Chitose Abe’s collection for NikeLab fuses fashion and fitness into radical streetwear.
Over a century ago, Coco Chanel revolutionized couture with sailor-inspired daywear, using tailored jersey to liberate women from fussy corsets and uncomfortable fabrics. In a collection for Nike that launched in March, Japanese fashion designer Chitose Abe is working the other direction, bringing femininity and fashion to sports apparel in a marriage of high tech and high design.
Abe emerged from Comme des Garçons to establish her own label, Sacai, in 1998, and is known for her ability to mix textures into fluid, kinetic shapes. She set out to reinvent iconic Nike garments, incorporating such details as stitch-free bonded zippers, and developing a new method for folding pleats into Nike’s classic ripstop fabric. The eight pieces that make up NikeLab x Sacai, including a hooded sweatshirt of high-performance fleece with peplum details, meld the edgy and the quotidian into a thoughtful combination of contrasting materials and expressive lines.
But her pieces also reference other eras and aesthetics. Her brightly coloured, billowing skirts recall a cyberpunk bird of paradise or a psychedelic ninja. Shoes extended into neon mesh leggings are very fencing fashionista; while a sweatshirt slit up the back to reveal a flowing, transparent camisole with a newly invented mesh lace hem reads like a sporty suit of armour with a rather transgressive undergarment. The resulting medieval-meets-modern outfits signal swordplay and street fashion and, quite possibly, even actual exercise.