Fashion, fitness and flying a new flag: Stella McCartney reveals her streamlined Team GB kit
Stella McCartney is no stranger to sportswear – although in fashion terms, that usually refers to anything not a suit or a ballgown. This season, she even created slinky cocktail dresses with Aertex panels.
And after eight years creating a hit "performance" range for adidas too, it's small wonder she was chosen to be the first fashion designer to create a Summer Olympic Games kit, which was finally unveiled yesterday at a launch event at the Tower of London, starring some of Team GB's biggest names.
McCartney's acclaimed womenswear label, which celebrated its 10th anniversary last year, has at its heart an ethos of comfort and ease, with even the most elegant and refined pieces made practical with sporty elements.
So the designs for the nation's Olympians are not entirely new territory for the 40-year-old designer.
"This is not about me," says Stella McCartney backstage yesterday.
"This is about the athletes and Team GB. I didn't want to put a big fashion statement on it."
And beyond the podium suits – which feature cinched, belted waists and layered, voluminous jackets – there is little fashion to it.
Rather, collarless zip-ups and streamlined shapes recall classic, even nostalgic, sportswear, while mellow and tonal blues look fresh, modern and dynamic. What McCartney has done is create Brand GB, by deconstructing the Union Jack and adding it, in abstract chunks, to the front of vests and shirts. Love it or hate it, it's a clever technique: a recurring and conspicuous motif as conspicuous as any designer logo.
"I was really aware that we have one of the greatest flags in the world," she says. "Also, the fact that, being the host nation, it was going to be around – on mugs, teatowels, taxis. It's so iconic, I felt I could dismantle the flag and treat it in a more delicate manner. I wanted to make the kit a bit lighter and more airy. I wanted it to really stand out." So while some might question the absence of the usual St George red, flashes of crimson come on collars and cuffs, framing the fragments of flag.
It's a departure, undoubtedly, and one which nods to a fashionable mindset in its restraint, rather than to the more emblematic and brash, block colours of yesteryear. Certainly this is a kit that considers taste over tradition – a tactic which has worked to great effect in the pieces McCartney has previously designed for adidas.
"In the history of these events, it's all been very masculine, and the girls have been slightly overlooked in the design process," McCartney continues. "They get the exact same strip as the guys and it's been important to me to bring in feminine elements."
The result is that the replica versions on-sale to civilians will be popular among women, who value flattering design even in the most functional pieces, while men may find them a little on the quiet side, lacking the usual patriotic bombast.
Still, McCartney admits to being anxious about public reaction.
"It's the first time I've really designed for men," she says, "and I've been really cautious of keeping them feeling masculine; feeling strong; feeling like they're really representing the nation."
Chris Hoy, cycling
A trompe l'oeil vest silhouette is aerodynamic but interesting
Victoria Pendleton, cycling
Fragments of the Union Jack, rendered in blue, softens the sportiness
Andy Murray, tennis
T-shirts are classic crew necks framed with Saint George red
Jessica Ennis, heptathlon
Even the briefer outfits have been scrutinised and highly designed
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