How The London Olympics Started The Sports Luxe Trend


The current sports luxe trend was boosted by the London 2012 Olympics. Colour, technology and fabric are still going for gold.

It was a magical time to be in London during the 2012 Olympics. In the run up to the Games there was a lot of debate about whether London was up to it and the nation was all quiet nervous. But the moment the “Queen,” parachuted into the Olympics stadium and James Bond appeared it was clear this was to be a Games like no other. It was the beginning of a few weeks of quintessential British style and technology.

The whole country was gripped with national pride and Olympic fever and it was impossible to travel anywhere in London without seeing the Olympic symbol, it was infectious. One of the outstanding features was the seamless blending of old and new, the historic and the modern. It was a recurring theme that was evident throughout the games.

It’s also one of the few cities in the world where you can take the underground train home and find yourself sitting next to an Olympic gold medallist on the Tube. The atmosphere was truly magical.


Colour was something that really defined the Olympics. High-end colour emerged as a signature look of the Games with non-conventional colour codes that were saturated and bright, creating a really unique colour burst that became a real defining aspect of the Games. The powerful use of mono colour stripes also emerged as a striking visual theme. There was a distinct move away from traditionally coloured tops with contrasting white pants and a move towards a head-to-toe mono colour kit in very intense, bright colours. This was combined with powerful shapes and designs, reminiscent of the wings of monarch butterflies. Bright against dark was an amazing colour story that came out of the Olympics especially among the performance and active wear. Bright on dark was basically using a black canvas to create a very dramatic background for almost-artificial brights. White became a new accent colour too. The dark theme was so prevalent that it spilled over into the spring/summer colour palette of 2013, usually a time when lighter, summery colours are seen.

A smaller trend, but still a key one, was coloured footwear in active bright colours that featured a wet look. The rise of neon in clothing and footwear can be traced back to this signature colour of the London Games.

The spring/summer 2014 collections worldwide will probably see a move away from yellow and green tones towards a more coral, coral pink and purple tone. And while some designers are pulling neon off the shelves already, some are taking it further with glow in the dark and reflective colours that border on emergency service uniforms.

The glut of sportswear during the Olympics made it suddenly OK to wear the same outfit you’d wear to the gym to a party. People have changed the way they work out, mainly due to a swing towards a more health conscious society and being told it’s fine to exercise any time of day. The increase in people working from home and a global trend towards relaxed work hours, much done on the move, has  blurred the lines of party, work and workout.

The Olympics have always been an amazing global platform for the launch of new and innovative products and London 2012 was no exception. Technology gave the event a high
tech feel with sporting gear that was designed
to perform.

The Nike Speed Suit took inspiration from the aerodynamics of the humble golf ball. Just as a golf ball’s dimples are designed to help it go farther and faster, Nike used a similar idea to help reduce the aerodynamic drag of the athlete. Using revolutionary Nike AeroSwift technology, patterns and surface architectures, informed directly by wind tunnel data, are strategically placed on
key areas of the athlete’s form, improving performance greatly.

This futuristic concept has had a huge influence on the way people look at clothing. The new generation of ultra light, ultra stretchy, power wear from Adidas has also influenced the sport luxe trend. This trend is about technology that is so natural and performance enhancing that it becomes easy to wear. The creation of this new generation of fabrics replicates an ultra-natural, naked feel.

Anyone watching the Olympics might have noticed some athletes wearing Kinesio tape, strips of brightly colored tape adorning the arms, legs, and torsos of many top athletes. It was designed for muscles and joints for alleviating pain, reducing inflammation, relaxing muscles and ultimately enhancing performance. It’s been around for about 30 years and there’s a lot debate about how effective it is. From a fashion perspective, it has certainly crept into some designer collections, sometimes in more subtle ways and sometimes with huge visual and striking effect.

All the winning and losing at the Games resulted in hundreds of ideas for designers and developers to increasingly turn to science and out-of-the-box thinking for ways to increase athletes performance. Speedo and the British cycling team took this concept to a new level, visualising ground-breaking thinking and innovation to give their teams an advantage.

Speedo created personalised 3D scans and individual avatars for swimmers to allows developers to look at an athlete from head to toe, almost inside out. The result is a racing suit of goggles, swim cap and suit that allow an athlete to achieve remarkable performance if all three are worn together.

The British cycle team looked at their daily life, routines and habits, everything that might have prepared them physically and mentally for top performance. They’ve employed a number of innovations like a black box recorder under their bicycle seats and an injury reducing saddle. Ultra light bikes have also been designed to fit each athlete uniquely. A sleep coach with personalised pillows, hypoallergenic bedding and air quality controlled rooms have also helped. The team wear personalised ultra lightweight helmets that were generated by using 3D scan technology.

Let’s not forget that all of these innovations will ultimately give a huge psychological boost to any athlete striking out at the opposition, not unlike that feeling of confidence you get when you’re stepping out to a party in a fabulous designer creation.

Since the Beijing Olympics in 2008 there has been explosive growth across the entire media landscape. Facebook grew from over 100 million users in 2008 to over 900 million users in 2012 and Twitter has grown from 6 million to 140 million users. During the 17th day of the Games 306 billion pieces of content were shared across the Web, over 208,333 shares per second. During the 9.63 seconds it took Usain Bolt to run 100 meters over two million items were shared. It’s no wonder that these Olympics were dubbed the “media games.”

One of the things social media allowed everyone to do was to view the Olympics in a totally unique way and from new perspectives. They had an amazing camera which had its own personality and Twitter account that tweeted amusing messages about the Games. Pool Cam, was the most popular camera and actually had over 19,000 followers by the end of the Games. The cameras used different positions and photographing techniques to catch action in a way never seen before. We’re starting to see the influence of this in fashion with virtual fashion shows that are streamed live to global audiences. As fashion adopts more of these technology tools we’ll see an increased use of them in new and novel ways. Fashion Weeks have sponsors they need to protect from competing brands and so too does the Olympics Committee need to keep its sponsors happy. They faced a lot of harsh criticism for enforcing the rights of sponsors in a heavy-handed manner and many advertising agencies found creative ways around this.

Michael Phelps, for instance, wore Beats by Dr. Dre headphones between events and what advertisers could not officially endorse was simply tweeted or posted around the world. Some bright creative even started a campaign to paint post boxes with gold paint in the hometown of gold medalists. This resulted in many in the UK thinking that the Royal Mail was actually an official sponsor of
the Games.

In the not too distant future running shoes will be made to order in the store. You’ll simply walk in, have your feet measured and a pair of running shoes will be made for you by a knitting machine in under half an hour, giving you the best fit you’ve ever had. This technology is sure to filter into the fashion industry and become the new “bespoke tailor” of the future, creating a unique garment without needing to trawl through rails of ill-fitting clothes.

A final, yet small trend that emerged from the Olympics is the empowering of the Olympic goddess. London 2012 will be remembered for ground-breaking firsts for women. The first Olympics that had all countries send women  athletes even the first female athlete from Saudi Arabia. The Games gave us amazing women athletes, who were strong, empowered driven and extremely successful. We also saw the emergence of a future generation, the “fashlete,” with a really glamorous and super self-confident persona while on the track, in the pool or on the court. And as we all know, the confidence to be stylish while achieving success should certainly not be confined to sport alone.

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