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Friday, January 24, 2014

Olympics Fashion Revealed — And Reviled?

Sochi is only two weeks away, and now we know exactly what the athletes will be wearing — brightly colored knit cardigans, white fleece athletic pants and bright leather boots with red laces.

And yes, it’s all made in the USA, designed by iconic American designer Ralph Lauren.

André Leon Talley, contributing editor for Vogue magazine and editor-at-large of Russian style magazine Numero Russia, joins Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson with his take on the outfits.

Interview Highlights: André Leon Talley

On the function of an Olympic uniform

“First, they must be practical when they are performing or competing for the gold, the silver, the bronze medal. And when they’re in the ceremonial mode, as in this great body of people walking in the great big ceremony, which is always very exciting to see on television, it’s important that someone has thought about a pattern, color mixes, and the way the thing is going to look in a group of people. And this is going to make some sort of, I think, almost pixelated pattern. If you’re sitting up in the bleachers in, like, row Z, you’re going to know that this is the American team, and it’s going to look quite, quite extraordinary.”

What the Russians will think of the uniforms

“I think they might have some what you might call pithy comments. Let’s wait and see what the Russians have, because, you know, the Russians are also very much involved with style and style notes. So I have not seen the Russian uniforms, but they will have pithy comments. I mean, if Americans are already saying it’s a cross between a Christmas sweater and something from the mall, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, I can just imagine.”

His take on the Ralph Lauren design

“I love the pattern, and I love the innate American heritage that Ralph has fused into the design of these sweaters. And I find it very youthful. Look, it’s the Winter Olympics. Color is extraordinary. Color is always a very positive thing in a design.”

“It’s a moment to celebrate excellence, it’s a moment to celebrate the country, and I think Ralph Lauren has done an extraordinary and exciting job. And you know what? I would wear it myself!”

Guest

Transcript

JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:

Well, now to Sochi where one of the big topics - talk of the town is Olympic fashion, specifically what the American athletes will be wearing. The outfits, which were unveiled yesterday, were designed by American designer Ralph Lauren. It's all made in the U.S.A. There are brightly colored knit patchwork cardigans emblazoned with stars, slim-fitting white fleece pants, a belt with patriotic graphics, and sporty leather boots with red laces.

For a review, we're joined by Andre Leon Talley, artistic director for Zappos Couture and contributing editor for Vogue. He's with us from New York. Andre, good to have you back.

ANDRE LEON TALLEY: Great to speak to you. How are you today?

HOBSON: Doing well. So what do you think of these uniforms? Because a lot of people have opinions on them.

TALLEY: I think they're great. The most important thing is that - as with the last Olympics, Mr. Lauren was criticized because the uniforms have been made in China. He has done a great thing by definitely having it made in America. So that is very important. And I love the patterns, and I love the innate American heritage that Ralph has fused into the design of these sweaters. And I find it very youthful. I find that, you know, look, it's the Winter Olympics. Color is extraordinary. Color is always a very positive thing in a design. The pattern is sort of, as I would say, almost Native American, Indian, Navajo-esque pattern. It's a great way to go. I think it's wonderful. I love them.

HOBSON: But let me just read you some of the comments that have come in because The New York Times fashion critic Cathy Horyn wrote: The cardigan invites comparisons to hideous Christmas sweaters. Lawrence Schlossman, the editor in chief of the style blog Four Pins, said of these sweaters: These are like wearing Times Square on your body.

TALLEY: I do not agree with either of those opinions. I absolutely think that the cardigan is a joyful expression of American heritage at its best.

HOBSON: Well, and we should say that, you know, a lot of people have criticism for a lot of countries' uniforms every time there's an Olympics. Back in the London games, the uniforms that Spain wore, they called them a mix of ketchup and mustard colors that look designed for a tacky 1970s racecar driver or perhaps Ronald McDonald. So everyone gets criticism, right?

(LAUGHTER)

TALLEY: Well, me, visually, I see things visually on television, and I think when you - one is they're going to stand out. You're going to see them coming, and it's going to be a great, great, you know, as a whole, a body of people walking with these ceremonial sweaters. It's going to look great, and it's going to stand out. And I think it's great for the winter games.

HOBSON: What is the significance of the uniforms, do you think, at the Olympics? How important is what the athletes are wearing on and off the ice or whatever their sport takes them to?

(LAUGHTER)

TALLEY: Well, the significance of it is, I think, that, first, they must be practical when they are performing or competing for the gold, the silver, the bronze medals. And when they're in the ceremonial mode, as in this great body of people walking in the great big ceremony, which is always very exciting to see on television, it's important that someone has thought about pattern, color mixes and, you know, the way the thing is going to look in a group of people. And this is going to make some sort of, I think, almost pixelated pattern. If you're sitting up in the bleachers in, like, row Z, you're going to know that this is the American team, and it's going to look quite, quite extraordinary.

HOBSON: Now, in addition to your other titles, you are also the editor-at-large of Numero Russia, this Russian style magazine.

TALLEY: Yes.

HOBSON: How do you think the Russians are going to react to these uniforms from Ralph Lauren?

TALLEY: I think that they might have some what you might call pithy comments. But let's wait and see what the Russians have, because, you know, the Russians also are very much involved with style and style notes. So I have not seen the Russian uniforms, but they will have pithy comments. I mean, if Americans are already saying it's a cross between a Christmas sweater and something from the mall, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, I just can imagine, you know? But it's a moment to celebrate excellence. It's a moment to celebrate the country, and I think that Ralph Lauren has done an extraordinary and exciting job. And you know what, I would wear it myself.

HOBSON: Andre Leon Talley, contributing editor for Vogue and also the artistic director of Zappos Couture, joining us from New York. Andre, thanks so much.

TALLEY: Thanks and have a great day.

HOBSON: From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Jeremy Hobson. Robin Young is in Raleigh, North Carolina. This is HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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