The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics may be more than three months away, but the race to win the fashion competition has already begun. The first big name out of the starting blocks: Canada, which unveiled its official Games kit — opening and closing ceremony styles, podium outfits and Village gear — and a new multiyear partnership with Lululemon on Oct. 26.
Yup: They have gone all-in on athleisure for the next four Olympics and Paralympics. But you know what? It looks pretty good.
Avoiding most of the usual teeth-clenching national clichés, such as the “Canadian tuxedo” all-denim look the country’s athletes had to model at last summer’s Games (that one was designed by Hudson’s Bay), the Lululemon wardrobe is drenched in the red of the Canadian flag’s maple leaf, which is both appropriately patriotic and visually warming, in a fireside kind of way. Even if it does make the athletes look a little like Santa’s elves, the workout version.
The maple leaf also shows up as the main print of the collection, but not literally: The garments will not make the athletes look like an ersatz forest as they parade in. Rather, it has been blown up under a microscope and then “translated” into “metamorphic states,” which is confusing terminology but essentially means a more abstract, fluid pattern that suggests the process of transformation.
For the opening ceremony, the print is on the inside of the jackets (to keep it close to the athletes’ hearts); for the closing ceremony it migrates to the outside.
As for the clothes themselves, which took 18 months to design in consultation with athletes, they are genuinely inclusive in terms of gender and body type, meaning everyone wears exactly the same thing, and has equal opportunity to personalize it. Because though the basics are, as you may expect given the season, mostly puffers and leggings, they are not your average puffers and leggings.
The coats for the opening ceremony, for example, are all … transformers! They can be worn in different ways thanks to zip-off sections, so athletes can make them long or short, turn them into a vest or, if it gets hot, hang them off their shoulders like a backpack.
Or even — and this is the most fun part — detach the lower section to form a scarf or a travel pillow. For, you know, that in-between time when you are waiting around for the next 50 teams to enter the arena. The goose down is 600 fill, meaning it protects to minus 10 Celsius (14 Fahrenheit), or well below freezing.
As for the leggings, they are made of sweat-wicking four-way stretch fleece: no risk of another accidental see-through moment here. There are also some mittens and a belt bag with wavy, topographic quilting; assorted beanies and bucket hats; city sweats; zip-necked “cocoon” merino wool sweaters to wear on the podium (the brand describes them as “a warm embrace” — who doesn’t want that when they are far from home and in the cold?); and cool platform sneaker boots with hiker laces.
The closing ceremony looks feature the same gear, but in silver-on-white and cream, which has a sort of angelic/snowflake vibe that, well, suits a finale.
It all looks both elevated athletic and briskly Canadian, which makes 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 the fans who want to buy into the whole thing, and will then be able to wear their gear without looking like walking national kitsch.)
In case anyone is wondering why Lululemon: The brand was founded in Vancouver and remains based there, so there’s patriotism involved, according to Calvin McDonald, the chief executive. Also, of course, competition — and not just athletic. After all, making such a big Olympic statement has traditionally been the province of brands such as Nike, Adidas, Puma and Under Armour.
“I think the world will be jealous of what we have,” said Frédérique Turgeon, a para-Alpine skier and a Lululemon ambassador.
That’s kind of a throw down, but it’s also fitting, given the context. Literally so.