Italian designer celebrated for relaxed tailoring wins commission to kit out national team for 2012 Games
Stratford looks set to rival Paris next summer as the most fashionable place in the world following the announcement that Giorgio Armani will dress the Italian athletes at the 2012 Olympic Games.
Armani's appointment will pitch Italy against Britain on the catwalk as well as the running track, as Stella McCartney is already dressing Team GB.
It is thought that the Italian designer's company EA7 – a sportswear line that is part of the brand's diffusion line, Emporio Armani – will provide specially designed performance wear for the Italians. He is the third confirmed designer at the Games. In addition to McCartney, Cedella Marley, fashion designer and daughter of reggae legend Bob, is known to be kitting out the Jamaican team under an agreement with Puma.
There is speculation that more designers might be appointed to design for their national teams.
The commission confirms Armani's status as the king of Italian fashion. The 77-year-old designer is known for his ability to create wearable clothes, and his fashion empire spans all levels of designer fashion – from haute couture to underwear.
Armani is no stranger to the crossover between sport and fashion. Aside from his sportswear line and the occasional appearance at his catwalk shows of surf gear and other sports-inspired designs, Armani has recruited sports stars including David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo and Rafael Nadal to front his blockbuster Emporio Armani underwear campaigns. Armani has interests in the business side of sport – since 2004 he has been part owner of the Milanese basketball team Olimpia Milano.
It is a considerable honour to be chosen to represent the country in such a high profile way. It illustrates how much a label is considered to be part of that country's establishment — the very best it can offer in terms of fashion. But it is not just patriotism on the part of the designers – there is serious commercial gain too, a factor the billionaire designer, who privately owns his company, will no doubt be aware off.
The exposure and boost to the designer's profile is huge – there will be an estimated global audience of 4 billion people watching the opening ceremony, and fans are encouraged to buy related products.
Fashion and the Olympics already have a proven relationship. At the Beijing Games in 2008, Ralph Lauren was chosen to dress the US team, producing an opening ceremony suit with a preppy feel. In Athens in 2004, Sophia Kokosalaki – a London-based, Greek-born designer – was responsible for overseeing all the costumes for the opening and closing ceremonies as well as the uniforms for both the teams and officials. US designer Vera Wang, known for her wedding gowns and herself a trained figure skater who represented her country, designed some of the skating costumes for the 2010 winter Games in Vancouver.
If Armani's Olympic designs are in keeping with his design aesthetic it is likely that the kit will focus on easy tailoring rather than the racier aspect of Italian fashion.
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