Ralph Lauren caught some major flack for his Olympics uniforms—but he’s not alone. Stella McCartney’s fashion-forward gear, created with Adidas for Great Britain’s Olympic athletes, has also stirred controversy in her country. And as for Spain’s regalia, well…that’s triggered complaints—and laughter.
“JAJAJAJAJAJAJAJJAJAJAJAJAJJAJAJAJAJAJAJAJANJAJAJAJAJNAA,” exclaimed one tweet—clearly the Spanish equivalent of LOL—in response to photos of the uniforms posted on Twitter by Spanish athletes. The tweet was followed up by “lo siento,” (that’s “I’m sorry,” for those of you who can’t recall your high school Spanish), and then a frowny-face (which is pretty much international).
And so begins what Giorgio Armani has touted as “the most fashionable Olympics ever.” More major designers and high-profile brands than ever before have created uniforms and ceremonial wear for the London games.
And so begins what Giorgio Armani has touted as “the most fashionable Olympics ever.” More major designers and high-profile brands than ever before have created uniforms and ceremonial wear for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London.
Besides Lauren designing for Team USA and McCartney for the Brits, Armani and Prada are outfitting Italian athletes, Hermès is dressing the French equestrians, Cedella Marley (daughter of reggae icon Bob) is designing for Jamaica, Bogner for Germany, Salvatore Ferragamo for teensy San Marino, and Florence-based brand Ermanno Scervino has whipped up a rather jazzy ensemble for Azerbaijan.
The opening ceremonies on Friday will seem like the biggest red carpet in history—and the biggest snarkfest. Here’s our take on five major players:
USA: Ralph Lauren —The China Syndrome
Lauren designed opening and closing ceremony parade uniforms and Olympic village gear, inspired by vintage pieces worn by American athletes at London’s 1948 Summer Games. The village gear—bearing retro crests and felt USA insignias—isn’t bad, and the opening ceremony attire is typically navy-blazer preppy.
But…berets? Really? Newsboy caps might’ve been a pluckier (and more Yankified) choice.
Of course, it was what lurked on the inside—those “Made in China” labels—that caused the ruckus earlier this month, after an ABC news report revealed the uniforms weren’t manufactured domestically. Politicians, celebrities and countless others in the public soon lashed out.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) suggested the U.S. Olympic Committee put Lauren’s uniforms “in a big pile and burn them and start all over again.”
Some had Lauren’s back. The U.S. Olympic Committee, noting they were privately funded, expressed gratitude for sponsors like Lauren.
And producing new clothes for 530 Team USA athletes would’ve been virtually impossible, confirmed Joseph Abboud, designer and president of HMX Group, which produces lines like Hickey Freeman—using American plants. (Look for Hickey Freeman suiting on NBC’s male sportscasters covering the games.)
“Everyone tweeting on their Chinese assembled phones that they’re horrified the Ralph Lauren Olympic uniforms were made…in China!?” she asked in a Tweet. Then she added, “#irony?”
“This is a bigger picture issue than just the Olympics,” said Abboud, who noted he had the “utmost respect” for Lauren. Abboud hopes the controversy will “open the eyes of all designers,” reminding them how important an issue this is for Americans.
Lauren essentially agreed, pledging to produce uniforms in the U.S. for the next Olympic Games in 2014, and promising to “lead the conversation within our industry and our government to address the issue to increase manufacturing in the United States,” according to a statement from the Ralph Lauren Corporation.
Ironically enough, it was supermodel Coco Rocha who seemed to sum things up best. “Everyone tweeting on their Chinese assembled phones that they’re horrified the Ralph Lauren Olympic uniforms were made…in China!?” she asked in a Tweet. Then she added, “#irony?”
GREAT BRITAIN: Stella McCartney — Union Jack flack
Stella McCartney worked for more than two years on Britain’s team uniforms, collaborating with Adidas on technical performance pieces, footwear and accessories. The high-tech fabrics posed a challenge because “you can’t print over certain seams,” she explained in a Women’s Wear Daily article, and “the scale of what you are designing differs with each sport.”
Ahhh, but where’s the red? Some Brits were seeing red over the LACK of that color in McCartney’s designs, which re-envisioned the Union Jack in just blue and white, deleting the red and using it as trim. It’s an artistic choice, and looks slick—but purists will be purists.
ITALY: Giorgio Armani & Prada —Austere or stylish?
Giorgio Armani designed race and ceremonial gear for Italian athletes, including sleek uniforms in modernist black and white—cool and urban-stylish (though on TV sets it may appear austere). Prada’s uniforms for Italy’s sailing team are more traditional, with jackets in vivid sea-faring blue, polo shirts and sleek trousers.
JAMAICA: Puma — Sophisticated and super-patriotic
Puma enlisted designer Cedella Marley to create athlete uniforms and podium and ceremony wear for the Jamaican Olympic team. “Puma got that right…hooking up with a legendary Jamaican,” said team member (and world’s fastest man) Usain Bolt.
Marley’s podium wear includes black and yellow track jackets and funky, drop-crotch track pants—risky, but fun. And her Opening Ceremony attire offers up black and yellow leaf-print skirts with a belted black jacket for women, sleek yellow pants, a green slim-fit shirt and skinny black tie for guys. Stylish, sophisticated and super-patriotic. Cedella, like dad, rocks.
SPAIN: Bosco — Frowny faces
Ay caramba! Spain’s economy is about to tank, so perhaps you can’t blame them for taking what must’ve seemed like a great offer, when the Russian sportswear brand Bosco agreed to design the Spanish gear for free. Well…you get what you pay for. Let’s put aside the fact that Spain didn’t reach out to any number of capable Spanish brands—Loewe, Custo Barcelona, Zara, heck, even Mango (Spain’s version of Forever 21) would do.
Spanish athletes began donning their attire last week…and posting photos on Twitter. Like silver-medal winning field hockey player Alex Fabregas, wearing a garish red-and-yellow track suit that prompted him to tweet in his native Catalán, “Sobren els adjectius," which roughly translates to “There aren’t enough adjectives….”
Gold-medal winning canoeist Saúl Craviotto posted an image of himself in a polo shirt and cap. Let’s just say the Doublemeat Palace uniforms from Buffy the Vampire Slayer look runway chic by comparison.
“Best I don’t comment,” he tweeted in Spanish. “I will leave it up to you....”
Like Fabregas said, sometimes there aren’t enough adjectives. Only frowny faces. Muchos, muchos L’s.