Sure, the London Olympics, barely a month away, will ultimately be about the feats of strength, speed and endurance of the participating athletes. But long before the first brow is beaded with sweat, the first real competition will take place the moment the nations enter the Olympic Stadium.
As soon as the athletes begin parading July 27, their opening ceremony outfits will be seen by billions worldwide and judged by legions of armchair critics. Italian luxury labels such as Giorgio Armani (Team Italy) and Ermanno Scervino (Team Azerbaijan) will walk the world's runway alongside North American brands including Ralph Lauren (Team USA) and Hudson's Bay Co. (Team Canada) in an arena where a standout piece of apparel can drive sales — becoming, for a clothing company, the equivalent of taking home the gold.
For proof, one need look no further than the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, when Team USA's blue fleece berets sold so briskly to fans that maker Roots Canada had to ramp up production and airlift more into Salt Lake City. One million hats were sold.
So to honor what is perhaps the world's most-watched fashion moment, we've highlighted some of the clothes and countries worth paying attention to when the big moment arrives.
When was the last time the Republic of Azerbaijan was on the fashion map? Well, the Southwest Asian country — which on a world map borders the Caspian Sea to its east and neighbors Russia, Georgia, Armenia and Iran everywhere else — appears ready to make a memorable splash at the Olympics, having tapped European luxury brand Ermanno Scervino for the big event.
The Florence, Italy-based label, which routinely shows its collections during Milan Fashion Week, has created formal and casual apparel for Azerbaijan's athletes that melds the blue, red and green colors and the crescent moon and eight-point star symbols of the republic's flag with the atelier's upscale vibe.
The result is a formal uniform consisting of a strong-shouldered, notch-lapel navy blue jacket made of a heavy stretch cotton jersey, teamed with pleat-front stretch cotton dress shirts and white chino trousers for the men and a white pencil skirt for women.
The guys' outfits are finished off with silk twill neckties and matching pocket squares in a tropical-looking blue, red and green print. The same print is rendered on a silk twill neck scarf for the women's uniform, which is finished with thin red belts. An embroidered patch on the left breast of the jackets bears the eight-point star from the republic's flag.
It looks like Bogner is marching in from the cold.
After kitting out the German athletes for 17 consecutive Winter Olympic Games, the Munich-based clothing label will dress the team for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Summer Games this year.
The parade outfits consist of zippered jackets — bright pink weatherproof shells for the ladies and the same in baby blue for the men — along with white chinos and shirts and a lightweight pink or blue plaid scarf. The shoes are by German footwear brand Sioux.
With the bright colors and bold zipper accents (dark blue on the men's jackets, white on the women's), the only thing that keeps these clothes from looking like they just schussed off the slopes and into the wrong season are the summery white hipster fedoras that complete the look, each boasting a hatband in the black, red and yellow stripes of the German flag.
But there's a trick up Bogner's sleeve — the jackets are designed to be reversible, with the brightly colored nylon shells converting into navy blue blazers (complete with buttons) for evenings and more formal situations. "It is also important," the company explains in its press materials, "that athletes maintain a distinguished appearance, as they will be meeting a host of international diplomats and world class athletes and celebrities."
Giorgio Armani has something of a lock on the Italian national Olympic team which, according to the company, "will wear EA7 Emporio Armani sportswear and formal wear every day and at all official events for the duration of the competition." (A notable exception is the Italian national sailing team, whose sponsorship deal with Prada has that luxury brand supplying athletes' competition uniforms.)
Images will be made public Tuesday, an Armani representative says, but some hint at what Armani has in store for the brand's first Olympic opening ceremony wardrobe can be found in the company's description of the 50-piece kit that will be supplied to each athlete. Designed in a color palette of white and midnight blue, it includes a full wardrobe of mix-and-match pieces, a nylon jacket, Bermuda shorts, trousers, T-shirts, athletic shoes and two pieces of luggage.
To date, the standout piece is an official track suit (in midnight blue) with an asymmetrical zipper jacket that has the words to the Italian national anthem screen-printed in gold on an inside breast pocket, where they'll rest symbolically over the heart. A track suit that stylish sets the bar, so expect the Italian athletes' opening-day outfits to be nothing less than the understated elegance Giorgio Armani has made his signature.
Bob Marley at the 2012 London Olympics? You can bet the late reggae superstar will be there in spirit.
That's the conclusion one might arrive at upon seeing the uniforms the Jamaican Olympic team will wear during the opening and closing ceremonies and on the podium at the upcoming Games. Unveiled this month in London at a ceremony that included three-time Olympic gold medal winner Usain Bolt and fashion designer Cedella Marley — Bob's eldest daughter — the collection riffs on the colors (green, gold and black) and designs of the country's flag, as well as imagery often associated with the legendary singer-songwriter who passed away in 1981.
The Cedella Marley for Puma collection will send the men on Jamaica's Olympic team into the opening ceremony clad in lightweight, short-sleeve button-front shirts in army green with black accents at the shoulder, black skinny ties and embroidered Jamaican flag patches on the right breast. Additionally, the men may opt to wear a military-style jacket or a sweater. The uniform's trousers will be either yellow (with a black tuxedo stripe down the outer leg) or black.
The women have a single option for the opening ceremony outfit, which consists of a knee-length black-and-yellow leaf-print skirt; a black, military-influenced jacket with a green contrast stripe running vertically down the button placket; a green belt at the waist and green accents.
In the run-up to the Olympics, no opening-ceremony uniforms have been the subject of as much criticism as Spain's — even though they have yet to be officially unveiled.
That's partly because the official outfitter of the 2012 Spanish Olympic team is Bosco Sport, in a sponsorship deal that saves Spain nearly $10 million, according to published reports. The Russian company is also slated to outfit the athletes from Russia and Ukraine.
It also has a lot to do with a photograph of three purported outfits from the collection — two men's looks and one women's — that has been circulating on the Internet for several weeks. One of the red and yellow men's uniforms looks like it was borrowed from a marching band and the other looks appropriate for a theater usher. The women's sweater, skirt and scarf ensemble looks like something that could have hopped out of a "Happy Days" sock hop. Public reaction was swift and unequivocally negative.
Spain's opening-ceremony uniforms won't be officially unveiled until Thursday, at a presentation where outfits to be worn by Russian and Ukrainian athletes also will be shown, according to a Bosco Sport representative.
The representative did provide a draft sketch of the opening ceremony garb for Team Spain that showed elements similar to some seen in the clothes in the photo circulating on the Web. The representative cautioned that, as of press time, the final look was still a work in progress.
There's been such a kerfuffle over the design of the Stella McCartney for Adidas performance wear and village wear (online comments have been critical that the blue-and-white designs don't include red — the third color on the country's flag), it's easy to overlook the fact that neither brand is actually responsible for outfitting the host country's athletes as they parade into the Olympic Stadium on July 27.
That honor goes to Next, a Leicester, England, firm designated as the official clothing (and housewares) supplier for the London 2012 games. As such, Next will be dressing Team GB for both the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as providing athletes with a range of formalwear.
The opening ceremony outfits are intended to be "top secret" until the team steps out July 27, according to a company representative.
Some clue to the sartorial DNA of the uniforms may be found in the not-secret formalwear collection the company unveiled in May. These clothes are intended for occasions that require something more upscale than track suits and performance gear (such as greeting members of the royal family, one assumes). Next has issued each athlete some seriously dressy threads in a palette of navy blue with gold accents.
The women's formalwear includes a jacket paired with a sleeveless cowl-neck dress with a Union Jack design laser-cut into the bodice decoration and emblazoned on a clutch purse.
Men's jackets sport narrow peak lapels, the team motto "Better Never Stops" embroidered underneath the jacket collar as well as engraved on the buttons, and mesh and jacquard linings inspired by the Union Jack. The men's look is finished off with either a white or blue dress shirt and accessorized with a navy blue necktie embroidered with the Team GB logo and Olympic rings, and a sharply folded pocket square that would be the envy of Don Draper.
Or Bond, James Bond.
Ralph Lauren, official outfitter of Team USA, took the wraps off some of the 2012 Olympic apparel in April, including the yacht and tennis club-flavored white uniforms with red and navy blue accents athletes will wear at the closing ceremony.
But the label is still playing it close to the polo pony-emblazoned vest when it comes to the look of the opening ceremony outfits, at least for a few more weeks. The big reveal is set for the second week of July, according to a company representative. That's just about when all of the USA comes straggling back to work from the Independence Day holiday to a traditionally slow news week.
Stop the presses, anyone?Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun