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Sporty spice

Like it or don't, athleisure is here to stay

Athleisure. Love it or hate it, this ready-to-wear trend designed for movement isn’t going anywhere. At its core it champions stylish clothing that’s actually comfortable. When put that way, it’s hard to imagine fashion swinging back to scratchy trousers or boned corsets.

It’s not surprising that runway fashion has caught up with the comfortable times. On the spring 2018 catwalks, the athleisure affect was multifaceted. Some brands directly adapted gym-ready mainstays, such as Tommy Hilfiger’s roomy sweatshirts or the sport jerseys at Stella Jean. Others introduced spacious, comfortable garments that presented as invitingly as athleisure, without actually looking like gym clothes. Working between the literal and the abstract interpretations of athleisure, local designer Jenny Jean of ColorVibe Co. brings some subtle, ingenious elements of sportcore to high fashion. We spoke to her about process and how she envisions her future.

How did you get started?

The first leggings I designed were for my niece, who was three at the time. She said that she liked astronauts, and I wanted to make her something that would make her feel like she was an astronaut—or at the very least, could be one day. I’ve been enjoying designing clothing to make women feel powerful and empowered ever since.

Why athleisure?

I am always interested in the use of things for purposes beyond their expected intention, and thus I have really loved creating leggings that can not only work for exercise but also serve as these living artworks that can exist beyond a gym or yoga studio. I also love how leggings are so tight fitting and in many ways also serve as a sort of security blanket. Like a security blanket, the hope is that it allows women who wear them to feel safe to be brave and harness the parts of themselves that they may feel more scared to share or engage in the world with.

What inspired this beautiful work?

I always start most works of “art” that I make from a personal point of view, and think about how my own experiences can connect to those of others. And part of me hopes that someone seeing and engaging and buying a legging can also help them express those parts of themselves. I have had a very powerful relationship with color. I spent a lot of my middle/ high school running away from being seen, and thus colors seemed very dangerous. But after studying abroad and in Denmark, and realizing the power that authenticity holds, I wanted to stop hiding and making myself invisible. While it was very hard to change how I interacted with the world, colors became an armor that allowed me to control part of that visibility and also to be comfortable with being seen. Part of what I have realized with wearing colors, and mismatching, and pushing on the expectations of which colors and patterns go together, is that some people will not be able to embrace that and will want to diminish it. But the hope is that the colors will be enough of a protective layer for the wearer to see past those attempts to silence others.

What are your plans for this after university?

My hope is that my shop will continue to grow, and that more people will purchase, and that I can expand the designs and products I design. I can’t imagine not designing, because my brain simply likes to do a lot of things all at once and I really, really love making the leggings.

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