Issue 25 Harvest
I'D SEEN A PREVIEW OF CHOREOGRAPHER Zhang Jigang’s work at Ma Ke's couture show in Paris in June, pg 7, so was expecting something wonderful from Beijing’s opening ceremony and I was not disappointed. Apart from the performance it was fascinating to watch the parade of nations. Athletes from over 200 countries entered the Bird’s Nest stadium wearing their country’s “Sunday Best”. This year the US had Ralph Lauren design a dapper, sporty look inspired by the Oscar winning movie Chariots of Fire. The size and placement of the polo player logo caused some controversy, but overall the reaction was positive and the outfits much commented upon. Team GB’s parade wear on the other hand was utterly disappointing. Together with Olympic medalist Sarah Winckless, Lee Cooper and British “jeans guru” Tim Browne designed the uniform. It was instantly forgettable. Yes, the colours echoed the British flag; but there was nothing more to say. Margaret Howell would have been a more inspired choice of designer. The uniforms she recently created for the staff of the V&A used traditional British fabrics and made a strong statement. Some hold that comfort should be the primary objective of clothing and the Australian Olympic team seemed wholeheartedly in favour of this. Dispensing with their traditional merino jackets in gold and green they paraded in informal nylon tracksuits, influenced by the graduated dying seen in the Prada A/W 2007 collection. It was a shame to lose the reference to the wool industry which is an intrinsic part of Australian history, pg 65 but the team, particularly the younger members, voted for a modern forward-looking uniform. It begs the question, when was Britain seduced by the evil sartorial chimera that is “smart casual”? This pointless hybrid of opposing characteristics fulfills neither objective adequately. I blame the adoption of sweatshirts-as-uniform on Jeff Banks who in 1990 replaced the Brownies’ cotton dresses with yellow track suits. The phenomenon has now spread to almost all our seats of learning, pg 34. I’m not making a case for starched shirts and scratchy blazers; but structured uniforms that make use of good quality, long-lasting fabrics give the nation's adolescents something to push against. If you have spent your childhood in a school-approved hoodie what do you wear to rebel? This autumn choose smart or choose casual – you can’t have both.
Polly Leonard, Founder