From Pele to James Bond, Madonna to the Fast & Furious faithful, the glamorous mystique of Rio de Janeiro is powered by iconic jet-set characters, both real and fictional. However, between the presidential impeachment, violent street protests, and Zika virus, latest news out of Brazil look like thriller trailers and not the traditional feel-good Olympic countdown stories. For a respite from the barrage of controversies surrounding the upcoming Summer Games, let’s turn to Olympic fashion. National teams, volunteers and staff will pack their athletic and formal uniforms to showcase pride and boost world’s morale. Brazil is Carnival and Carnival is fashion. The world’s biggest runway for sportswear opens on August 5th. Here are few highlights that are already turning heads. Who has a shot at winning Fashion Gold?
It takes teamwork to honor teamwork. Canada’s uniforms are created by twins Dan and Dean Caten of the famed DSquared2 brand and produced by Hudson’s Bay, a legendary Canadian department store.
The designer duo is known for their impeccable tailoring that is evident in the athletic blazers with bonded zip pockets on the front. They’ve created bold high end athleisure looks with the signature maple leaf adornments.
The collection mixed the traditional red and white colors with black and grey tones for a chic color palette for both athletes and fans watching from home. The minimalist approach works, bringing fashion forward focus to the basics. Canadian Pride, intact! 2. United Kingdom
Stella McCartney in collaboration with Adidas have proved to be a winning style strategy for the UK Olympic Committee. The fashion savvy kits make strong use of the new coat of arms and the traditional Union Jack colors: navy blue leggings, white sweaters, red accents throughout formal and discipline-specific uniforms.
McCartney went full force on national branding by including a large GB (Great Britain) embroidered, printed and otherwise plastered all over. The design team solicited feedback and contributions from several athletes to enhance their performance and comfort.
The result is not only predictably ergonomic but it’s also remarkably innovative as the new synthetic fabric is 10% lighten than the one used for 2012 London Olympics gear. Less is more, indeed!
These days, it seems you can open any wardrobe anywhere in the world and find at least one H&M garment. The Swedish fast fashion retailer outfitted the Olympic and Paralympic teams in bright gold yellow and sleek deep blue uniforms citing the iconic flag color scheme.
The striking apparel is expected to draw fan consumers to flagship stores worldwide. Team Sweden will be proudly walking in uniforms largely created with sustainably-produced recyclable fabrics: leggings, windbreakers, sweaters and tees.
While it does not say “Sweden” on them, the statement is assuredly patriotic and boldly beautiful. Olympics should champion eco-sustainability, no doubt!
Ralph Lauren returns as a fashion coach for Team USA and “playing it safe” seems to be his latest game day motto. With white shorts, button-down shirts, striped belts and signature Polo logo the looks are true to the designer’s classic aesthetic including the large USA print on the back in the requisite red, white and blue.
Swimmers Ryan Lochte, Haley Anderson and wrestler Jordan Burroughs debuted the uniforms on the Today Show. While firmly within the IOC dress code regulations, for some it’s missing an athletic factor.
Beachside mixer ready casual kits appear a bit underwhelming, but on the other hand nothing says All-American as the iconic preppy style. If it ain’t faux pas, don’t fix it!
5. South Korea
With navy blazers, stark white trousers and the striped socks to accent the deep blue boat shoes, Team South Korea is ready to join the Americans country club poolside. While these designs don’t break new ground aesthetically, they’ve made headlines for the Zika repellent within the fabrics to prevent any possibility of the virus affecting the athletes.
The neon accented grey items worn in the Olympic village during downtime and the opening as well as closing ceremonies are treated with the special formula.
Several other countries are expected to follow the anti-virus uniform manufacturing trend. Health is a universal priority. Well-being is always in vogue!
French brand Lacoste was founded by the tennis legend Rene Lacoste which makes its impeccable sports pedigree a natural fit for the Olympics uniform design.
The athletes will be wearing white rain resistant ponchos with hoods and zipped pockets on the front, deep blue trench coats and white pants with an ankle cut-off. The signature crocodile emblem stitched in red, white and blue is part of the subtle detailing.
The overall feel of the collection is relaxed or lackluster, depending on the point of view. For a country synonymous with haute couture, many expected to see a more rejuvenated sense of style. Voulez-vous highfashion avec moi?
Team Australia enters Olympic history books with the official Zika-proof condoms exclusively scientifically engineered in time for the start of the Games. While their Sportscraft-designed pinstriped uniforms pay homage to the 1924 Olympics with the retro-fitted suits and scarfs, the team spirit is definitely proactively future-oriented… Way to go!
Text: Stephan Rabimov, Director of Fashion Journalism & Social Media Center
Additional reporting by Vivien Moon, MA Fashion Journalism alumna and Alexey Timbul, Part-time Fashion Journalism Instructor