Italy vies for Olympic fashion medal with Armani suits
By Lisa Jucca, Reuters
Italy's fencer Valentina Vezzali shows the Italian anthem inside the official tracksuit designed by Giorgio Armani during the presentation of the Italy's official Olympic kit in Milan, May 10, 2012. (REUTERS/ Stefano Rellandini)
MILAN -- Will Italians be the best-dressed squad of the London 2012 Olympic Games?
The Italy team is pinning its hopes of striking gold in the style stakes on fashion guru Giorgio Armani, and his 50-piece Olympic collection.
Yet, prevailing in the fashion arena may be just as hard as winning medals on the running track given the competition from rivals such as U.S. designer Ralph Lauren and Britain's Stella McCartney, who have created stylish kits for their respective national teams.
"Fashion represents a great Italian flag for the whole world and it is a beautiful idea to combine it with sports. Let's hope sports will be as glorious," said a tanned and fit Armani, looking younger than his 77 years thanks to 90 minutes of daily gym training.
Dressed in his trademark black T-shirt and black trousers, and white tennis shoes, Armani presented his essential, almost minimalist white and midnight-blue Olympic collection at his showroom in the heart of Milan's fashion district.
Modeling the clothes, designed under the sober Emporio Armani EA7 sports label, were 15 of the 280-strong Italian Olympic contingent. They included five-times medalist fencer Valentina Vezzali, one of Italy's best hopes in the Summer Games.
The athletes will wear the sports suits at the opening ceremony and in formal occasions, but not to compete.
Armani avoided excessive use of the white, red and green of the Italian flag, but showed a patriotic streak by embroidering in gold the first sentences of Italy's national anthem on the inside lining of the uniform jackets and on the back of polo shirts collars.
"I am very patriotic. And what is more patriotic than the Olympics?" said Armani, who rates tennis and swimming among his favorite sports; and sponsors Italy's top basketball team.
The doyen of Italian fashion, known for his classically elegant style, said he felt attuned with the discipline and determination associated with world-class athletes.
In a break with tradition, Armani chose a shade of blue much darker than the sky blue or azure hue associated with Italian national sports teams, known locally as "Azzurri" (Light-blue).
The opening ceremony at the Olympic Stadium in east London will take place on July 27.
"We aim to be the best of the world in sport. We are definitely going to be the most fashionable," said Giovanni Petrucci, who heads Italy's Olympic Committee.