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Health Style: Designs on life; Sport and leisure equipment is the latest area to be given a designer makeover. Claire Hills reports on the luxury leisure boom.

Byline: Claire Hills

Not content with sporting the right logo on your gym bag or trainers, big name designers have turned their attention to sports and leisure gear

Getting fit used to be a job for the professionals. All weather tracksuits and an entry form for a marathon were the hallmarks of the health conscious.

But then exercise became trendy.

Getting fit became a leisure pursuit and what you wore to go to the gym became more important than what you did when you got there.

Soap stars began producing their own fitness videos and a celebrity's work-out secrets aroused levels of public interest previously reserved for their love lives. In keeping with this trend has come designer gym equipment.

Not content with sporting the right logo on your gym bag or trainers, big name designers have turned their attention to sports and leisure gear.

Now top fashion houses are selling their own extensive ranges of these products to cater for a wide range of tastes and requirements.

Gucci has brought out its own fitness range which includes a yoga mat priced at pounds 505 (for details of your nearest stockist call 020 7235 6707).

This is probably in response to the increasing popularity of yoga caused by its celebrity endorsement, according to Susie Whalley, deputy features editor at Zest magazine.

'People are very led by what celebrities say and do. So many people are taking up yoga now because of Geri Halliwell,' she says.

Top fashion label Mulberry has also latched on to this latest trend and has a yoga mat and yoga mat bag priced at the slightly more affordable pounds 195 (call 020 7491 3900 for further information).

Susie Whalley believes the main purchasers of such top name accessories would be those who attend plush gyms and want to be able to whip out their designer mats as a form of conspicuous consumption.

'If you've got the cash it's great fun,' she says. 'They do look lovely but it's not realistic to say that everybody will go out and buy them. I think most people are more likely to pay for the pounds 14.99 version.'

But the Gucci Fitness range does not end with yoga.

In addition it features a wide range of accessories to help would-be trend setters shape up in the comfort of their own home.

These include a chest expander, priced pounds 70, a leg expander for a reasonable pounds 55 and ankle weights priced at pounds 300. A skipping rope is also available for a staggering pounds 85.

But despite the hefty price tags, Susie believes designer gym aficionados will be queuing up to buy them.

'The Gucci skipping rope is great fun. It's perfect for someone who's designer-conscious,' Whalley says.

If shoppers are looking to get fit while having fun then they should try Porsche's latest addition to its model range - a sledge.

Ideal for use during the current snap of cold weather, it boasts a lightweight but strong aluminium frame with steel runners to maximise speed and control in snowy conditions (call the Porsche helpline on 08457 911 911 or log on to www.porsche.com). It carries a price tag of pounds 122.38, which exceeds the pounds 10 price tag of sledges for sale in local shops by far. Yet the large price tag will surely only add to its prestige.

In keeping with winter sports, Chanel has a fantastic ski range which includes a pair of skis priced at pounds 765, which will add prestige to any ski outfit (call 020 7493 5040 to find stockists).

And for any trendy snowboarders out there it also has a snowboard for pounds 715, ideal for the designer-label fiend.

Should you want to kit yourself up in a complete Chanel outfit for the slopes, providing you trust yourself not to fall and rip a whole in your brand new extravagance, it is possible.

Chanel has ski trousers priced at pounds 410, a ski jacket for pounds 645 and a ski jumpsuit costing pounds 655. It even has ski goggles costing pounds 60 and bobble hats for pounds 75 to complete the look.

To the standard high street shopper the prices of these designer sport and leisure equipment may seem gastronomically excessive, but Susie Whalley says the luxury nature of these products should not be ignored.

'They are not meant to be for everybody. They are for celebrities and people who are going to be photographed on the way to and from the gym, for example, It girls.

But as leisure increasingly becomes more important, it is likely to become more acceptable to splash out a fortune on such accessories.

Susie points out that designer sports and leisure equipment has been around for some time and first came on to the scene in the mid-1990s.

'Chanel made a leather water bottle holder which could be taken to the gym and which appeared on the front covers of many top magazines,' she recalls.

'Designers would never have expanded their ranges had there not been a market for the additional products.'

Even so, Susie believes it is unlikely that everyone will splash out on designer sport and leisure equipment.

'For the girl in the street if it comes to a toss up between spending pounds 60 on an outfit and a designer skipping rope then we know what most people would go for,' she says.

CAPTION(S):

Top, yoga mat and matching bag, pounds 195 from Mulberry Left, the Gucci exercise collection features gym mat, pounds 345, chest expander, pounds 70, a skipping rop, pounds 85, and ankle weights that will set you back pounds 300
COPYRIGHT 2002 Birmingham Post & Mail Ltd
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2002 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jan 16, 2002
Words:943
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