The fashion Olympics
Sprinting in style: top brands competing for best-dressed athletes in Londonby Henry Neuteboom
It all started when Team GB announced that Stella McCartney was designing the official garments for the team, made by Adidas. From there, many other brands decided to follow suit. They couldn't miss the enormous possibilities of visibility offered by the Games, with an estimated 4.6 million visitors expected in London, and hundreds of millions more watching on TV. In some cases, the kit will be on sale to the general public.
The official London 2012 GB Olympic kit was deigned by Stella McCartney and created by Adidas. The outfits feature a deconstructed Union flag, in which red is notably absent, though it appears in the trim, while the rest of the flag is streamlined and fragmented with a pixellated grid, looking very different in its all-blue appearance. McCartney designed 590 garments for the various sports.
A football jersey, also made by Adidas, marking the Olympics competition but that will not actually be used by the players, is selling amazingly well (price about €60), perhaps because it marks a historic event: the football squad includes players from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Links of London, creators of the Official Jewellery Collection for London 2012, have designed a collection for Team GB, including Team GB Bands that will be worn by athletes but that can also be purchased by the public keen on pledging their support for the country's team. Simple, sporty, with a silver-look metal tag, and red and blue cord bracelet.
The United States team will be dressed in Ralph Lauren, complete with the polo pony emblem, and number 12 on the arm. Colours are those of the U.S. flag, in a no-nonsense collection of polo shirts and chinos that caught a bit of flak from Congress and Senators when it was discovered that the Ralph Lauren jackets were made in China. The formal dress is rather preppy, reflecting the brand's characteristic US country club look, complete with berets, ties and scarves all in the navy blue-white-red colour combination.
Giorgio Armani kitted out the Italian team in a sports collection from the EA7 line. The informal, off-track wear is streetwise, with deeply-pocketed shorts and waistcoat, and polos with arms in green and red, which with the central white portion neatly creates the Italian tricolore flag. Patriotism is at its highest in the jackets and sweatshirts, which have the text of the Italian national anthem printed inside in gold. Seen all together, the garments show a dominance of navy blue and white, and there doesn't seem to be much of the classic Armani tightly tailored look. Each athlete receives a kit of fifty items for the different occasions, from formal wear for opening ceremony, to informal and sports wear.
Hermès is returning to its roots as a luxury saddlery manufacterer, and it is making the French equestrian teams with jackets, a navy blue, clean-cut design with red lapels, made from a technical fabric that ensures comfortable movement.
Prada is a brand long associated with sailing, and so it comes as no surprise that it is kitting out the Italian sailing team for the Games. Technical garments will be based on its consolidated expertise in regatta wear, and the formal uniforms will also bear the Prada logo. It will also appear on the hulls and sails of the boats used in all official competitions during 2012.
Some smaller countries have attracted attention from designer brands. Ermanno Scervino designed the outfits that will be worn by the Azerbaijan team, in a collection that includes formal wear for the opening and closing ceremonies, and leisure wear for use by the athletes in the campus. The colours and symbols of the Azer flag were used for inspiration, along with the maison's own stylistic features. Accessories are mocassins, sneakers, bags, hats, towels and more.
The San Marino team may be small, but they will be very, very smart in outfits by Salvatore Ferragamo. The uniforms are good for all occasions, with blue blazers over white shirts, silk crepe dresses, and unsurprisingly, smart shoes, with, for women, cream coloured, square-toed pumps in nappa finished with Ferragamo's signature grosgrain bow. Female San Marino athletes even get a revisited version of the Sofia, the Ferragamo classic, in a small version in calfskin. Plus a large leather duffle bag and matching beauty case.
Spain will be competing with uniforms by Russian brand Bosco, a beautifully patterned collection with red, black and yellow interwoven together for a decorative effect. Bosco are also dressing Russia (in the photo below) and Ukraine.
Jamaica turned to Cedella Marley, Bob's daughter, to design the uniform for the nation's team. Usain Bolt will be wearing a jersey with the country's yello and green colours blended from edges to centre, with visuals that illustrate some of the country's cultural heritage, including reggae and sport. The collection is made by Puma.
So all in all, the opening ceremony on Friday 27 July 2012 may look more like a fashion show than a sports event. And the winner is? From what I've seen so far, I'd say that Team GB has got off to a good start...