Monday, May 20, 2024

Ralph Lauren Olympic Ambassadors Talk Personal Style as Nike Controversy Continues

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NEW YORK — With 100 days to go before the start of the Summer Olympics in Paris, momentum is building, with many brands unveiling their uniform kits, and athletes in a variety of sports stepping into the spotlight to help hype the upcoming Games.

For the past three days, the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee has hosted a media summit in New York City where it brought together nearly 100 athletes who will compete in Paris. The summit started off with welcome reception in Central Park and culminated in the lighting of the Empire State Building in red, white and blue on Wednesday morning.

As the official outfitter of both the Olympic and Paralympic teams, Ralph Lauren was a visible presence at the event. The company took over a room at the venue to provide a sneak peek at the Villagewear collection it will provide to the participants in July. An official unveiling of the full collection as well as the opening and closing ceremony kits will remain under wraps until mid-June, when it will also go on sale to the public.

The company will create a collection featuring bold graphics, classic stripes and color-blocking in the patriot palette of red, white and blue. Key pieces will include varsity jackets, tracksuits and the brand’s signature flag sweater, many of which will use recycled polyester and cotton. A portion of the sale proceeds from the Team USA collection will support the Olympic and Paralympic teams, which Ralph Lauren has outfitted since 2008.

On Wednesday, four of the company’s brand ambassadors — Paralympic swimmer Jessica Long, skateboarder Jagger Eaton, breaker Jeffrey Louis and sailing’s Daniela Moroz — took the stage for a panel on Style and Sport.

In a question-and-answer format moderated by NBC’s Dylan Dreyer, the athletes tackled the topic of how they infuse their own personal style into what they wear for their sports.

Long, who will be competing in her sixth Paralympics, said walking in the opening ceremonies in the official Team USA apparel is “one of the most amazing feelings that you can experience. There’s nothing better than getting into your opening ceremony outfit and taking pictures and just realizing that all of the hard work was worth it. And that you just get to be a part of something so much bigger than just yourself.”

Eaton, who will be appearing in his second Olympics, added that the whole experience was “absolutely surreal.”

Louis said that breaking, which is making its debut at the Games, said when he’s competing, feeling good in his wardrobe choices helps him perform better. His sport is heavily influenced by hip-hop, he said, so he seeks to infuse those influences into his outfits when performing. Expect something “flashy,” he said, since he will seek to “make a statement.”

Skateboarding is also influenced by hip-hop and Eaton said he dresses the same way when he’s competing or just living his life. “I’m always thinking about what I’m wearing — I think that’s a big part of skateboarding. Culture is fashion. What you’re wearing is kind of how you feel.” He said his personal uniform is jeans and a white T-shirt that he cuts to sit right above his belt.

Jeffrey Louis will compete in breaking at the Olympics.

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Louis also said he customizes his outfits to fit his personal style. “In my closet, there’s nothing presented the way it was bought.” And with the uniforms, Louis said to expect him to “style it up” to make it his own. “And I’m sure others will do the same.”

When she’s competing, Moroz said, “You want to look good to feel good, which can really affect how you feel mentally.” Although she races in a wetsuit, she said she always wears jewelry — gold of course — as a reminder of her style when she’s not on the water. And in her off time, she chooses loose-fitting, light clothing that is very feminine.

“Sailing for so many years has been such a male-dominated sport and I felt like I always resisted embracing my more feminine side,” she added. “I would always be super professional and really sporty to be more like one of the boys. But now in recent years I’ve really embraced wearing something more feminine. I want young girls that want to get into sailing to see that they can dress like that and still be super successful athletes on the water.”

Paralympic swimmer Jessica Long.

Paralympic swimmer Jessica Long.

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Long said in the 20 years she has been competing, she has seen how much fashion has evolved. She is drawn to the “classic” style of Ralph Lauren’s Team USA uniforms and when she’s not in a swimsuit, she opts for “putting on a gorgeous blazer.”

During the media summit, the committee also unveiled a new brand platform, One for All, that will showcase many of the stories of the athletes on Team USA. The campaign will highlight the personalities of the participants and the journey they took to get to Paris.

“It’s a bold new strategy at work, as we’re thoughtfully bringing attention to the diverse personalities and ambitions that drive our athletes to convey a simple, yet powerful message: Just one of us can do it for all of us,” said Jess Park, chief of brand and fan engagement for the USOPC. “’One for All’ is a chance for Americans to connect with the athletes’ stories that speak to them in a personal and authentic way. It’s an opportunity to ‘find their ones’ and follow these athletes on the road to Paris.”

The first commercials will air during the U.S. Olympic wrestling team trials on Friday and Saturday and will continue during qualifying events and trials through June. After that, the campaign will be promoted on social channels, merchandise and through signage in the U.S. and Paris before and during the Games.

While most of the publicity in the runup to the Games has been positive, several concerns have surfaced in the past few days. First was the backlash to Nike’s Olympic uniforms for female track and field athletes, which were soundly criticized for being too revealing. Nike did not respond to requests Wednesday for comment on whether it will be amending the kits before the Games but has said it has created some 50 styles and the athletes will be able to select those that “match their style and personal preference.”

Nike track and field Olympic uniform worn by sprinter and hurdler Anna Cockrell.

Kits such as this one worn by sprinter and hurdler Anna Cockrell have been criticized as too revealing.

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Also on Wednesday, the New York Times ran an interview with the head of cyberthreats for the Olympic organizing committee that said the Games will undoubtedly be targeted for an attack, which could potentially disable ticketing systems, credential scanners and even timing systems for the events. The story cited the fact that prior to the Winter Olympics in South Korea in 2018, a successful attack nearly disrupted the Games before they began. Then in 2021, the story said, the Games faced 450 million potential security breaches and the Paris Games are expected to face eight to 12 times that number.

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