The just-concluded Olympics was full of significant and historical moments. For starters, it was the ‘Tokyo 2020’ Olympics that took place in 2021. Then, there were the impressive new records set across different sporting categories. But, for the first time ever, a never-seen-before trend emerged: athletes wore activewear from luxury brands to compete.
Luxury brands have, for a long time, been present at the Olympics: Ralph Lauren has been the designer behind Team USA’s opening ceremony outfits, as has Giorgio Armani for Team Italy. But that has basically been the extent of their presence – once the games begin, sportswear brands like Nike, Adidas, Uniqlo and New Balance take centre stage.
But not this year.
American skateboarding bronze medallist Cory Juneau competed in his event with Golden Goose sneakers. It’s the first time that the Italian luxury footwear brand, known for their signature ‘distressed’ aesthetic and whose sneakers start at around $440, has endorsed an athlete.
This ties into a broader trend of luxury brands pursuing skateboarding endorsements – for example, Louis Vuitton made waves last year by signing Jamaican-British pro, Lucien Clarke, as their very first sponsored athlete. Skate culture has an outsized influence on fashion as a whole, so it’s not surprising that brands like LV and Golden Goose want to get in on this space.
Another luxury fashion house that made an active appearance at the game is Telfar, the eponymous brand of Liberian-American designer, Telfar Clemens, who is most famous for his cult handbag that’s been dubbed ‘the Bushwick Birkin’.
In a world-first, Telfar became the team and apparel sponsor for Team Liberia. The talented designer crafted a unique and luxurious visual identity for the small country’s athletes who have in the past had to struggle for sponsorship. It’s been transformative for the team – who was easily the best-dressed team at the Tokyo games – as well as for Clemens himself, who told The New York Times that “it’s meaningful to me on a lot of levels.”
Telfar has announced that it is set to release what it has dubbed its ‘Liberia Collection’ – a performance-focused line that will feature an array of styles such as gown-length jerseys, deconstructed tracksuits, sarong bottoms, and spliced tops in a colour palette of navy, red, sand and white.
The next Olympics is just three years away, and incidentally, it will be taking place in Paris, the fashion capital of the world. Will we be seeing luxury brands like Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton, Gucci or Bottega Veneta compete side-by-side Nike, Under Armour, Reebok, New Balance, and all the other established activewear brands?
Certainly, time will tell.