France's Olympic outfits unusually chic

Lacoste's uniforms for France's team at the 2016 Summer Games in Brazil are in the colours of the French flag.
Lacoste's uniforms for France's team at the 2016 Summer Games in Brazil are in the colours of the French flag. PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/ LACOSTE

NEW YORK • With only weeks to go, the Olympic fashion unveil is picking up steam.

First Australia revealed its opening ceremony looks last month - a green and white seersucker blazer and white shorts or skort. Canada followed suit with a maple-leafbedecked blazer.

A week ago, hours after team Great Britain showed off its Stella McCartney competition gear and team USA debuted its Polo Ralph Lauren closing-ceremony style, France stepped up to the podium.

The designer in their spotlight is Felipe Oliveira Baptista, creative director of Lacoste, who was in charge of the opening ceremony, podium and Olympic Village outfits for the French team and Paralympic team.

And they are...?

Minimal. In the colours of the French flag (blue, red and white), though in practice this means largely navy and white, with red accents. Which is a good thing.

The opening ceremony look consists of a thigh-length navy Mackintosh and skinny white trousers, with a windbreaker and sweatpants in white or navy for awards. The cut is narrow and close to the body. The Lacoste crocodile comes rendered in the stripes of the French flag and there are further stripes placed selectively on one arm or just above the hip of a shirt. The styles are, on the whole - and this is an unusual word to use for an Olympic uniform - pretty chic.

My one quibble is the presence of a somewhat ornate rooster on the polo and Mac, just across from the crocodile. It is the French Olympic mascot, so it probably had to be in there somewhere, but that makes for a lot of animal life on one garment.

"You have to find a balance between a look that makes a statement, that is visual enough to read in a stadium and on TV, and one that is not very complicated," Baptista said by phone from Paris. "You don't want athletes to feel disguised; you want them to be comfortable."

He should know: He also created Lacoste's non-technical outfits for the French team in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, which featured a grey flannel puffa blazer and wrap jacket over khakis, and were generally considered among the more successful styles showcased during those games.

You'd think that the Olympics, the apogee of physical achievement and pure competition, might be the one area exempt from fashion's reach these days, but then you would be wrong. The opening ceremony has turned into something of a catwalk, and everyone has an opinion on whether their country's look is the right one. This is especially true if part of your country's identity is wrapped up in being the home of fashion.

"It's a lot of pressure," Baptista said.

Perhaps it is unavoidable, thus, that the Olympic collection had a knock-on effect on his own Lacoste spring line, which was based on a similar colour palette and the same stripes, albeit even more fractured, oversized and abstracted.

Consumers can choose which version they like best, as a selection of the Olympic looks is being sold now alongside the main line.

Or they can wait and see what country and which designer does the Olympic reveal next.

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 05, 2016, with the headline 'France's Olympic outfits unusually chic'. Print Edition | Subscribe