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Gym is the new black

Running gear and the runway have officially collided, and the result is permeating all areas of fashion, including the way people are styling their outfits and the way retailers are marketing their merchandise, with designer clothing websites dedicating entire sections to selling sport and active wear.

With leather jogging pants from Valentino to $1,100 flower-embroidered sneakers from Dior as items style-setters everywhere are coveting, the stigma once associated with supercasual-items-as-fashion is slipping away, thanks to designers such as Raf Simons, Alexander Wang and Phoebe Philo, who have embraced the overwhelmingly sporty and casual nature of chic street style (think varsity jackets, boxing shorts, sports bras and sneakers of all shapes and colors) as a source of inspiration for their collections.

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"Women are on the move, running from the office to the gym, or from yoga class to lunch, and we're looking for practical solutions when it comes to getting dressed," says Leila Yavari, fashion director of online retailer Stylebop.com. "As a result, dressing down has recently gained cachet on the runway."

She notes that footwear has also taken a decidedly sporty turn; flatforms have replaced wedges, and women now casually pair sneakers (whether Nike or Celine) with everyday staples in a way that's "fashionable, cool and ultimately sensible."

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With this active-wear aesthetic on the rise, the lines between workout, weekend and work wear are becoming increasingly blurred, and items once relegated to the gym are making their way to the office and cocktail hour. The trend is reflected in sales. According to NPD Research Group, total active-wear sales amounted to $33.6 billion for the year ending in June, which is up 7 percent from the prior year.

Net-A-Porter recently added its Net-A-Sporter page to the designer retail site, where shoppers can find a vast selection of gym and apres gym attire categorized by activity.

"Firstly we saw this trend in our customers' lives and then in a fashion context," says Candice Fragis, Net-A-Porter's senior buyer. "When someone like Karl (Lagerfeld) sends trainers down a runway, you know there's something going on."

On Net-A-Sporter, among the fluorescent-yellow mesh Nike sneakers in the cross-training section and Ariat stretch jodhpurs in the equestrian section, are items from the recently launched New York-based line called Live The Process, a collection that seamlessly unites working out with fashion.

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"People are basing their lives around lifestyle, and this means working out and taking care of themselves," says Robyn Berkley, founder of Live The Process. "It's now important to look and feel good as it all works hand in hand."

Live The Process, which consists of satin-paneled jersey hooded tops and pastel floral sports bras, sits next to Wang's collection inside Barneys New York, proving that sport-inspired clothing is further becoming part of a modern wardrobe.

"There is something very futuristic about the sportif look, as the fabrics are technical, so this also fits in with a chic and modern way of dressing," says Cameron Silver, author and owner of Decades in Los Angeles.

We're likely to see more of it when another online retailer, Yoox.com, launches an active-wear section of the website in September. Old Navy, H&M, Victoria's Secret and Tory Burch are all also launching or have recently added active-wear categories to their businesses.

From the designer side of things, there are the Dior "Fusion" sneakers and Valentino jogging pants as well as Maison Martin Margiela's slip-on sneakers and Givenchy designer Riccardo Tisci's collaboration with Nike. Jeremy Scott continues his line with Adidas, and the athletic brand has brought on British designer Mary Katrantzou for a capsule collection debuting in November.

"It's part of the daywear uniform," Silver says. "Designer kicks, designer leggings, designer tank, big rock on finger and a Birkin on the arm."

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