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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  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    Wonder what other counrties say about their teams outfits? Personally I'm indifferent to them. I do, however, feel sorry for the mascots. Frankinstein's creations if I ever did see them. Poor things! They should rise up and take on the crule world that shuns them so.

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    An awful lot of insulting comments.

    The background of the union jack is blue, it therefore should be expected to have a prominent place in the design, so the designer has followed her brief and minimised the red & white.

    I can't believe how some posters can focus this on being some sort of Scots agenda.

    I like it.

    Well done Stella

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    I notice that the vast majority of the lowest rated comments are the ones actually offering anything other than knee-jerk negativity, pompous sneering or comically disproportionate moaning and gnashing of teeth on general principles because wah wah wah, a large slow-moving target exits. Admit it: we can't have nice things. I'm beginning to suspect the British never deserved the Olympics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    Design Briefing Team

    DBT- Ok stella the only real requirement is that the kits are red, white & blue

    Stella- Sooo chic?

    DBT- erm, well, i suppose so long as you only uses the colours stated

    Stella- sooo lillac?

    DBT- what? NO! red, white & blue, got it?

    Stella- yeeeah fineee got it...
    *I'm gunna mix em together because i can B)
    then i'm going to make 'em look pretty with pink straw hats...

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    Design and styles might not be brilliant but it represents Britain so our athletes will wear it with pride, i'll be supporting the Brits in terrible clothes nonetheless

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    Fashion is never going to please everyone.

    What's more important is do the athletes feel good in them? If so it doesnt matter at all what the rest of us think.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    Frankly you cannot expect a fashion designer - aparrently an "artist" - To come up with an effective design for a national olympic kit. As with the artists who did the posters the result is incoherent, confused, lacking in what it most needs; clarity, immediacy and coherent representation of the "Brand". You have to conclude those making the decisions are only there because they are in the "club"

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    Personally, I don't think this is at the top of my list of things to get picky about.

    So long as the team strip and it's filling are stood on the highest point of the rostrum as many times as possible, I couldn't care less what it looked like.


  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    I don't mind the design but I think to say it represents our flag is wrong

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    This Olympics just gets worse and worse! I can't believe we have made so many bad decisions & these awful designs are simply laughable - as bad as that ugly mostosity of a mascot. The ticketing has been a shambles, the choice of some locations beggars belief. We were awarded the games for the promised legacy & they can't even move the stadium on without controversy.
    Chaos, & it comes from the top.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    Not one positive comment. What a bunch of miserable, depressing people the British are."

    Maybe, just maybe, people don't actually like the costumes?
    Anyway you've hardly added to the upbeat feel yourself...

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    No offence to Stella McCartney but I think the new designs are terrible.
    The spirit of Britain is lacking from the kit . Just when we should be getting in the patriotic mood this design emerges ! Can't believe the athletes say they love it !!
    I don't know what's worse..the clothing or that stupid logo !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    Not one positive comment. What a bunch of miserable, depressing people the British are.
    -Here's a positive comment I am sure the British team will do well whatever they are wearing!

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    ..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.

    What a load of abject nonsense!!! What have these people been smoking/drinking??

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

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

    Um no. I might have actually bought the 2012 clothing but it isn't right. I think they'd better hope the tourists will want it as it sounds like most of us certainly won't.

  • Comment number 69.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    Fantastic, something new to moan about! Reagrdless of the uniform, if moaning and bleating was an olympic sport we would surely have a clean sweep of the medals judging by most of the comments on here (and you can all spare me your 'well, I'm entitled to an opinion" stuff - admit it, you just all like to moan about others to make you feel superior).

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    Just another aspect of the cheesiness of the whole thing. Very little of it is in the true spirit of the Olympics -just money and publicity, with a goup of genuine athletes swamped at the centre of it all. Yuk. We should just paint lines on a field somewhere and let the best compete against each other without spending billions of pounds on the pointless glitz and shows. Yuk Yuk Yuk.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    As if the 2012 logo wasn't bad enough, this is very embarrassing. Like the logo it looks like we're stuck in the 80's. The company I use to make the tracksuits for my sunday league team at £30 a pop come back with more inspiring designs than this. Should have got young British people to come up with designs then get the public/athletes to vote on the best and get adidas to make it, its not hard.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    Any aspiration of style died the moment they revealed the logo for the games in London.
    At the time they said it would evolve....that we would come to love it....
    It is still as truly awful today and a total embarrassment to the design flair that London is otherwise known for.
    Hang your heads in shame Coe & co.


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