Olympics season is upon us, and for many, getting a look at each nation’s competitive and ceremonial uniforms is half the fun. This year, design superstars such as Ralph Lauren, Stella McCartney, Lacoste, Dsquared2, and Armani have been selected to outfit their country’s athletes in functional yet stylish performance wear – all while working on personal labels, which tend to take on an athletic air of their own in the seasons leading up to the Games.
The best pre-Olympic ready-to-wear looks are those that are able to capture an active essence and translate it into sophisticated, original and wearable garments. As for next month’s events, Getty Images Senior Research Editor Rebecca Hamilton is quick to point out a generally minimalist slant and attention to fine tailoring.
“2016’s Olympic uniforms are stylish and striking with their ‘less is more’ approach,” said Hamilton, who also manages Getty Images’ fashion blog. “They’re simplistic in their designs and color choices overall.”
Here are a few of the stylish looks the designers created for their countries’ Olympians and how the upcoming Rio games influenced their runway collections.
United States – Ralph Lauren
Criticized for overly complicated patterns in years past, this summer’s Ralph Lauren Opening and Closing Ceremony styles keep it simple with crisp button-up shirts emblazoned with the iconic polo figurine and classic shirts and belts with nautical stripes. The looks echo the Americana preppy-chic look the brand is famous for.
The nautical influence can also be seen throughout the spring/summer 2016 collection. Maritime stripes, captain hats, bathingsuit-esque bodices, and geometric sail prints all call out to the open sea – and perhaps to Rio’s watersport events as well. The line creates an atmosphere of athletic adventure, perfectly suited for Olympics season and Ralph Lauren fans alike.
United Kingdom – Stella McCartney
Stella McCartney’s modern classic aesthetic permeates everything she touches, from ready-to-wear gowns to game time apparel. When it comes to fashion on the field, however, McCartney’s more interested in performance than appearance. She worked closely with the athletes to determine their needs, using 10% lighter fabrics than their 2012 uniforms as well as using high-tech materials to keep the Olympians cool in high heat—perfect for the #RoadtoRio.
Although evidence of the Olympic Games is a bit less literal in her spring/summer collection, mesh details, sporty necklines, and polo shirt-dresses allude to her chic athletic wear.
France – Lacoste
Olympic medalist and tennis player René Lacoste founded his eponymous fashion house in 1933 with the belief that, “Without style, playing and winning are not enough.” Lacoste’s designers surely stick to this mantra. In a nod to the French flag, the navy, white and red uniforms have that special “je ne sais quoi.” True to form, the brand debuted its elegant Olympic ensembles, with a fun and beautifully choreographed video that reads like high fashion.
The brand’s spring/summer looks were a deliberate and delightful crossover between couture and competitive sport. The runway collection is a celebration of global athletic achievement with an assortment of global flags, inspired by Olympians wrapped in their country’s flag after winning gold.
Canada – Dsquared2
Lauded as among the chicest of Rio’s Opening Ceremony outfits, designers Dsquared2 and Hudson’s Bay department store have paired Canada’s national colors and symbol with an attractive, modern athletic aesthetic. These sophisticated sweatshirts and edgy red and black blazers are the perfect fit for the playing field.
Dsquared2’s colorful runway looks might look like a far cry from their Olympic uniforms, but while they differ in boldness, they both are inspired by sport. The ready-to-wear collection evoked swimwear and scuba suits as a nod to the surf lessons the designers took over the last year.
Italy – Emporio Armani
Emporio Armani unveiled Italy’s 2016 Olympic uniforms as part of its EA7 activewear brand, evoking the brand’s distinct Italian flair. The most prominent element of the country’s Opening Ceremony outfits is a large white number seven stamped across the front of their zip-ups, calling out the brand itself.
Similarities between the Olympic uniforms and Emporio Armani’s summer runway looks may seem minimal, but a closer look reveals a sporty sensibility: shorts and jackets akin to activewear, a dress fit for a tennis match, and an outfit of the equestrian variety all elicit an athletic flair.