BEIRUT: “With these, you could just throw on a leather jacket and go out,” Rafa Saifeddine Chabtini explained, pulling a pair of gray pants off a rack. The pants in question, which retail at $120, have not been shown on Parisian runways.
Rather, they are part of a line of luxury workout wear which Chabtini, a gym owner, sells at her boutique workout studio in Ashrafieh.
“More and more people like to look good when they work out,” she told The Daily Star. “And they want to be able to go out of the gym and stay in their [workout] clothes,” she added, adjusting the hem of her Stella McCartney-designed mesh exercise top.
As Lebanon builds a robust gym culture, a concomitant fashion fitness wear industry is blooming in the country. Workout tops and leggings are flying off the shelves from stores like Nike and Adidas, while other brands not typically associated with workout wear are venturing into the market.
Mohammad Younes, a manager at the Nike Store in Nijmeh square, said that fitness tights have been a top seller among female customers.
“It gives the woman the right form, the sexiest form,” he explained. But clients are interested in more than just working up a sweat in Nike’s running tights.
“It’s sportswear, but they use it as fashion,” Younes said, adding that sales of Nike fitness wear have markedly increased in Beirut over the past two years.
More and more, the lines between fitness wear and fashion are blurring. Yoga pants have become a wardrobe staple even for those who balk at the thought of a downward dog. Leggings are just as likely to be worn on the red carpet as on the treadmill.
At Aizone in the Beirut Souks, where the well-heeled outfit their luxury lifestyle, a new apparatus has recently been installed. When clients stand on the machine, explains salesman Adham Saab, the device determines the arch of the foot and the shape of the leg.
Clients seeking the most comfortable platforms for their foot shape will be disappointed: the machine is used to determine the best running shoes for a client. Aizone boasts an impressive collection of high-end Asics and New Balance running shoes.
“These run at about $265,” said Saab. Both Asics and New Balance are considered among the best running shoes on the market, Saab explained. “Our clients feel like they’re wearing something luxury, even if it’s for a sports line.”
Following trends toward fitness wear, brands like Oysho, which has traditionally been known for its lingerie and bathing suits, have launched new lines.
Sports bras and fitness leggings now line a back wall of Oysho’s shop in Downtown Beirut. “These things are not supposed to be in a lingerie shop, but they’re selling very well,” said manager Mariam Maatouk. Around thirty clients per week are buying products from Oysho’s gymwear collection, she said.
Meanwhile, dedicated athletic companies like Mike Sport have reported increased sales in gym-inspired casual wear.
“These are very popular now, but you wouldn’t wear them to the gym,” said Malak Homsi, a manager at Mike Sport, pointing to a range of cotton sweat pants and T-shirts. “It’s not actually meant for heavy sport.”
Amid this boom in fitness wear, both established firms and new designers are investing in emerging technologies. “We now offer Clima Chill,” said Ali Lakkis, a manager at an Adidas shop. Pointing to a series of minute aluminium buttons on the back of the shirt, Lakkis said the garment had been engineered to keep gym goers comfortable and dry.
Chabtini touted the innovations of Human Performance Engineering, the line of fitness wear she sells at her gym, Trainstation. “It uses silver technology, it’s anti-microbial so when you sweat, it doesn’t smell so bad,” she said.
Some, however, doubt the physical benefits of trendy fitness wear products. “I honestly I don’t think they makes a difference,” personal trainer Maya Nassar noted.
Still, Nassar said people should wear whatever makes them feel comfortable when they exercise.
“People want to look good they want to feel good. If you’re wearing frumpy leggings you may be de-motivated,” she added.