But what of British fashion’s role in these London Olympic Games?
Stella McCartney created the kit for Team GB. And Tom Ford and Thom Sweeney dressed Daniel Craig and David Beckham, respectively, in tuxedos for their James Bond cameos in the Opening Ceremony. But apart from that, British fashion was noticeably absent…until the Closing Ceremony.
Along with appearances from more than thirty artists from the past 50 years of British pop music, a gaggle of British supermodels, including Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and David Gandy, the famous face of Dolce & Gabbana’s Blue fragrance, appeared in a brief segment showcasing British fashion brands including Alexander McQueen, Burberry, Christopher Kane, Jonathan Saunders, Erdem, Paul Smith, Victoria Beckham and Vivienne Westwood. To the soundtrack of ‘Fashion’ by David Bowie, who reportedly declined to participate in the event, huge trailers rolled onto the Olympic stadium track, covered in giant billboard-sized fashion images shot by Nick Knight for the pages of British Vogue’s September issue, which then dropped to reveal the models themselves, who strutted their way to the centre of the massive set, and then promptly turned around and walked off.
“What was that about?” asked my seatmate. I shrugged my shoulders. Ostensibly, the intention was to show the inextricable links between British fashion and music. But while it may have made for powerful imagery in the pages of Vogue, on the global stage of the Olympic stadium, it simply wasn’t impactful.
“The segment seemed to be stuck in a generic timewarped view of fashion that didn’t seem to connect with what’s actually going on in fashion today,” wrote Susie Bubble. “Oh, strutty models. Oh, strike a fierce pose at end of catwalk. Oh, credits read out loud in manner of a catwalk show at The Clothes Show at NEC Birmingham.”
The clothing itself was stunning and there were name checks for all of the designers involved, which certainly amounts to some well-deserved publicity for British fashion. But this was surely a missed opportunity to make an indelible and truly modern statement about the role of fashion in global culture and the walk-up-and-down, catwalk-like presentation was just not enough. Indeed, if fashion is going to communicate on a global stage this size, this format needs a rethink. Perhaps the organizers would have done well to study Burberry World Live, an immersive media experience the brand launched in Taipei earlier this year.
Ultimately, I agree with Hadley Freeman who wrote in The Guardian: “Seeing models strut in six-inch heels looked a little less impressive after a fortnight of watching extraordinary athletic feats, not least because those who performed them had to stand on the sidelines and watch some women walk about in clothes.”
Will anyone remember the fashion segment 20 years from now? Not likely. But we will always remember the athletes. Or maybe, I’m just a sucker for the Olympics.
Imran Amed is founder and editor-in-chief of The Business of Fashion