Why India is no showstopper for the Olympics ramp

Radhika Bhalla
Radhika BhallaAug 27, 2016 | 13:55

Why India is no showstopper for the Olympics ramp

The recent Olympic Games in Rio were possibly the only thing that could outshadow Kim Kardashian. The games were in commanding position for nearly an entire month, the excitement restored daily with a new sport, a different player, and pride swelling over winning the coveted medal.

The Olympics were also a spectacle unlike any other as far as fashion goes. Not a new concept though — sportsmen and women have long been showstoppers in their own right on the global playing field quite literally representing multinational brands, designer labels and national "cultural apparatus" through their kits.

Stella McCartney collaborated with Adidas for kits of Team Great Britain.

The 2016 games were particularly star-studded with major designer labels on every other national team’s sleeve. Stella McCartney collaborated with Adidas for kits of Team Great Britain (they had also designed them in 2012) inspired by the Union Jack and royal coat of arms; H&M went all-out in yellow and blue for the Swedish team with the flag bearing swimmer Therese Alshammar leading in an assymetrical full-skirt; and Lacoste kept it sporty-chic with white ankle-length trousers and white sneakers that are good enough to be in the wardrobe of every street-style-worthy diva/blogger.

At the opening ceremony.

And who can forget Ralph Lauren, the brand that has re-engineered Team USA’s kits to signify patriotism since it became the "official outfitter of the US Olympic team" in 2008. Nothing speaks of the "American Dream" quite like fitted polo shirts and white trousers in stripes and stars of the American flag, styles that bring to mind ski lodges and yacht rides in keeping with the idea of the "good life".

Meanwhile, Brazil brought out their biggest fashion asset in supermodel Gisele Bündchen (below) to open the Olympic Games. She walked the longest strut in the country at the Maracanã Stadium in a sexy silver dress and towering heels. Being chosen over scores of Brazilians to represent the country is indicative enough of how important the fashion fraternity is in catching the attention of a global audience.

Brazil took its fashion to the Olympic stage.

Christian Louboutin was roped in to design the kits for Cuba, the DSquared2 twins planted the maple leaf on the Canadian’s backs, and Giorgio Armani lent his name to Italian sport stars at the games.

As for the Indian kit at the Rio Olympics, it doesn’t warrant comparison for many reasons. To begin with, some of the kits didn’t even fit the players, which is an absolute shame. A country that celebrates its fabric and textiles, talent and couturiers to a status of near-reverence (hardly an exaggeration, given how designer names are flaunted over tikkas and lehengas at every second function) should be able to hold its head high on such an international platform — or rather, international ramp.

The Opening Ceremony made for a straightforward and smart image, but nothing to write home about. Our female players walked in blue and yellow ombré saris with blazers while the men walked in navy blue suits. Certainly a far cry from the previous Olympics held in London in 2012, where our team resembled a massive baraat, with yellow pagris on blue blazers for men — but this time’s uniform for women still resembled those of air hostesses. The Closing Ceremony and kits worn by PV Sindhu and Sakshi Malik were functional but dated and hardly a reflection of the vast fashion choice at our disposal.

Being fashionable was never the intention, some would argue, for the focus is on sports. However, it might be added that many of those who disagree would probably not step out unless dressed to the nines for even a friend’s party, let alone to represent the country on an international platform.

What a pity to waste the resources of the designers that India has honed so generously, with their access to history and culture and their eye on modernity. Yet while we blush with embarrassment over the selection of kits on the global map, we somehow manage to feel content in celebrating high design at local fashion weeks.

Last updated: August 27, 2016 | 13:55
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