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Lululemon debuts first-ever uniforms for Olympic athletes

Lululemon will outfit Team Canada for the next six years. The debut Olympic collection is high tech and fashion forward.

Lululemon debuts first-ever uniforms for Olympic athletes
Brigette Lacquette [Photo: courtesy Lululemon]

Canadian athletes will strut into the 2022 Winter Olympics wearing trendy red trapper hats.

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Today, Lululemon unveils its looks for Team Canada in advance of the Winter Games in Beijing, which begin in February 2022. They’re the first outfits the Vancouver-based athleisure giant has designed as part of a deal to outfit Canadian Olympians and Paraolympians for the next four Games, through 2028. The debut collection allows Lululemon to display its skill at creating stylish garments that also allow athletes to be comfortable, thanks to a system that can be adjusted to the wearer’s needs.

Paul PoirerPiper Gilles[Photo: courtesy Lululemon]
The Lululemon design team thought a lot about the history of Olympic clothing, says Audrey Reilly, the creative director of special projects at Lululemon, who led the design of Team Canada’s outfits. In the past, opening ceremony outfits have been inspired by military uniforms–featuring blazers and berets–to give the team a consistent look. Reilly wanted to create cohesion among the Canadian athletes, but also wanted them to adapt their outfits to fit their personal style and comfort. “At the opening ceremony, we want them to look like a united front as a team, but we also want them to be comfortable in that four to six hour ceremony,” says Reilly. “Our dressing system allows them to think about their own personal thermal comfort in the Bird’s Nest stadium in Beijing.”

Since 2018, Lululemon has developed a design philosophy called the Science of Feel, which considers athletes’ subjective experience in a particular moment, both in terms of how their body reacts to an activity and also how they want to feel emotionally. The team thought about how to apply this approach to the Olympics. They spent 18 months working with Canadian athletes, discussing how they wanted to feel throughout the two and a half weeks of the Games. The designers even worked out in cold rooms, seeing how they felt as their body temperatures went up in freezing conditions.

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[Photo: courtesy Lululemon]
Ultimately, Lululemon developed a modular system that allows athletes to modify pieces to their personal needs: For instance, an insulated vest can be transformed into three lengths by unzipping the bottom two panels; jackets have zippers that let in air for ventilation. “We came up with a theory around ‘thermal identity,'”says Reilly. “Every athlete has a unique response to their environment and what fabrics are next to their skin. So we wanted to [design] a clever layering system that that would allow them to customize what they are wearing at any given moment.”

Brigette Lacquette [Photo: courtesy Lululemon]
Lululemon’s designers created more than 30 garments to fit this mandate. They can be layered in various ways for events throughout the Games. Most of the pieces come in five different shades of red—derived from the color of the Canadian flag—which are designed to be worn together. Some pieces have an abstract print inspired by the maple leaf—the country’s national symbol—as seen through a microscope. For the closing ceremony, the athletes will wear a similar outfit, but in ivory. While Lululemon doesn’t currently make shoes, the design team created special hiking boots in red and ivory to complete the look. And of course, there’s a modernized trapper hat that calls to mind the Canadian woodsmen who first wore them.

Dawn Richardson Wilson [Photo: courtesy Lululemon]
Since 2005, the Canadian department store chain Hudson’s Bay had outfitted Team Canada. At the 2020 Tokyo Games, the company gave the athletes a distinctly casual look with denim jackets spray painted with graffiti, along with bright red sweatsuits. With this debut look, Lululemon appears to be bringing a more elevated aesthetic to the athletes, one in line with its high-end streetwear line called Lab, which it dropped in 2019.

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Frederique Turgeon [Photo: courtesy Lululemon]
Starting today, Canadian Lululemon customers will be able to buy some garments inspired by the official Olympic kit online and in store, with prices ranging from $38 to $548. The brand will drop new pieces periodically until the Winter Games. In the U.S. Lululemon will sell pieces that are similar to this collection, but don’t have “Canada” emblazoned on them.

Liam Hickey[Photo: courtesy Lululemon]
Lululemon is already thinking about the 2024 Summer Games, which will take place in Paris. (The following Winter and Summer Games will take place in Milan and Los Angeles, respectively.) Reilly and her team say they’re planning to continue with a similar aesthetic, but modified to the particular climate in each city. “Building this first collection was very critical,” Reilly says. “This body of work represents how we’re going to show up as a brand as the official outfitter of Team Canada. But we’ll be evolving the look based on environments and the vibe of each city.”

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About the author

Elizabeth Segran, Ph.D., is a senior staff writer at Fast Company. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts

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