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Versace rethinks athleisure styles for spring 2017

Versace rethinks athleisure styles for spring 2017
Gigi Hadid wears a look from Versace's spring 2017 collection. (Davide Maestri / WWD)

What? Didn't peg Donatella Versace for the athletic type? She's more invested in the sports world than one might assume. She hits the gym, at least according to Instagram, where she recently posted a few photos of herself midworkout on a Pilates reformer, as well as bikini shots to flaunt the fruits of her labor. No less an athletic phenom than Serena Williams was the lone VIP at Versace's spring show, a celebration of female strength and power through a collection fueled by activewear.

Surely sporty, performance-inspired dressing isn't new in fashion. Hello, ath-leisure, a silly word turned serious business. Yet Versace is confident in the style's staying power, and very aware of what she must bring to the game. "Sportswear is the future of fashion," she said in her show notes. "To make it unique and luxurious is the challenge I took this season." It was a challenge. Making chic, compelling clothes worthy of the Versace runway out of items — we're talking windbreakers, sweatshirts, tracksuits — that rightly belong to an affordable, mass market is not easy or necessary. But in the parlance of Nike, Versace just did it.

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She did so with elegance, craft and the swagger for which the house is known, building the athletic undercurrent of last season's chic, relatively subdued daywear-based collection into an overtone. Edie Campbell opened the show looking like a svelte superhero in a billowing, parachute windbreaker done in panels of blue, purple and green over a curve-long top and zip-up stretch pants in matching color-blocked swirls. Jewel-toned blue, green and purple nylon was cut into pretty sleeveless dresses slit and ruched with cording detail to softly accent the body. Supple power tailoring — seamed blazers and cropped, kick flare pants — came in rich technical jersey. Versace elevated more literal sporty stuff, such as track suits, a boxy cropped Mac and a fantastic long trench, without making them precious by working in bonded waterproof fabrics in zippy yet refined colorblocks of red, navy and khaki.

Looks from Versace's spring 2017 collection.
Looks from Versace's spring 2017 collection. (Davide Maestri / WWD)

The lineup was stocked with feminine fluidity. A light blue pleated knit top, slit up the sides with chevron stripes relaxed over a pleated knit midi-skirt. Liquid jersey dresses and slashed skirts in baroque swirls, checkerboard prints and crisp combinations of light blue, navy and muted red emphasized movement and energy, while strips of bright lace and crystal chain mail dressed up neat, accessible silhouettes from a sweatshirt to a taut tank mini. Versace charged the lineup with superwoman bravado by punctuating it with mega models — Carmen Kass, Gigi Hadid, Adriana Lima, Irina Shayk, Mariacarla Boscono. But on the whole, the collection was more inclusive than many a Versace sizzler with shapes that will flatter many, not just those of genetically blessed form. One needn't be Naomi Campbell to kill in a chevron-striped zip-up, languid wrap skirt and laced boots — but it doesn't hurt.

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