leggings, in shades of cornflower blue or dusty pink, with carefully placed pockets for balls. “Tennis has become a huge market in the last few years, but it wasn’t always so,” says Wade. “It seems funny to think that when I started the line, it was considered a very niche area that required a lot of explanation.” In 2020, the brand outfitted the tennis player Kim Clijsters for the U.S. Open and has continued to grow since; it debuted a capsule collection with Net-a-Porter last year and in spring it will release another with Nordstrom. Much like perfecting a serve or a backhand, the company, says Wade, “is an ever-evolving project.”
Over the past two years, the Amsterdam-based label Gauge81 has established itself as a popular source of minimal ’90s-inspired evening wear. Now, founder Monika Silva has broadened her offering to cater to her customers’ daytime pursuits. Launched in November, her debut collection of activewear includes form-hugging cross-back bodysuits, supportive high-waisted leggings and cropped hooded sweatshirts — all available in black, white or vibrant cerulean and designed for exercise of varying levels of intensity. “The collection works for any high-performance sport, as well as more studio-based practices like yoga and Pilates,” says Silva, who has worked in knitwear for over a decade and ensured that each garment is both breathable and moisture wicking. “The pieces are knitted, rather than assembled using the more common cut-and-sew process, to offer high compression and movability,” she says. “It’s as if the clothes are a second skin.”
When the Manila-based brothers Patrick and Bryan Toh — who have backgrounds in architecture and finance, respectively — first began to discuss creating a line of technical leisure wear, they intuitively looked to Filipino culture for inspiration. Drawing on concepts of tranquillity and spirituality while also channeling the bustling energy of their home city, they founded Future Relics in 2019 with the goal of providing workout wear that balances ease and adaptability with innovation. “We develop and choose fabrics that will perform well during high-intensity activities,” says Patrick. “But we also want the garments to be comfortable for lounging.” Standout pieces include open-back sports bras, racer-back crop tops and perfectly cut leggings, all offered in soft, earthy tones, such as slate gray and burnt sienna, that feel like a reprieve from the loud colors and patterns so often used by athleisure lines. “We also take into account sustainability,” says Patrick, “whether that’s by choosing recycled materials, working with vendors who have sustainability built into their supply chains or repurposing existing fabrics.”