Black and white and red all over.
These are the colours that Canada’s athletes will be wearing at the 2014 Sochi Games, a palette borrowed from the national flag and also the darkness of the winter sky. The hues, officially, are Maple Leaf Red, Northern White and Winter Night Black.
The new uniforms were unveiled in downtown Toronto on Wednesday at a packed media event hosted by the Canadian Olympic Committee and designer-supplier Hudson’s Bay.
“These uniforms are so much more than just fabric and design ideas,” Marcel Aubut, president of the COC, said during the bilingual presentation. “They are the culmination of so much hard work. This uniform is not only their clothing. It is also the uniform of the country.”
More than a dozen Olympic and Paralympic athletes from across Canada modelled the uniforms, which combine vintage-looking design with modern touches such as tailored silhouettes and stylized images of beavers, polar bears and loons. Individual items include a bright-red, wool duffel coat with decorative toggle buttons and a black stripe accent at the waist, a sleek soft-shell black jacket with the team crest on the left arm, a fleece hoodie with Canada emblazoned across the chest and retro-chic caps and toques in the team colours.
Team Canada will wear the uniforms during public ceremonies and inside the athletes’ village. It will not be competing in them, although they were designed to foster confidence. The Paralympic uniforms were especially designed for ease of movement, said Gaétan Tardif, president of the Canadian Paralympic Committee.
“I am really convinced that our Canadian athletes will be the best dressed team in Sochi,” Mr. Tardif added. “We will be the envy of the world.”
Designed by an in-house Hudson’s Bay committee headed by the company’s recently appointed vice-president of design, Hilary Kelley, the uniforms the athletes will wear are being manufactured in Canada, although similar items produced for sale to the public will be made offshore. Past Olympic uniforms in both Canada and the United States have been criticized in recent years for being produced outside their respective countries. Hudson’s Bay was careful to avoid that kind of controversy this time around, emphasizing patriotism.
Among the influences that inspired the collection, Ms. Kelley said, was the work of legendary Canadian painter Emily Carr. The colour-blocked apparel also references Russian Constructivism, a nod to the host of the Games.
Hudson’s Bay’s association with the Olympics dates back to 1936, when Canada’s ski team wore a striped blanket coat as part of its uniform, noted company president Bonnie Brooks, wearing the stripes on a cardigan. Its relationship with the COC will extend to 2020, it was also announced Wednesday.
As for the athletes, reaction to the uniforms appeared genuinely enthusiastic. “I am looking forward to looking good at my first Olympics,” said Justine Dufour-Lapointe, a freestyle moguls skier.
“The uniforms represent our country’s drive to be No. 1,” added Jean-Luc Brassard, a gold medalist at the 1994 Olympics and assistant chef de mission for Sochi 2014, which kicks off on Feb. 7.