Byline: Holly Haber

For women whose busy hectic daily regimens demand a wardrobe that is comfortable, but fashion-forward, a new batch of fleece sweats trendier than those offered in the past, are quickly becoming the on-the-go gal’s best friend.
No longer are run-around moms or hip teens limited to baggy sweatpants and sweatshirts if they want to cover themselves in the comfort of fleece. A bevy of established and new sportswear firms have introduced fleece and French terry knits styled as contemporary sportswear. Key styles are low-rise drawstring pants, slim-cut zip jackets and cropped camisoles, all with plenty of stretch.
The latest updated sweat looks for summer and fall are dressed up with embellishments or other surface detailing, including hand-sanding, crystal studs, appliques, stitchwork, pocket details, logos, whiskers, contrasting trims and football jersey-style numbers. Some styles cater to the yoga market with printed yin-yang symbols and mandalas.
Mary Lucile Lambert, designer for Ballinger Gold in New York, said her interest in designing hip sweats was motivated by personal need.
“I became a mother and couldn’t find any cool urban-hip clothes to wear that my daughter could get formula on and I could just wash,” she explained. “In one aspect, younger kids and the hip-hop market have always been wearing these clothes. Eminem wore a velour track suit on the MTV Awards, and [hip-hop guru] Russell Simmons in my yoga class was wearing velour, so I put it on my line. All the kids grew up wearing polar fleece and went to school wearing sweatpants, and they’re not going to start wearing gabardine pants.” Lambert got backing from Ballinger Gold and began shipping the new line, called Mary Lucille, about 18 months ago.
Lynn Keyes, designer for Bella Dahl in Los Angeles, expanded the denim line into knits over a year ago and now the company produces two to three knit groups per month.
“There was a void for anybody who wanted to wear sweats that were not boring,” Keyes said. “We used some of the detailing from denim, like appliques and frays, and applied it to knits for a comfortable pant that is more than just a sweat. Our look is cleaned up and sexy. It’s both streetwear and for workout.”
Poleci, a Los Angeles-based contemporary firm, jumped onto the sweats bandwagon for summer 2002 with a new label called Poleci Alternative. Its debut collection consisted of white, gray and black drawstring pants in a striped cotton woven and solid fleece paired with prairie tops and jackets with asymmetrical zippers.
Heidi Cornell, a Los Angeles veteran of product development for private labels, decided to introduce her own lifestyle collection about six months ago. For fall, Cornell plans to embellish the pants with crystal-studded pin-up girls.