, Olympics 2021: The Most Stylish Uniforms From The Tokyo Games, The Nzuchi News Forbes

Olympics 2021: The Most Stylish Uniforms From The Tokyo Games

, Olympics 2021: The Most Stylish Uniforms From The Tokyo Games, The Nzuchi News Forbes

Before they had even begun, the Tokyo Summer Games became the most controversial edition in the history of the Olympic movement. An unprecedented postponement due to a global pandemic, an all-time low domestic popularity (only 20% of the Japanese people support the idea), a ratings-busting ban on spectators amid reports of coronavirus outbreaks within the Olympic village, multiple international star athletes declining eligibility to compete, and a shocking last-minute sponsorship withdrawal by Toyota, the nation’s leading automaker, set an alarmingly defeatist tone for once the world’s most coveted sporting event. In more troubling developments, the official Instagram @Tokyo2020 has under half a million followers, like a mid-level influencer. Even the cardboard “sex bed” controversy failed to generate adequate hype for the opening ceremonies on Friday, July 23. While whatever happens within the seventeen days of the Games remains wildly unpredictable, it will surely be studied closely by the marketing departments and health services around the world for years to come. I have been covering Olympic fashion since 2016 (remember Rio and its Zika virus concerns?) as part of the fashion diplomacy discourse and practices. For the teams on-site, it is a unique opportunity to rally national pride at a time when many countries are struggling with post-pandemic morale. Here are top eight noteworthy Olympic uniform design:

United States of America

Ralph Lauren continues his creative stewardship of the American Dream for Team USA. This year’s breakthrough knowhow is the patented RL Cooling system, a self-regulating temperature control device in the flag-bearer’s jacket. As sports face extreme weather, this is “not a test”. The biggest fashion story from Tokyo so far is Kim Kardashian. The reality TV mogul’s brand SKIMS is the official purveyor of athletic undergarments. While the partnership came a surprise for many, Kim noted that she was raised by an Olympian and had affinity for the event since she was a child. Speedo and Nike round up the usual gear suspects.

Russia

Still under the WADA sanctions, Team Russia will again compete under the “neutral” banner of the Olympic Committee. Designer Anastasia Zadorina of Zasport has pulled off a difficult job balancing red, white, and blue tri-color pride with legal limitations. One of the oddest fashion stories from Tokyo so far is the disqualification of the Russian synchronized swimming uniform featuring an image of a bear. Apparently, a bear is too closely associated with Russian folklore… Scandinavians, Canadians, or Alaskans would disagree. The word “bear” itself has Germanic roots. So much for bear-neutrality!

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Liberia

Olympics are a chance to uplift the global diasporas. New York designer Telfar Clemens, born to Liberian parents, has amassed quite a following for his gender-neutral vegan-friendly brand. In fact, nearly double that of @Tokyo2020! The creator of the “Bushwick Birkin” is making Olympic history with his unisex designs for the five-person Liberian national track and field team. The seventy-piece wardrobe is being reworked into a capsule athleisure collection to a drop online during the Games. Thanks to Telfar’s street style notoriety, Vogue has already crowned Liberia’s uniforms “the coolest”.

Czech Republic

While most designers champion strict efficiency in their take on Olympic uniforms, this year the Czech Team is offering a fascinating lesson in historic fashion diplomacy thanks to Zuzana Osako. Her winning bid features intricate pieces done in modrotisk technique also known as blueprint. While it originated in Japan, the Danube textile artisans have adapted and perfected it for centuries. In 2018, UNESCO officially recognized it as part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. With dresses for women and cool vests for men, this collection is not only a beautiful homage to the past, but also as close to haute couture as sportswear can get. 

, Olympics 2021: The Most Stylish Uniforms From The Tokyo Games, The Nzuchi News Forbes

Kazakhstan

Thirty-five members of Team Kazakhstan were directly involved in the creation of their uniforms. Designer Saltanat Baimukhamedova collaborated with the team on choice of fabrics, colors, and decorative elements to make sure the athletes felt supported and inspired in their Olympic journey. The signature turquoise and blue color palette is reminiscent of the endless sky above the Kazakh steppes. Such a style-savvy presentation solidifies fashion capital status for Astana and Almaty, two of the country’s largest cities with a fierce cultural rivalry. When Olympic spirit is cultivated right, everyone wins! 

China

Designer Tim Yip (also known as Ye Jintia) is no stranger to epic storytelling. He won an Academy Award for art direction for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and was nominated for a BAFTA Award as a costume designer for the iconic film. This year Team China is wearing his “Champion Dragon Suits” as the country prepares to host the Winter Games in 2022, just six months later. The release includes kidswear looks. Perhaps, as an intergenerational nod to the nation’s growing Olympic ambition. Having finished third in overall medal count in Rio, China is sending its largest ever delegation to Tokyo… with 777 athletes! 

South Africa 

As a unique global event, the Olympics provide unique opportunities for communities worldwide. Durban Fashion Fair commissioned young artists – Mbali Zulu, Nompumelelo Mjadu, Sandile Sikhakhane and Sipho Lushaba – to design uniforms for Team South Africa in partnership with manufacturer Mr. Price Sport. It is the first time the entire kit (including official off-field footwear by Veldskoen) has been created and produced locally. It may not be memorable as a fashion statement, but it is a commendable experiment in divesting from corporations to the people. Given recent unrest in the country, this may provide a rare instance of unity.

Japan

This year’s honorable mention goes to the host nation. Team Japan has opted for the same uniform for its Olympic and Paralympic teams for the first time. The kits are manufactured by Aoki, one of the country’s largest fashion retailers. This speaks volumes on the recent advances both in social inclusion and adaptive fashion design. It is also a reflection of another historic change. The official motto has been updated for the first time since the inception of the Games in 1894. It now states: “Faster, Higher, Stronger – Together”. For a world recovering from one of its greatest common challenges, it is a welcome gesture, indeed. 

Not all was well on the sport’s brightest runway. Team Italy perpetually outfitted by EA7 looked like an afterthought on Giorgio Armani’s schedule. Ben Sherman’s remix of the 1964 Olympic uniforms for Team Great Britain felt lackluster at best. It seems Lacoste gave up trying on behalf of Team France and just color-blocked the flag. The much-ridiculed Hudson’s Bay effort to “modernize” Team Canada would not make it into a graduation showcase at any decent fashion school. Many of the world’s fashion trendsetters failed to impress this time around. Better luck next time. Especially, since the 2024 Summer Olympic Games will be held in France. No fashion faux pas allowed at @Paris2024!

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