Australia’s Olympic fashion past may be as chequered as the shirts of its 2018 Winter Games collection, but the latest offering has eschewed any bold sartorial statements in favour of a hi-tech but functional competition range that pays respect to the country’s past Indigenous athletes.
The Australian Olympic Committee on Wednesday unveiled the uniforms its athletes will wear in Tokyo later this year, consisting of a number of styles in traditional green and gold colours.
The range, titled Walking Together, includes a shirt designed by Indigenous artist and Olympic boxer Paul Fleming, from Wakka Wakka Wanyurr Majay in Yuggera country. It features 52 pairs of footsteps to represent the number of Indigenous athletes who have competed at the Games for Australia.
Speaking at the launch at Sydney’s Circular Quay, one of Australia’s current Indigenous athletes, the rugby sevens player Maurice Longbottom, said: “It’s a huge honour to wear this. This is my culture, this is who I am.”
The latest uniforms are the culmination of a two-year design process and take inspiration from the host city of Tokyo, with the inclusion of Japanese origami graphics throughout.
The searing heat expected in Tokyo was also influential in the uniforms’ design, with cooling fabrics blended with other design elements to minimise any potential impact on athletes’ performance.
AOC chef de mission Ian Chesterman said: “[The design] is absolutely world-class, it’s maximised the performance, and it also looks terrific.”
The new kits are designed by Japan-based sports apparel manufacturer Asics, which this week found itself embroiled in the human rights controversy surrounding the cotton trade in the Chinese province of Xinjiang.
Asics announced on Chinese social media it would continue to source cotton produced in Xinjiang, despite at least one million Uighurs and people from mostly Muslim groups being held in camps in the region, according to rights groups.
The authenticity of that stance was later questioned by the company’s head office in Japan, which said that was not in line with its official corporate position on the matter.
“And we can confirm that the Australian Olympic team uniform does not contain cotton sourced from Xinjiang and was not manufactured in this region,” an official statement provided to the ABC read.
The Tokyo Games, which have been delayed by a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, begin on 23 July.