The 2022 Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games may be over three months away, but the race to win the fashion competition has already started. The first big name to come out of the starting blocks: Canada, which unveiled its official Games kit – opening and closing ceremonial styles, podium outfits and village gear – and a new multi-year partnership with Lululemon on the 26th. October.
Yup: They’ve moved all-in at athleisure for the next four Olympic and Paralympic Games. But you know what? It looks pretty good.
Avoiding many of the usual gritting national clichés, like the all-denim ‘Canadian tuxedo’ look that the country’s athletes had to wear at last summer’s Games (this one was designed by Hudson’s Bay ), the Lululemon wardrobe is dipped in the red of the maple leaf of the Canadian flag, which is both patriotic and visually warm, like a fireside. While it does make the athletes look a bit like Santa’s elves, the training version.
The maple leaf also appears as the main print of the collection, but not literally: the clothes will not make athletes look like a forest ersatz when they parade. Rather, it has been magnified under the microscope and then ‘translated’ into ‘metamorphic states’ which is confusing, but essentially means a more abstract and fluid pattern that suggests the process of transformation.
For the opening ceremony, the print is inside the jackets (so that it stays close to the hearts of the athletes); for the closing ceremony, it migrates outside.
As for the clothes themselves, which took 18 months to design in consultation with the athletes, they are genuinely inclusive in terms of gender and build, meaning everyone wears the exact same thing and has the same opportunity to wear. customize it. Because while the basics are, as you would expect given the season, mostly down jackets and leggings, they are not medium down jackets and leggings.
The opening ceremony coats, for example, are all… transformers! They can be worn in different ways thanks to zippered sections, so athletes can make them long or short, turn them into a vest or, if it’s hot, hang them from their shoulders like a backpack.
Or – and this is the funniest part – peeling off the lower part to form a scarf or travel pillow. For, you know, that interim period where you wait for the next 50 teams to enter the arena. Goose down is filled with 600, which means it protects to minus 10 degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit) or well below zero.
As for the leggings, they’re four-way stretch fleece that wicks away sweat: no risk of another accidental sheer moment here. There are also mittens and a belt bag with topographic wavy padding; matching hats and bobs; city sweats; “cocoon” merino wool zip-neck sweaters to wear on the catwalk (the brand describes them as “a warm embrace” – who doesn’t want that when they’re away from home and in the cold?); and cool platform sneakers with hiking laces.
The closing ceremony looks feature the same outfit, but in silver on white and cream, which has an angelic / snowflake sort of vibe that works well for a finale.
It all looks both high athletic and fiercely Canadian, making it a win for a brand that had never made an Olympic kit before as well as for the team that will wear it. (Also fans who want to buy into the whole thing, and will then be able to wear their gear without looking like national walking kitsch.)
In case anyone is wondering why Lululemon: The brand was founded in Vancouver and remains based there, so there is patriotism involved, according to Calvin McDonald, the managing director. Also, of course, competition – and not just athletics. After all, making such a big Olympic statement has traditionally been the preserve of brands like Nike, Adidas, Puma and Under Armor.
“I think the world will be jealous of what we have,” said Frédérique Turgeon, para-alpine skier and Lululemon ambassador.
It’s a bit of a blow to the bottom, but it’s also appropriate, given the context. Literally so.