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 224.

    Style rating of zero.

    Bad kit
    Childish logo
    Team London Ambassadors uniform garish

  • rate this

    Comment number 223.

    We've already got the totally irrelevant twisted steel tower which has cost goodness knows what and will be sold off for scrap eventually. It is without doubt a symbol of grandiose nonsense and why the original budget has over-run by 3+ times its estimate. We knew that we couldn't match the Chinese for style and have gone instead for gimmicks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 222.

    Oh dear. Red socks never look good.

  • rate this

    Comment number 221.

    209. And_here_we_go_again
    >>>Even so, 1 in 10 is actually quite a high percentage,

    Exactly the point: Things can seem like a national obsession because audiences are so diffuse that when something CAN attract an audience of any size, the whole media goes into hype-snowball mode for it's mutual advertising revenue and ratings benefit. My point was that the OP had swallowed this hype, whole!

  • rate this

    Comment number 220.

    I do not like the design but am not sure we can say it is not British enough.

    Handing a task of national importance to someone completely unqualified purely on the basis of nepotism and then lamenting when they utterly screw it up is the true hallmark of British politics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 219.

    @ 215.A Fishcold Panda

    Enjoy, we have a couple of tickets too and I equally am very excited.

    Right my very dull day at work is over, have a good weekend all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 218.

    Who cares about the colour of the suits? The winners will wrap themselves in the Union Flag, which will fly from the poles as well. What do people get so worked up about? Get a life and enjoy the games. I find Stella McCartney just as overrated as her dad, but it's a bit late now, so get on with it. There's enough whingeing and moaning already.

  • rate this

    Comment number 217.

    Will the Olympic Games be a stylish affair?
    For the money it has cost it should be gold plated!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 216.

    I am 62, I have been English-British all of my life. I feel today that any minor ce;leb can do what it likes for money. I just cannot understand the arrogant betrayal of our finest logo, the Union Flag. This rebranding, by a mere fashion designer, of a truly Brit-identifying symbol which merges our emotionally important national flags is not far short of treason. I want my St George Flag in RED

  • rate this

    Comment number 215.

    Even so, 1 in 10 is actually quite a high percentage, other than the worlld cup you would struiggle to fine other sporting events pulling in those numbers.

    Reality TV shows and soaps probably pull more viewers but that probably is more something to be ashamed of. Anyway, I have tickets for 4 events and I can't wait.

  • rate this

    Comment number 214.

    My instinctive reaction is that this design is much like all the hype about the Olympic Games itself - overblown and not very classical. The corruption in the Union Jack colours not to mention the patchwork effect is really unflattering to some athletes. Jessica Ennis's 2-piece outfit looks like a complete mismatch and others are not much better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 213.

    Those who do not like the kit should be reassured that having been made by Adidas it will fall to bits after the first wash.
    If you look you will find the SM has actually stolen the design from a Ben Sherman flight bag - it is not even original rubbish.
    What is more alarming is our athletes obsession with preening - is Lord Coe providing hairdressers and manicurists in the changing rooms as well ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 212.

    If you photoshop the Red back into the flag then the kit looks even more fantastic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 211.

    I am awaiting in trepidation to know what my Opening Ceremony costume is going to look like...
    They said we got to keep it afterwards, let's hope they don't charge us for it (like the torches).

  • rate this

    Comment number 210.

    To all those having a go at Scotland for no reason - grow up. I feel no connection to these London Games - could be held in Paris for all the difference it makes. Would not bother me if the whole uniform was red and white - I wish it was to stop all these tedious comments.

  • rate this

    Comment number 209.

    @ 208. Alan T

    The true number of individual viewers would have been somewhere between the two (although closer to the 6m) as not everyone who viewed some of it would have been viewing at the peak time (which I guess was the 100m final).

    Even so, 1 in 10 is actually quite a high percentage, other than the worlld cup you would struiggle to fine other sporting events pulling in those numbers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 208.

    197. A Fishcold Panda
    >>>Just because you and your grumpy nan don't enjoy it doesn't mean that you can speak for the 4+ billion viewers who watched the last Olympics.

    Sorry, but that was a cumulative audience. So, people who watched it (or some of it) for 10 days counted as 10 viewers. Peak UK event viewers in 2008 was in fact about 6 million, that's about 1 in 10 of us. A national obsession? No.

  • rate this

    Comment number 207.

    Must be Groundhog day.

    I thought that Ms McCartney's doodles and obvious lack of talent had been done to death yesterday...

  • rate this

    Comment number 206.

    197. A Fishcold Panda 13 MINUTES AGO 195.krokodil

    I am far from grumpy about it.... talk to me after its over and we are still paying.... then I might be.

    And sorry..... how many people follow athletics or paralympic sports normally??? ;-)

    If it had been the football world cup....that would have been truly popular.

    Enjoy watching archery and the Marathon ;-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 205.

    We could have done a lot better. At least the scarf is good.


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