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Stella McCartney designs uniforms for Great Britain’s Olympic team

Lindsay MacAdam
Shine On
March 26, 2012

The London 2012 Summer Games uniform "kit" for Great Britain's 850 Olympic and Paralympic athletes, was finally put on display at the Tower of London last week. Produced by Adidas, with British fashion designer Stella McCartney at the creative helm, the team kit took inspiration from the Union flag and broke it down in a variety of ways for different athletes and sports. The result, after more than two years of work, was 175,000 items, including performance gear, training wear, 38 varieties of footwear, accessories and a presentation suit, reports the Vancouver Sun.

"The Olympic first is that [McCartney's] designed the actual performance kit that the athletes will wear during the games," says Nick Craggs, Adidas UK marketing director, in the company's promotional video. "That has never been done before."

Also in the video, McCartney talks about her thought process when coming up with the uniform designs:

"When you start to start to work on a project like this, you sort of go, 'Oh my God, where do you start?' And obviously, the first place you look is the Union flag. I think something that was really important to me was to try and use that iconic image and try and make it more graphic and more fashionable, in a sense."

Related: A visitor's guide to the London 2012 Olympics

She also spoke with the athletes about what they were looking for in their apparel.

"What I kept hearing was that they wanted to feel like a team," says McCartney to Style.com. "So my challenge was to come up with designs that worked for all these different sports, but that, taken together, all felt unified."

Above all, the technical side was top priority, which meant aesthetics would come second. "There are seams you can't mess up," says McCartney to the Vancouver Sun. "There's tons of things -- in gymnastics, you have to have symmetry or you're marked down -- but it's been an incredible journey."

Facebook users aren't holding back their opinions about the uniforms on the Team GB Facebook page. The majority of the concerns have been directed at the uniform's colours being mostly blue and white, with very little red. One user comments, "Since when did the Union Jack have a colour change? Who agreed with this design - was this the only one to choose from? Should have let school children come up with a design - even they would have used the red, white and blue!"

Another writes, "Why did she feel the need to go away from our red, white and blue image? The Olympics is not a time to be all fancy pants and designer-wear focused. We needed a kit we could be proud of, that was iconically and undeniably British."

Related: Is yoga on its way to the Olympics?

In response to the negative feedback, McCartney writes the following on her Twitter page:

"I see many feel as strongly about the Union flag as I do. The design actually uses more red & shows more flag than any Team GB kit since '84."

Despite the mixed reviews from the public, the athletes seem to be responding well to the new uniforms. Triple jumper Philips Idowu tells the Daily Mail: "I love what Stella has done with the design. Looking good is psychologically important, but my sprint suit is also technically advanced, so not only do I look good but I also have confidence in the technology of the kit."

With Ralph Lauren designing for the US athletes and Giorgio Armani taking care of the Italians, it will be interesting to see how the other fashion designers translate their skills into athletic wear for this summer's games.

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