There are a lot of buzz words used in the high-stakes world of performance athletic gear. When Lululemon , the new official Olympic outfitter for Team Canada and the Canadian Paralympic Team, unveiled its uniform designs for the 2022 Beijing Winter Games on Oct. 26, it played up the term “transformative.” The 25-piece Team Canada collection is the result of months of research into ease of movement, how athletes run hot or cold and their state of mind as they progress through two-and-half weeks of competition on the world stage.
“We were really trying to understand the athletes’ journey and transformation is the over-arching story,” says Audrey Reilly, creative director, special projects for Lululemon. In September, the Vancouver-based athletic apparel retailer was named Team Canada’s official clothier for the Games through 2028.
“Red is the story of confidence, power and pride and that is what our athletes will wear for the opening ceremony when there is a lot of excitement, anticipation and nerves,” Reilly says. “For the closing, they will wear all-white, when the tension has lessened and the party atmosphere begins.”
The uniform is based on what Reilly calls the “dynamic dressing system.” Athletes will be able to shed – or add – individual pieces to their overall outfits depending on their own internal temperature and the environment they find themselves in. “During the opening ceremonies, athletes can be on that journey for four to six hours and the temperature can go from minus-10 degrees Celsius to plus-10,” Reilly says. “The dynamic dressing system lets them show up as a team – be one – and then shed or add layers as they see fit.”
Lululemon’s refresh comes on the heels of Hudson’s Bay’s 16-year run as the official outfitter, which spanned eight Games. Its tenure included well-received pieces such as the iconic red parkas and plaid scarves worn to open the Games in Vancouver, and less praised ones, such as the audacious graffiti-splashed denim jackets athletes sported while closing the Games in Tokyo.
Zeina Esmail, a fashion director and stylist in Toronto, welcomes the change. “I think Hudson’s Bay has done a wonderful job on many of their uniforms but the denim one – the so-called [Canadian] tuxedo jacket – that was not one of them,” she says. “Uniforms shouldn’t be trendy and busy in my opinion. There needs to be refinement to make the athletes look stylish, especially when the images live forever.”
“Traditionally, Canada is much stronger on the winter side of things … and our Olympic uniforms have always hit the mark – looking on-trend and oh-so-Canadian,” says Erica Wark, another Canadian stylist. “Minus, perhaps, the 1988 Western-themed Calgary Winter Games with all that fringe.”
While Olympic garb is often judged by those watching the athletes, much of what’s unique about Lululemon’s uniforms may only be noticeable to the competitors themselves. Take, for instance, the Transformable Parka – a three-in-one jacket that can evolve. The bottom section can be zipped off to create a travel pillow, while the sleeves can be removed to turn it into a vest. It also has a special pocket – close to the heart – to keep medals. Reilly says the medal pocket was added based on athlete feedback. “We heard too many stories of athletes carrying them home in socks,” she says.
Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, the ice dancing team who won bronze at the 2021 World Figure Skating Championships, were among the first to get a glimpse of the Olympic kit and they love its adaptability. “You can tell how much effort and thought went into every piece that was created,” says Gilles, who adds she’s especially excited about a discreet pocket made especially for lip balm. “It feels like they thought of everything.”
“We’re very excited to be headed to the Games in February and the idea of walking out, fully in red, I think the world is going to see how proud every athlete is going into the ceremony,” Poirier says. “Every athlete is going to feel Canada. Red is the spirit of the Canadian heart and the uniform captures that perfectly.”
Frédérique Turgeon, para-alpine skier, agrees. “I’ve never seen a kit this amazing with all the modifications that you can bring to it,” she says. “I think the world is going to be jealous of what we have.”
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