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Olympic Uniforms: Fashion Designers Go For The Gold at London 2012

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Olympic style has improved exponentially since the days of ankle length tennis skirts, barely there basketball shorts, and that loud, tie-dye Grateful Dead getup from 1992.

Today we're seeing scientific designs in the form of aerodynamic apparel made with performance enhancing fabrics for everything from cycling to the long-jump. And lately, international fashion powerhouses have been collaborating with teams to dress athletes in competition and at rest, while others are stitching Olympic-inspired duds for the less athletically inclined.

The ubiquitous Karl Lagerfeld is hawking a limited edition line for a pop-up shop at Selfridges, the quintessential British department store on Oxford St., while ultra-hip boutique Opening Ceremony has opened one in fashion-conscious Covent Garden, with prêt-à-porter pieces created with the games in mind.

Plenty of London 2012 athletes will be dressed to the nines as well: Team USA will be wearing Ralph Lauren for what will be the third time at the games this year. The garments have already caused quite a stir for being made in China.

The Italians will be the heavyweights of luxury uniform design however. Prada has sponsored the Italian sailing team while Salvatore Ferragamo designed the formal wear for the Republic of San Marino and Ermanno Scervino created a colorful kit for the Republic of Azerbaijan. EA7, Armani’s sportswear line is providing both formal and sporting attire for the entire Italian team, including uniform jackets with the words of "Il Canto degli Italiani," the country's national anthem, embroidered inside the jacket.

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Hosting Team GB will be kitted out in Stella McCartney, who collaborated with Adidas on the project. The event gear features deconstructed Union Jacks and are made with high-tech PowerWEB and ClimaCool fabrics. The final product is rather sleek, which is more than I can say for the approximately 8000 volunteer London ambassadors who will be wearing grotesque pink and mauve tracksuits around town. Eek.

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Hermès is providing a blue riding jacket with red lapels for the French equestrian team, and Japanese athletes will be outfitted in local fabrics by the iconic national department store, Takashimaya. The Jamaican track and field team, led by world record holder Usain Bolt, will be sporting second-skins by Cedella Marley (daughter of Bob) developed in collaboration with Puma, and will likely be on the podium again this year with a slew of medals in tow.
 
Not all the designers will go home winners though (some athletes will look like flight attendants, while other outfits will just leave you scratching your head). But I think I'll leave you with a few surprises for the Opening Ceremony tomorrow. Let the games begin!

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Marguerite A. Suozzi is an assistant research editor at Travel + Leisure.





Photos courtesy of Ralph Lauren; Adidas; Japan Olympic Committee.

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