With the Canadian Commonwealth Games team sitting in fourth in the medal standings, with ten gold medals, four silver and twelve bronze, our athletes have certainly had numerous opportunities to show off their podium kit, the outfit specially designed for medal ceremonies.
If you’ve watched any of the Commonwealth coverage, you’ve probably also had the thought: “Wow, the Canadian athletes look great.”
After the international ogling of the Scottish uniforms and widespread consensus in questioning: “what were they thinking?” we thought it would be appropriate to find out what exactly the design process is like for developing a team kit. Canadian Running got the chance to chat with Dennis Koop, the vice president of product and design for RMP Athletics, the company behind the Canadian Commonwealth Games uniforms.
Canadian Running: What was the design process like?
Dennis Koop: There were really three different components. Firstly, there were objectives set by the Commonwealth committee themselves; they had already incorporated the maple leaf tartan into their logo and wanted it as part of the design. They chose it as a symbol of our connection to Scotland, so we used that as a primary design element.
Secondly, we wanted to create a design that was very recognizably Canadian. The high profile kits for the podium and opening and closing were primarily red and white. We wanted to make sure things still looked athletic.
Thirdly, we wanted a connection to our storied past. The shirts with the bold horizontal bars with the maple leaf lifting out of it was inspired by the Canadian flag. We wanted a reinterpretation of an iconic national symbol.
CR: How did you determine what the athletes would need?
DK: Our design process was integrated with not only the Commonwealth committee, but also with athletes. We had a couple of round tables toe get a chance to talk to them about their experiences with different kits. Once we started talking to athletes and coaches we started to think about the actual experience. So, we came up with themes for the ‘six types of days’ that the athletes would have.
Day one we imagined ‘on the road to Glasgow,’ a travel day, with the athletes boarding flights and navigating airports. They would need comfortable, functional gear for the trip. This is where the fleece hoodie with tartan integrated in the hood, the roller bag and backpack came into play.
Day two, we imagined as a ‘sunny day in Glasgow’ (well, we were hoping for a sunny day in Glasgow, knowing that more often than not, the forecast there calls for rain). For this we kitted the athletes with quick dry, reversible shorts, flip-flops with the tartan on the foot-bed and cotton Canada t-shirts.
For day three, we had ‘the big opening ceremonies’ in mind. We wanted the outfits to be boldly and recognizably Canadian with red and white gear. The opening ceremonies outfits were made with an ultra lightweight fabric that could resist a drizzle. We printed the tartan on the inside mesh, so you can just get a glimpse of the tartan through the translucent white. We wanted to play homage without be overt. A couple of days before the ceremony the athletes decided that they wanted to wear the tartan pants to the opening ceremonies because they liked them so much.
On day five, ‘the closing day’ the athletes attend the closing ceremony. On this day the athletes will wear any combination of the kit that they would like in a freestyle of Canadian colours. In order to achieve this, we had to make sure that the whole kit was integrated to look good together.
For day six, ‘homecoming,’ the athletes would need their comfy gear again.
CR: What do you think about the Scottish uniforms that took so much backlash?
DK: In terms of what we wanted to project, we wanted our uniforms to be clearly Canadian, honest with the tartan and to make sure that it was rooted in sport. We always kept in mind that these are Canada’s top athletes that we were dressing. Some of the other teams chose uniforms with a “tribalism” feel, showing recognizably cultural connections, but not as much connection to sport.
The Scottish team took a lot of negative commentary. I will say this, that kit, for all of its controversy, looked unique when the team walked into the stadium. It looked distinctly Scottish and it had a place in the event.
CR: What have the athletes’ reaction to the uniforms been?
DK: The best thing I’ve heard is “I’m not trading any of this!”