With Rio 2016 just 100 days away, Team GB’s wardrobe was finally revealed this morning at an event hosted in London by its creators, Adidas and longtime Adidas collaborator Stella McCartney. The brief – to create a kit that could unify two teams, multiple sports and over 600 athletes in Rio – was answered by McCartney with a collection that married British tradition with a modern attitude.
Bringing back the union jack motif from the 2012 kit, (which was also designed by the British designer), McCartney has layered the flag with iconography pulled from a new specially commissioned coat of arms that is loaded with symbolism. Created by the College of Arms, the new unifying design features a shield decorated with the floral emblems of the four Home Nations – a leek, a rose, a thistle and flax. Flanked by two lions brandishing torches and crowned with laurel wreaths, the shield is topped with a lion in a crown composed of medals and relay batons – a symbol of continuity, teamwork and shared responsibility. Underneath, the latin words ‘Ivncti in vno’ translate as ‘Conjoined in one’.
Core elements from the coat of arms are reinterpreted in the kit through embroideries and prints, while the GB logo has been scaled up and printed over different textures. 'It’s something that will live on well beyond the 2016 games,’ says McCartney of the coat of arms. ‘That was my intention, to create something that moves well beyond the now.'
Crucially, three smart materials developed by Adidas make this the teams’ most lightweight and efficient kit to date. Promising to keep athletes cool and dry, Adidas’ breathable Climachill technology incorporates fabrics woven with titanium fibres and aluminium cooling spheres that draw heat away from the body, while Climacool makes use of ventilation channels and open meshes that keep cool air flowing in and heat flowing out – ‘like air conditioning’ for the athletes, says Adidas product manager John Stewart.
In addition, the new kit is on average 10 percent lighter than 2012’s outfits thanks to the lightweight Adizero fabric which, used across both clothing and footwear, is 'so important when just fractions of a second and fractions of a centimetre can be the difference between winning and coming second,’ according to Stewart. Finally, made of thousands of unique energy capsules, Adidas’ Boost performance material will deliver high energy return cushioning across all the teams’ footwear.
'I’ve been working with Adidas on sports performance for over ten years so I’m quite used to the limitations and also the freedoms that affords me as a designer. For me the limitations are actually quite exciting,‘ says McCartney, who works closely with the athletes throughout the design process. ‘Then there are those elements that I bring in on a fashion level like a perforated nylon, I’ll embroider things and I’ll try and bring an edge to the technical side of things.’
Fiercely proud to be the only fashion designer ever to have been invited to create an Olympic and Paralympic kit, McCartney tells us, ‘I find that challenge very attractive. I’m there fighting for the athletes, all those little tiny details like the rib on the neck or even the zip on the pocket – that’s an extra cost, that’s an extra headache but I am fighting their corner, because those little details make a difference.'
'It’s wise to practice in the stuff that you’re going to be competing in so you can get used to it,’ says Olympic diver Tom Daley, who will pick up his own kit on 21 June. ‘It’s exciting because as soon as you start wearing it, that’s when you feel part of the team. You’ll never feel more British.'