Somewhat accidentally, Gigi Hadid has become the biggest champion of athleisure. This is mostly because, in her own words, "I genuinely am in athletic clothes 99% of my life." Seeing as the model is followed by paparazzi everywhere she goes, she's frequently photographed in these "going to the gym" getups. These are then fawned over and broken down by everyone (hi!!) in an effort to identify just how Hadid manages to convince us that wearing leggings out of the house is not only okay, but genuinely cool. While she was anointed in this role mostly by the public, her latest gig only solidifies her reign — and attests to the enduring power of the sportswear trend in fashion.
Today Reebok announced Hadid as the new face of its #PerfectNever campaign. She follows Ronda Rousey as an ambassador for the global sportswear brand's initiative to embrace fitness as an opportunity to defy expectations. This message falls under Reebok's larger "Be More Human" movement.
The 21-year-old Hadid, of course, knows a bit or two about living under constant scrutiny — even having to summon up her boxing training to defend herself in scary situations. "Gigi is setting the standards of modern style across the world — her ability to fuse fashion and fitness together inspires people globally," Corinna Werkle, Reebok's general manager of the Training Business Unit, said in a statement. "The fashion icon constantly pushes the boundaries by not being afraid to take risks and be different."
While Hadid has accrued a wide range of high-profile partnerships over the past year, this is the first time she reps a sportswear brand — although, given her background as a competitive athlete and her affinity for high-waisted leggings, it was a long time coming. Refinery29 caught up with the model to talk about everything from the message behind the campaign to why she thinks athleisure isn't slowing down anytime soon. (Plus: She breaks down the secret to her closely followed gym style — and the pieces she'll be adding to her rotation this fall.)
Tell me about your involvement with this campaign.
"I’ve always been such a big fan of Reebok. I love the clothes and everything that I get to model on my photo shoots, and also the message that the brand puts across is really important to me. The #PerfectNever campaign is just something that I thought that I could represent genuinely. I always look for brands that feel the most natural for me, because those are the easiest to talk about. When you’re the face of the brand, it’s always better to do something that feels true."
How do you feel that fashion and personal style can be empowering?
"I think that right now fashion is super empowering because it’s so comfortable. I know that sounds weird, but there were times when you had corsets and fashion was really kind of stuck up. Now it’s cool to be comfortable and be who you are. I think that people look the most beautiful when they feel the most comfortable. And something that happened to me the other day: When I was leaving a show in what’s considered a high-fashion outfit, a guy picked me up and I elbowed him in the face. It was empowering to be a fashion model — to be something that people have a lot of judgment about and around — and be able to show them something else. That was really cool for me."
The whole message behind this campaign is about shedding away those layers of "perfection." You're so open on social media, which gets a bad rap for pushing a "perfect" image. What’s something about your life that might not make it onto there?
"Everyone thinks that celebrities, because they're in that position, are perfect. But they don’t realize that, by doing that, they place that need to feel perfect on the celebrity, who isn’t that way naturally — like everyone else. That’s the biggest thing that doesn’t make it on social media: No matter how hard we try to be ourselves, we work to be 'perfect.' But I don’t know — I think it’s more fun when I get to be funny and weird, and be myself and make mistakes. If I couldn’t fall back on the fact that I’m human, then it would be the worst thing ever. That’s what’s so great: If I do make a mistake, I’m always the one to laugh at it. People can put down my runway walk or the way I handle situations — then I’m always the first person to look back and ask myself if that was the right thing and learn from that to try and be better. But the only way that I could grow is because I’m not perfect in the first place."
The worlds of fashion and fitness are linked more closely than ever. How have you seen it change in the time that you’ve been a model?
"I think there’s a lot of ways that they’re linked. First of all, on the mental and physical side of it, models have recently started to be some of the biggest health inspirations — and, thankfully, girls aren’t skinny for the wrong reasons. They’re setting goals, learning about food and the healthy way to be — and that’s really cool. So I came in a generation where fitness was really important: They wanted girls to be fit, not just skinny. But also, you see sports and athletics so much within fashion itself and how people dress, and I think that’s really fun. Thank God for that, because when I first started, even on my days when I wasn’t boxing after school, I’d still wear my boxing clothes to school. I’ve always been for athleisure, and I incorporate that still, even at some very serious fashion events. I think you see that a lot on the runway now, which is really cool."
Totally — on the trend side, athleisure has been around for a few years now. Do you see that bubble bursting anytime soon?
"I don’t think so, because it’s one of a certain amount of relatable things in fashion. I think that when people see it on the runway, they can imagine themselves in that. That’s what I love about Reebok and about this collection: Obviously, you can wear it to the gym — it’s great when you’re sweaty, and it’s flexible and all the good stuff — but also you can mix and match it with other pieces and it looks really high-fashion. That’s what people look for."
What’s your go-to athleisure outfit?
"Always high-waisted leggings — Reebok has some epic ones coming out in really cool colors. The black ones are always a go-to, because you can mix them with anything. I love a sports bra and then a cool jacket. I’m so excited about this glowy jacket [from Reebok]: It reflects in the light, and it’s really cool. [Ed note: This specific style is set to drop in November.] Then the classic leather shoes are my favorite, and they’re coming in a beautiful gray, which is so cool for, like, the monochromatic trend right now."
What’s funny about those being your most-photographed outfits is that they’ve sort of made leggings acceptable to wear out of the house. Before, it was such a debate. Did you ever have a stake in that, about leggings not being real pants?
"Absolutely not. My fashion sense started when I was a volleyball player in high school. And I had my spandex on all weekend playing volleyball. I would have to go straight from school to my games, so I just always tried to make leggings cute — that’s kind of how it started. Then, when I moved to New York, leggings were already, like, a huge part of my fashion sense. I always went toward leggings and sneakers, and then a cool shirt and jacket or something."
What’s one trend you’re really excited to be wearing this fall?
"I love sneakers, always. I think that the monochromatic thing going on right now is really fun, and it’s gonna be great with cooler fall colors, like gray. Reebok has a great gray."