With just days to go until the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, we look at how leading designers have combined fashion and national pride in the teams’ uniforms. With an estimated one billion people expected to watch the opening ceremony of the Rio Olympics on Friday, the pressure is on for the athletes to look their best as they embark on the ultimate test of their sporting prowess.
For all of them, it is the culmination of four years of hard work – and for some, it will be the highlight of their career.
With so many eyes upon them, many will no doubt find the opening-day parade an exciting yet nerve-racking experience. Some will be wearing team outfits designed by the biggest names in fashion. As we await the start of the Games, the burning question, at least on my mind, is not how many Russian athletes will be allowed to compete, or whether Jamaica’s Usain Bolt can outrun the Americans – it is what will everyone be wearing?
Call me a narrow-minded fashionista, but the sartorial competition is where the true battle will take place this summer. Here’s a look at the front-runners in the fashion stakes.
As the other north-American contingent, Canadians are widely respected for their easy going nature and laid-back approach to life. So it was a bit of a surprise to learn that designers Dsquared2 were tasked with styling the team’s uniforms.
The outlandish twin brothers are known for their brash fashion approach, making them an unusual choice for the Olympics. The opening-ceremony uniforms they have created, however, are rather fabulous: unisex fishtail shirts, worn over sweatpants-cut trousers, with double-pocket jackets and the trademark Dsquared2 tailoring.
Although it owes more to fashion than sports, the large maple-leaf motif on the back at least make them easy to spot.
Medal chances – outside of boxing – for this small island are slim, but its athletes are in the running to claim the gold medal for the snazziest outfits.
With their closing-ceremony looks designed by Christian Louboutin and Henri Tai, the former professional volleyball player and founder of SportyHenri.com, the Cuban team will be resplendent in jaunty red blazers, teamed with red high-top trainers.
The white star of the country’s flag is cleverly used as the single detail on an otherwise simple jacket. Emblazoned across the back, it is as striking as it is patriotic.
Hailing from the home of some of the world’s top fashion labels, the pressure is always on the Italians to look dapper.
However, this means that Italy has an outstanding stable of talent to draw upon – and this year the honours fall to Emporio Armani, the diffusion line of Giorgio Armani.
The EA7 Olympic collection is sleek and athletic, with a discreet embroidered Italian flag and the words Olympic Team on the chest. Italians keen to emulate their sporting heroes will be delighted to learn the outfit is available for purchase at Emporio Armani stores.
All-round wholesomeness is the order of the day for the United States team, so it was a natural choice for the all-American Ralph Lauren to design the uniforms.
Staying true to his roots, however, he seems to have simply dressed them in the label’s old shop stock – namely polo tops, white shirts and crisp trousers. The only variation from the norm seems to be the addition of a flag-coloured belt, although even this might be made from leftover ties.
Although the letters USA are splashed across the back in enormous letters, it is a little disappointing that Lauren has essentially just rehashed his existing clothing range for the Olympic team.
Taking a safety-first approach, the South Korean uniform has mosquito-repellent chemicals woven into the fabric to help guard against the Zika virus. Unfortunately, from a fashion viewpoint, that is the most interesting thing about it.
Not surprisingly, the French uniform was created by Lacoste, who opted for a laid-back look of ponchos and trench coats to help ward off any possible downpours. The French colours are discreetly hidden on the embroidered crocodile – but the outfit looks more suited to an afternoon playing pétanque than the competitive business of winning medals.
For the second time in a row, the full kit has been designed by Stella McCartney. To differentiate this one from the London 2012 uniform, McCartney did away with the Union Flag, opting instead for a specially designed coat of arms, which she has splashed heavily over everything. Working in collaboration with sports outfitter Adidas, Team Great Britain will also be wearing the latest in fabrics technology, which are not only super-streamlined but also 10 per cent lighter than the 2012 outfits.
With high-street behemoth H&M as one of the country’s main exports – Ikea is the other, but they are not so great at clothes – it is no surprise that the Swedish team will be wearing H&M in Rio.
Faced with the tricky colour combination of yellow and blue, they have tried to soften the Sesame Street feel of the palette with a more flattering golden yellow over the traditional acidic tone.
Super sporty, with graphic go-faster chevrons of colour, and a sweater proudly announcing Sweden’s medal tally to date (696), this is pure national pride in moulded Lycra.
The host nation is playing on its reputation for energy and love of life, with a team outfit based on the national flag’s upbeat palette of green and yellow. The jaunty pattern mimics tropical birds in flight and lush fronds, a clear reference to one of the country’s greatest assets – its rainforests. Topped with boater hats, lace-up shoes and relaxed chinos for men, this is a uniform designed to have fun in.
Source: art & life