The Olympic Fashion Taking on Tokyo
2 August 2021
Author: Jasmine Waters
The belated Tokyo 2020 Olympic games are all anyone is talking about, despite a predicted loss of viewers. History is in the process of being written, as all eyes fall on athletes competing in the widest range of sporting disciplines in one place. Naturally, many of us will be keeping a close eye on the Olympic outfits – the good (the effortless cool of the skateboarding uniforms) alongside the bad (the questionable choices of the US swimming attire). Does fashion have a relationship with the Olympics anymore, and why is it still considered to be relevant?
What’s changed in the Olympics?
Whether it’s been Halston, Levi’s or Nike, we’re accustomed to seeing big fashion names make an appearance on the Olympic stage. Many athletes eagerly sport dual logos – one for their country, and one for their brand sponsorship. Unsurprisingly, there’s been a huge question mark over how many may actually see the sponsorships to begin with. Through the second half of 2020, the outlook’s been pretty bleak. Major US televised sporting events all saw their viewership drastically decline, with last year’s Major League Baseball only reporting half of their expected audience. But how much do the figures matter? Possibly not that much. Since our last Olympics outings, both fashion and the world itself have changed intrinsically. Patriotism has been replaced by diversity and inclusivity, with some athletes citing ethical reasons for changing partnerships. There’s also great news for small and independent brands – they’ve been taking over from the legacy power players.
Are partnerships still relevant?
The good news is that regardless of figures, the Olympics hasn’t disappointed as a national talking point. The drama has been high, and many of us are talking about our athletes away from their competitive sport. Much like other consumer elements, we want our athletes to be real, transparent about their beliefs. There’s now a disruption to DTC and what national identity means, as a direct result. Olympic fashion has seen these changes and run with them. New product lines like shapewear, pyjamas and loungewear have led the way, with brands using the high-profile nature to kickstart new ventures. Lots of garments have benefitted from the Olympics being a made-for-TV event, a strategy many brands have had to rely on through the pandemic. While taking cues from traditional fashion sources like runways, the Olympic stage has become the new-age catwalk, driven by the message national athletes want to send.
Olympic partnerships will always be invaluable because of the chance to be a part of something bigger. When so many consumers want a pointed social element to their purchases, the chance to send messages of support, positivity and change are too big to ignore. Olympic apparel provides an exciting chance for clothing to be seen on real people, as well as becoming a testing ground for what products work. Brands can truly be a part of shaping the story, reflecting the mood and attitude teams may want. Companies have chosen to showcase sustainable products, introduce new personal tech and apply craftsmanship to other products. Independent brands can push their global identity further and look to create a future blueprint for manufacturing. Most importantly, there’s an overall shift in priorities. The symbolism of the Olympics will never go away, and brand recognition can be found in partnering something so truly unique.