Fashion and the Olympics may seem an uneasy marriage at first. However the UK’s brightest lights in fashion and art are making the most of the country’s moment in the spotlight with an ambitious new initiative.
Organised by the British Fashion Council, Britain Creates 2012 will see a group of the country’s most prestigious fashion designers teaming up with leading visual artists to create one-off works of art, culminating in a gala showcase in June. Some of the UK’s best-known fashion designers have agreed to take part, including Burberry’s Christopher Bailey, Sarah Burton, Christopher Kane, Sir Paul Smith and Vivienne Westwood, alongside artists Charming Baker, Jeremy Deller, Jess Flood-Paddock and Marc Quinn.
‘In 2012 the eyes of the world will be upon us. We want to show the world that Britain is the leading force in the global creative sphere,’ says British Fashion Council chairman, Harold Tillman. ‘The Olympics is about extraordinary effort, skill and achievement and I am delighted that the fashion industry will be playing its part.’
The line between fashion and this year’s Olympic Games has already been blurred. Stella McCartney has designed Team GB’s competition kit and a one-off collection, Adidas My2012, inspired by the Olympic Games’ logo. The sports luxe theme was evident on the spring/summer 2012 catwalks, with Escada, Kenzo, Alexander Wang and Marc Jacobs showing sport-inspired creations. Even the site for the Olympic Games, in East London, has upped its fashion credentials with the opening of Westfield Stratford City shopping centre which houses around 140 fashion stores including Mulberry, The Kooples and Tommy Hilfiger. Sir Paul Smith has been mixing fashion, art and sport for some time. He is renowned for holding art exhibitions in his Mayfair store and for being a sports enthusiast: he famously designed a football in his signature stripes.
According to Ellie Wilson, spokesperson for the British Fashion Council, there is a natural fit between fashion and sport: ‘The fashion industry is continually pushing new boundaries and challenging itself to achieve the ultimate, very much like the world of sport.’ There are various motivations for the artists and designers involved in Britain Creates 2012. Some are inspired by the competitive spirit of the Olympic Games and its celebration of achievement. Others support the regeneration potential of holding the Olympics in East London. ‘Fashion and art both make life a lot more interesting, without them this would be a much less exciting planet to inhabit,’ says Charming Baker. ‘I draw inspiration from anything that is remarkable and odd. I am as much a fan of the ordinary as I am of the super achievers.’ He is delighted to be working alongside Sir Paul Smith for whom he is full of admiration. ‘Sir Paul has a very strong affiliation to the arts. He has a wonderful collection of work. With fashion he takes things beyond the ordinary, I love that he is passionate and unpretentious about the world he helps to shape.’
Although the Olympic Games will only last for four weeks, the organisers aim to leave a lasting legacy, in East London and across the country. Each work of art from Britain Creates 2012 will be auctioned at the end of the exhibition to raise money for an artistic bursary which will promote and nurture British design talent.
London has a unique fashion industry, and one that has occasionally lacked prominence on the global stage. It is hoped that Britain Creates 2012 will help to raise British fashion’s profile.
‘With its breadth of innovative and pioneering designers, London is one of the leading fashion capitals of the world,’ says Ellie Wilson. ‘This will be the perfect platform to showcase the city’s talent at its creative best.’
Britain Creates 2012 looks set to capture the world’s attention in favour of British talent as much as the Olympic Games themselves. Will London’s most exciting stores and designers garner a whole new army of sports enthusiast fans? Time will tell.