London 2012: Will the Olympic Games be a stylish affair?

 
Composite image of uniforms

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With a little over four months until the "greatest show on earth" we now have a sense of how the London Olympics will look in fashion terms - from the Team GB kits to uniforms for torchbearers and other volunteers and a supporters' scarf.

Here Andrew Groves, course director in fashion design at the University of Westminster, casts a critical eye over the look of London 2012 so far.

"Reaction to the Team GB kit has revealed much about where the national mood is currently.

Whilst fashion writers have praised the exciting use of colour, pattern and cut in the designs, critics have said the kit looks too Scottish due to the prominence of shades of navy, turquoise and blue.

Perhaps they are merely voicing a deep-seated fear - as independence plays on the minds of the English - that the outfits are a visual manifestation of a perceived imbalance within the union towards the Scottish. The 'red' of England being little more than a decorative trim.

Elsewhere, the designers who created the mayor's ambassadors' uniform, the Games Makers' uniform and the torchbearers' uniform have produced at best mixed results.

A tracksuit is such an easy design brief it makes you wonder how they could get it so wrong.

However the launch of the Team GB kit marked a new high point in the increasing relationship between the worlds of high fashion and sportswear.

Stella McCartney's designs for Team GB

Athletes modelling Team GB kit The Team GB kit was met with positive comments from most of the athletes

Where Stella McCartney has excelled in her collaboration is in understanding how to create the perfect mix of sportswear functionality with fashion edge.

Since first collaborating with Adidas in 2004, Stella has shown she understands the mix needed to create directional fashion focussed sportswear that looks equally at home in the gym as it does in a club or on the street.

Her approach to design is so successful because she understands the demands and desires of the modern woman, underpinning this by addressing both the practical and the desirable.

Selecting her to design the Team GB kit was an inspired choice. Her range looks both modern and classic, addresses the needs of the athletes whilst also being highly appealing to a wider fashion audience.

Unlike the other uniforms that are part of the Olympic event, these designs are likely to become highly collectable in years to come.

Using blue as a dominant colour has received some negative coverage but as a designer you have to make the whole range cohesive.

This is done by choosing a main colour and having accent colours, which is what Stella has done with the red, otherwise you effectively end up being wrapped in the flag.

Her use of the union flag has also drawn some criticism but it is such an iconic image that people are always going to have strong views about how it's treated.

Games Maker uniform

The Games Maker uniform that will be worn by about 70,000 volunteers and 6,000 Locog staff and the technical officials uniform which will be worn by about 4,500 Technical Officials The Games Makers uniforms: Beige slacks - yes or no?

Beige slacks. No-one looks stylish in beige slacks. However, out of all the uniforms released so far these are the most stylish, or to be more precise the least offensive. However there do seem to be some odd ideas with the colour coding epaulettes.

The different-coloured epaulettes are designed identify specific groups, with white for medical staff, red for team leaders and green for anti-doping personnel.

But it's hard to understand why the Olympic committee felt people would need to be able to identify anti-doping personnel at a distance. Perhaps so they could run in the other direction?

Olympic supporters' scarf

Swimmer holds a Team GB supporters' scarf There are two designs of supporters' scarves which feature hearts and stars

This is really quite underwhelming in terms of design. They have played safe with a retro appeal based on the last time the Games were in London in 1948.

However what lets down both designs is the inclusion of so many different logos and branding fighting for attention, which ultimately makes the scarves too fussy to be considered chic.

I don't think people will buy it. I can't see men wearing it and I just don't know who will wear it. The mittens for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games were a bit of fun but this is just a scarf. It's all a bit lost on me.

Torchbearer uniform

Torchbearers in uniforms The all-white torchbearer uniforms received a less than favourable response

On paper this sounds exciting. The primary colour of the uniform is white with gold shards accenting the energy of the Olympic flame at the shoulder and neckline.

Multiple gold shards are used at the elbow to focus the eye on the arm, with a final shard continuing down to the cuff and the hand holding the torch.

Each time the Olympic flame is exchanged between two torchbearers, the gold shard motifs on the uniforms connect the torchbearers visually as the lines link together.

However, in reality, wearing white head to toe is a very hard look for most people to carry off and look stylish in.

The white top seems to be see-through which will no doubt cause all sorts of issues with undergarments such as bras and vests being visible, as well as care labels.

There is a danger the polyester torchbearer uniform will make the individuals look like they are part of a government healthy-living initiative rather than amazing people that have been chosen for the once-in-a-lifetime experience of being an Olympic torchbearer.

Designing sportswear uniforms that need to be comfortable, fit all shapes and sizes, worn by all ages is a difficult brief. But for a country known for its visionary fashion designers and style that is exported throughout the world it seems like a lost opportunity that some of this couldn't have been opened up via a competition to encourage the very best young designers to be part of the Games.

I would have loved to have seen either Christopher Bailey at Burberry or Paul Smith design these uniforms. Both designers would have successfully addressed the brief and delivered uniforms that would have been both utterly British and utterly stylish.

Team London Ambassadors

Team London Ambassadors Dressed in pink and purple the Team London Ambassadors will be easy to spot

The graphic panelling and challenging colour palette shows that the designers were trying to push for a more modern and contemporary vision for this uniform.

Whilst partially successful, it also seems indicative of a lack of confidence in a more traditional colour palette of red white and blue that could have looked modern, contemporary and graphically strong. However what totally lets this uniform down is the straw trilby.

The headgear, which seems more reminiscent of a hat worn for lawn bowls, looks like a last minute addition and totally out of keeping with the rest of this uniform. It feels like someone was worried that the ambassadors wouldn't be visible from a distance.

Whilst the hat definitely does that, it doesn't do anything to make the wearer an ambassador for British style."

 

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