Fixated on Shades of the Flag, Official Uniform for Israel's Olympic Athletes Disappoints

Local fashion house Castro came up with Israeli clothes for the Games, as top designers from Armani to Stella McCartney drape their countries' Olympic athletes.

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Israeli Olympic team uniform.
Members of Israeli Olympic team wearing their official uniforms.Credit: Shooka Cohen
Shachar Atwan

The Israeli Olympic team’s outfits, designed for the sixth consecutive time by the Castro fashion house, were unveiled last week. The blue and white collection — which the approximately 100 Olympic athletes, coaches and executives will wear at all official events and ceremonies in Rio — reflects a stubborn fixation on the shades of the flag and an arrangement of national symbols lacking in imagination.

The company, working in close cooperation with the Israeli Olympic Committee, has designed new workout clothes in blue and white, made up of a jacket, T-shirt and pants in a sort of tailored cut that narrow towards the bottom. The jacket has a simple print of overlapping triangles, whose origin is in the Star of David; underneath is a shirt with a similar pattern.

Members of Israeli Olympic team in Atlanta, 1996.Credit: Lydia-cz

The design is the result of a long planning process, whose goal was to come up with a style appropriate for a wide range of sizes and body types, while representing the ethos of Israel in a unified and simple look.

“We have a forum composed of athletes and representatives of the Olympic committee, and designers and people from Castro. Every Olympic cycle we sit and talk about the style, the weather conditions, we put in all the considerations that arise from the location of the opening ceremony and its time, and in the end we decide on an idea,” says Gili Lustig, director of the Olympic committee.

Members of Israeli Olympic team in Athens, Greece, 2004.Credit: Amy Sancetta, AP

Castro has been designing outfits for the country’s Olympic teams for the last 20 years.

For the London Games the fashion house designed official uniforms, consisting of jeans and white polo shirts. At the 2008 Beijing Games it dressed Israeli athletes in blue and white striped polo shirts and white pants.

But when the Israeli Olympic Committee unveiled this year’s suits with the Stars of David at the end of June, you could see the sense of missing the target: Castro’s designs look as if they were an incidental idea, and surprisingly they do not flatter even the finest in physical specimens. One young designer asked whether the clothes even relate to the sporting context for which they were designed? “In my view,” she said, “they look like clothes for sales assistants.”

Members of Israeli Olympic team in Vancouver, 2010.Credit: Ivan Sekretarev, AP

Another young designer responded with a similar lack of enthusiasm: “When you look at the group photo of the delegation wearing the uniforms Castro designed for them, they look like El Al flight attendants from the 1950s.”

Like the outfits or not, Castro will reap immediate benefits from the cooperation. In addition to the publicity it gains from being the official designer for the team, the fashion house has created new designer lines in the spirit of the Olympics. A series of T-shirts, launched along with the Olympic uniforms, will be available in stores just before the opening of the games.

In recent years more and more designers have been recruited to come up with uniforms for Olympic teams worldwide.

Members of Israeli Olympic team in Helsinki, 1952.Credit: Cohen Fritz

The cooperation between national Olympic teams and elite fashion designers came into its own at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, with Giorgio Armani designing the official uniforms of the Italian team.

London set the tone for the fashion competition back in September 2010 with the announcement that Stella McCartney would oversee the uniforms and dress of the British team. McCartney’s commitment drew in its wake other major figures in the global fashion industry. Before long, a large number of top designers had volunteered to dress the athletes of their homelands - and sometimes those of other nations too.

The Hermes fashion house in France was called on to design the equestrians team’s dress. Others who left their runways in Paris, Milan and New York in order to focus on the Olympic stadium in East London - for a short time at least - included Ralph Lauren, Miuccia Prada, Salvatore Ferragamo and Dean and Dan Caten of Dsquared2. Their wares appeared in the various events as well as in all the official ceremonies.

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