Chuks Collins proves athleisure isn’t just a trend — it’s a staple. The Bronx-based Nigerian designer of The Athletic Side of Us demonstrated that athleisure can be fashionable and sustainable in his Spring/Summer 2022 collection, the Active Self.
TASOU debuted virtually at the New York Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2021 season with a collection filled with genderless athletic sets in both solid- and graffiti-patterned reds, blues and yellows. The pieces were made from sustainably sourced recycled plastics that reappeared in this season’s runway show.The looks from this season’s collection are influenced by both New York and Nigerian cultures. To pay homage to his Nigerian roots, Collins’ models strutted down the moss-lined runway to East African DJ Sun-EL Musician. He also showcased his culture through more subtle details: barefoot models, cornrow hairstyles and oversized hoop earrings. The tribute paid attention to the culture of the ancient kingdom of Benin in southern Nigeria.
The collection balances style and functionality. Collins’ fusion of avant-garde and athletic wear is evident in a black and white graffiti blazer-and-legging set that elevates athleisure into street style. His light gray leggings set with a mock neck and orange detailing, a green suit set with white garter overlays, and a red dress set with a beige and blue train all manifest Collins’ design strength.
Graffiti prints reference Collin’s Bronx roots and highlight New York streetwear culture through men’s short sleeve shirts and short sets in multiple color permutations — but they come across as repetitive. Collins fails to extend and apply the creativity of his womens’ cuts to his mens’ designs. He struggles to move beyond safe menswear choices such as nylon shorts and track pants.
For a brand that championed androgyny in last season’s collection, why were there no men donning designs as experimental as those for female models? Male models in other NYFW shows this season, such as Eckhaus Latta, sported Helmut Lang-inspired asymmetrical and curved cuts; revealing patches of exposed skin, they elicited undertones of eroticism as opposed to the overt sensuality of toplessness. Even on the TASOU website, clothing is still separated into men’s and women’s categories, while other brands such as Maryam Nassir Zadeh have already abandoned these labels.
At the end of the day, TASOU is a refreshing voice that cuts through the white noise of the athleisure industry and offers gym rats a fashionable alternative to Lululemon and Athleta. But it is still developing its brand identity. Perhaps in seasons to come they will capitalize on the burgeoning potential present in their creative designs.
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