The Belgian Olympic and Interfederal Committee has tapped dressage rider and designer Alexa Fairchild for the delegation’s outfits, which were formally presented during a “Catwalk to Paris” event in Brussels late last week.
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Fairchild became involved in designing outfits for the Olympics after collecting kit for her participation in the Tokyo 2020 Games, after Belgium’s last-minute selection for the equestrian event when another team dropped out.
“I don’t have much of a filter,” confessed Fairchild, who is also the granddaughter of legendary WWD chairman and editorial director John B. Fairchild.
But rather than being offended when she “bluntly made a comment about the clothing” that was available at the last minute owing to her experience with the family brand, the BOIC invited her to submit a proposal in 2022, she recalled.
Central to the collection is the “Embrace” concept of entwined ribbons in the black, yellow and red colors of the Belgian flag, inspired by its coat of arms and the country’s “unity makes strength” motto.
“Belgium is quite a divided country, between people that speak French and [those] that speak Dutch,” Fairchild said. “I think it was super important to create a graphic where we connect the country and really bring the unity.”
The motif of arms embracing nods to celebrating triumphs but also comfort when experiencing defeat, while the ribbons are meant to indicate support, connection as well as flexibility, speed — and medals that will hopefully be placed around the necks of the team next summer.
The BOIC’s marketing and communications director Dieter Reyntjens said the Fairchild proposal stood out because “it became evident that the focus extended beyond merely creating an appealing design.”
“The Fairchilds approached the project by exploring various authentic and emotional perspectives, weaving them into a graphical representation that could articulate a compelling narrative or rationale for the teamwear identity,” he continued.
Athletes who participated in the selection of the winning pitch “commended the quality of each product, the meticulous material selection, and the attention to detail in the design process,” which also took on board feedback stemming from the Tokyo 2020 collection, according to Reyntjens.
Athletic brand Peak Sport will manufacture the apparel to be worn at base camp, while traveling to Paris, in the Olympic village and at competition venues, the homecoming as well as the closing ceremony.
Although technical sportswear will be made by specialist manufacturers, 2024 will “mark a historic moment for Team Belgium, as it is the first time that our village wear design has been integrated into the technical wear of various federations,” Reyntjens said.
For example, the kayaking federation is incorporating the Embrace design on boats.
In fact, the only time Team Belgium will not be wearing Fairchild is for the Opening Ceremony in Paris on July 26, where the delegation is expected to wear formalwear designed by Caroline Biss for women and Café Costume for men, with other fashion partners providing footwear and other wardrobe elements.
The principal graphic created by Fairchild will be used in the Belgian quarters of the Olympic village and the Belgium house in Paris.
For Alexa Fairchild, who is still in the midst of qualifying competitions, “the most incredible outcome” would be a spot on Belgium’s dressage team, which will take part in the 2024 Games.
“To be the designer of the clothing and compete for Team Belgium would be the top of the top,” she said.
After the Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games, the athlete and designer will be diving into her next challenge: relaunching the brand in the second half of 2024, under the mononym Fairchild.
“Even though the [collection] is going to start with my story, I wanted to really incorporate the whole family because I wouldn’t be able to do it by myself,” she said, with the 10-strong brand team including her mother Erin and sister Natasha, who also signed the video presenting Embrace to the BOIC.
When it relaunches, the brand will offer equestrian tailored sportswear meant to be worn while riding but also handsome enough for the city.
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