If the number eight really is linked to good fortune (a superstition so ingrained in Chinese culture that the Beijing Olympics will officially open at 8:08:08 p.m., on the eighth day of the eighth month of 2008), Canada’s athletes are covered. The lucky numeral is everywhere on the team’s uniforms—boldly proclaimed on shoes and T-shirts, subtly worked into the background of warm-up jackets, right down to the octagon-shaped Canadian Olympic Committee patch.
It’s just one of many nods the design team at the Hudson’s Bay Company, who will officially unveil the Olympic uniforms next week, have made to the host nation’s iconography. Canada’s name appears in bamboo font, and Chinese characters. The ultra-casual closing ceremony garb (rhythmic gymnast Alexandra Orlando models a sneak peak, left) mixes a maple leaf with tattoo graphics and bright red tapestry prints. A white cappart of the still-under-wraps opening ceremony parade outfit—suggests that Mao has taken up cycling. And all the colours in the collection are taken from the five elements of Chinese astrology: earth, wood, fire, water and metal (in a hopeful gesture, every zip, tab and snap is gold-coloured). After making a statement at the 2006 Winter Games in Turin with a classically Canadian trapperchic look, the designers wanted to try something different, says Suzanne Timmins, HBC fashion director. “This time we really wanted to fuse the two countries together.”
Work on the uniforms—HBC’s first Sum-
mer Games effort—began in January 2007, as designers travelled to trade and outerwear shows in Paris, L.A. and Munich to research the latest fabrics and technologies. Fifty current and former Olympians participated in focus groups, expressing one overwhelming desire—a need to be both sartorially and physically cool. “In Athens, they melted. They couldn’t even put on their fleece jackets,” says Timmins. “So this time, all the fabrics are super, super lightweight.” In keeping with Beijing’s “Green Games” goals, designers also kept it natural, mixing in fabrics made from bamboo, and Cocona, a cooling, odour-resistant yarn treated with the carbon from burnt coconut husks.
While most of the 25 items (l6 garments, and nine accessories including luggage, backpacks, and a “B-tube” headband that doubles as a smog-limiting face mask) in what the company is calling the Quest Collection will also be flogged to the public, there are still a few athlete-only surprises to come. Tu Ly, the collection’s co-designer along with Vivienne Lu, promises that Canadians will stand out at “the biggest fashion show in the world.” The opening ceremony uniforms—jokingly called the “Wedding Dress” by athletes since they are kept secret until the last possible moment—will be “a full-on high-fashion piece,” says Lu. And the outfit that winning Canadian Olympians will wear on the medal podium also aims to make a statement. “It’s going to be graphic heavy, and super lightweight,” says Lu. “It’s not just a dumb track suit.” M
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