Fashion with purpose at the Tokyo Olympics

Clockwise from top: Patricia Mamona, Regan Smith, Gwen Berry, Christina Clemons, and Mutaz Essa Barshim   | Photo Credit: Getty Images

We all have been glued to our TVs and laptops, cheering ‘Team India’ at the Olympics. It’s been such a high to see our favourite Indian sportspeople win glory in Tokyo. But as a designer, it was the other little things that put a smile on my face. For starters, seeing Olympic gold medalist Tom Daley quietly sitting in the stands and knitting his ‘Olympic cardigan’ that he would finally debut on Instagram. It was wholesome, elite and to be honest, brilliant.

Misia’s cotton candy gown at the opening ceremony

Misia’s cotton candy gown at the opening ceremony   | Photo Credit: AFP

Uniform code

Style has always been a strong focal point during the Olympics. It gives a sneak peek into the culture, tradition and heritage of a country. As I watched the opening ceremony I could not stop cheering over Ralph Lauren’s signature Team USA parade outfits in navy and stripe. It was everything American, polished and well put together. On the other hand, Giorgio Armani designed Italy’s opening ceremony outfits in red, white, and green with a graphic rising sun inspired by Pac Man. However, Team India’s parade outfits designed by Raymond came under heavy criticism for siding with political right-wing tones that left everyone underwhelmed.

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I wish we had better fits, contemporary design inspirations, a celebratory colour palette and detailed ensembles. Different Indian brands and designers need to come forward to design better gear for individual sporting events. But there is always a next time. British clothing brand Ben Sherman was signed on to create Team Great Britain’s ceremonial outfits. They designed a Harrington jacket, a bomber jacket and a white polo shirt. Lacoste designed Team France’s Olympic uniform by infusing the brand’s sporting heritage with Japanese-inspired designs in navy, white and red.

Italian high jumper Gianmarco Tamberi wore socks with his face on them

Italian high jumper Gianmarco Tamberi wore socks with his face on them   | Photo Credit: Reuters

Tool of resistance

A big fashion moment this year was singer Misia performing Japan’s national anthem in a rainbow-coloured tulle gown from designer Tomo Koizumi that left spectators awestruck. Another momentous announcement? When reality TV mogul Kim Kardashian’s brand SKIMS became the official design partner for athletic undergarments for Team USA. Then there are the sartorial stories that celebrated fashion wins alongside sporting triumphs. American track and field star Christina Clemons’s multicoloured butterflies in her hair buns along with gold dangling earrings were a joy.

Gymnast Pauline Schäfer wears a unitard on the beam

Gymnast Pauline Schäfer wears a unitard on the beam  

Fashion at the Olympics is about optimism, not victimisation; about engagement, not elitism; about style that radiates a sense of belonging; and about communicative strengths. For US hammer thrower Gwen Berry, it was an important moment when she raised her fist as a sign of resistance during the American national anthem. She did this in bright blue lips and full cover make-up that quickly made her trend as a lipstick icon on Twitter. Another instance was when the German gymnastics team came out with a bold stance against sexualisation through dress code. They opted out of the traditional bikini-cut design and chose to perform in a full-length leotard in pursuit of comfort and performance. Sporting fans all over the world applauded this sign of protest.

Shot putter Raven Saunders in her Hulk mask

Shot putter Raven Saunders in her Hulk mask   | Photo Credit: Getty Images

Being heard

Silver medal Olympian Raven Saunders dyed her buzz cut half green and half purple. Her hair sat atop Technicolor sunglasses and a mask designed with a sadistic smile of the Joker. With her masks — there was an Incredible Hulk-inspired one too — she encouraged people to talk about mental health, racial justice and sexual orientation. “I really just hope I can continue to inspire and motivate the African American LGBTQ community,” she said.

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Bidding goodbye to Tokyo Olympics and watching Paris take the torch for the 2024 Games, I was certain about one thing: this was not the end of the ‘fashion with purpose’ story.

Delhi-based designer Anand Bhushan has always been interested in where Indian fashion and textile has been and where it may be going.

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Printable version | Oct 27, 2021 12:51:47 AM |

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