Celebrating The Body As A Fashion Oddity

During Paris Fashion Week at the end of September, the highest-paid supermodels in the world—Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid—were in attendance, but a contingent of track and field Olympians were the real stars of visionary designer Virgil Abloh’s Off-White x Nike runway show.

To show off the Spring 2019 Off-White collection, fittingly named “Track & Field,” the classic runway was ditched in favor of a circular track with white painted lanes. Audience members received invitations that were functional race bibs emblazoned with numbers and fitted with safety pins. The hottest shoes on display featured a spiked outsole. An electronic race clock ticked down the minutes of the show and an electronic leaderboard broadcast the names of the Olympic track athletes from around the world who were walking as models: English Gardner, Vashti Cunningham, Nafissatou Thiam, Katarina Johnson-Thompson, Dina Asher-Smith, Renelle Lamote, Cecilia Yeung, and Caterine Ibarguen.

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ss19 women’s Off-White™ runway show titled “Track & Field” playing in full now on www.off- - -white.com ~ link in bio

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“Sport, like fashion, shares a common language that seeks to unite cultures, break down barriers, and celebrate the power of the human spirit,” Abloh said to press at the event. “This season, I was inspired by the voice of the athlete and the power of sport to impact positive and transformative change globally.”

The designer continued, “Track and field is where you compete. There’s a foundation to it—it’s not just clothes for clothes’ sake.”

Gardner, a two-time U.S. champion in the 100 meters, is a self-professed “retired sneakerhead” who has followed Abloh’s rise from Kanye West’s creative director at the very beginning of the his career to founder of high-end streetwear brand Off-White in 2013. This year, the Chicago-based designer was named artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear collection.

“I consider myself a millennial,” said Gardner, who’s 26, in an interview with Runner’s World. “Virgil and Off-White are huge in my community, and so I was praying to God that I ended up in that show.”

At first, she wasn’t sure why she was flying to Paris from her training base in California.

The 2016 Rio Olympic gold medalist in the 4x100 meter relay spent much of the past year recovering from tears in her ACL and meniscus. She only raced twice in 2018, and had just captured her second consecutive 100 meter win in Padova, Italy, in September when her agent, Emanuel Hudson, told her she had a media request in Paris.

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“At the time, I didn’t really know anything about it—but as a woman, I know dates,” she said. “I noticed New York Fashion Week had just passed and I knew Paris Fashion Week was right after. Looking at the dates and my flight, I was like, ‘Holy crap, I’m about to be at Paris Fashion Week.’”

Gardner continued, “I called my mom and my sister and was like, ‘Guys, this is crazy. I don’t know what designer I’m about to be working with, but I see that Virgil is working on something that day and if I could do that show, that would be the best thing ever.’”

The day before her flight, she found out that she was, indeed, requested to walk in Abloh’s runway show.

But just as excitement kicked in, so did the reality of international travel. Gardner’s flight to Paris was overbooked and she was forced to spend the night in Atlanta. Luckily, she snagged a redeye trip and arrived in Paris at 5 a.m. on the morning of the show. She arrived at the hotel about an hour later, then went to have her runway clothes altered.

“They switched out my outfit because I could fill out the bodysuit a little bit better than I did the other outfit—I was like, ‘This is a track outfit!’” she said. “I grabbed a sandwich to go, then went straight to hair and make-up for a few hours on site at the show.”

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After a few rehearsal runs, it was time for her official runway walk. “It was an amazing experience,” Gardner said.

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It is “ EVERYTHING “ to me.... @nike @off____white • • • • #offwhitexnike #parisfashionweek #ss19collection

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Gardner’s final outfit was a sleeveless neon green bodysuit with a low scoop-neck, contouring stripes, and full leggings. And a dope pair of sneakers, naturally.

She isn’t exactly sure which ones she wore on the runway, but she did bring home two new pairs to add to her collection of more than 250 Nike shoes: Tan and orange “All Hallows Eve” Off-White x Nike Blazers and the black-and-white Undercover x Nike React Element 87, which feature a semi-transparent upper. Gardner also took home an ultra-modern caped red jacket.

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After struttin’ her stuff on the catwalk for the @off____white c/o @virgilabloh Paris Fashion Week Runway Show, @ughlyducklin strolls the streets of Paris with the the Director of HSI by her side, @ekhsi 👀. . . #ss19collection #offwhitexnike #parisfashionweek #EnglishGardner #Paris #trackandfield #nike #hsisports @nikerunning

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Though she looks flawless in the subsequent video and photo coverage of the show, the 5-foot-6 former Oregon Duck admitted feeling somewhat self-conscious around all the willowy, statuesque fashion models.

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> Courtesy of English Gardner

“I definitely felt out of place a little bit—just the way my body is shaped,” she said. “We see all these beautiful women wearing beautiful outfits and dresses and they’re walking so confidently. They’re slim-fitted and tall.”

Asher-Smith, the European champion this summer in the 100 and 200 meters, provided a voice of confidence for Gardner and the other athletes.

“Dina reminded us we’re athletes, we’re supposed to be here, this is what we do. She reminded me, ‘you look good in the bodysuit, just walk confidently and have fun.’”

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Opportunities to mesh the worlds of track and field and pop culture don’t come around very often, as Gardner well knows. When she was featured in Vogue magazine in 2016, she was the first track and field athlete to grace its pages since Marion Jones.

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“For us to be in the fashion industry is huge for our sport and for the future,” she said. “It shows girls that follow us that anything is possible. I never in a million years thought I would walk in a Paris Fashion Week runway. I’m such a tomboy, I’m rough around the edges.”

“It’s an experience that I never imagined I would have, and now I have it.”

Source : https://www.runnersworld.com/news/a23742464/track-stars-paris-fashion-week/

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