A dressing down for Olympic garb

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 July, 2012, 12:00am


At the charity polo event on Saturday at Andrew Lloyd Webber's estate, I saw Hong Kong superstar Aaron Kwok rub shoulders with Prince Harry, who was playing.

The event, sponsored by Hong Kong-owned Kent & Curwen, raised money for charities supported by Harry and Prince William and shed some light on the relationship between style sponsorship and high-profile sports.

Much has been reported about the fashion sponsorships at the Olympics. Nike and Adidas have been engaged in a battle for exposure, with Nike coming out ahead because of clever pre-Olympic advertising, even though Adidas is an official Olympic sponsor and Nike is not.

And you can't have missed the unprecedented focus on national Olympic uniforms this time around. Giorgio Armani has gone muted and minimalist for the Italian team - creating a stoic image for their athletes. The British team has Stella McCartney and high street brand Next on board, although some of the formalwear provided by Next seemed to be more Dunder Mifflin than champion athlete.

Of the other European nations, it's the poor Spanish team who got the booby prize. It's no wonder the garish red-and-yellow outfits have even been criticised by their own team members.

Perhaps the most controversial contender in the Olympic-style race is Ralph Lauren. The label's chic US uniforms have made quite an impression, but the fact that many items were made in China has prompted protests in the US. Congressman Harry Reid has even called for the uniforms to be burned. The Xinhua news agency weighed in, calling the American comments 'irresponsible' and 'hypocritical'.

And here we all were, thinking the Olympics were supposed to steer clear of politics and even soothe diplomatic tensions. Surely we should refrain from being drawn too deep into this debate, especially given today's globalised fashion industry. Besides, is 'designed in the US and made in China' really a misrepresentation of the US clothing industry?