London’s Design Museum is celebrating the Olympic hysteria that has gripped the nation and the sudden (and surprising) influx of gold medals flooding our merry banks with a timely exhibition: Designed to Win. While athletes push their bodies to the limit in feats of muscle, strength, speed and endurance, designers – both fashion and product – mirror this with their sports gear. Creating streamlined, lightweight and technically effective goods, the designer has to produce something that is both aesthetically appealing and not a hindrance: a complex feat.
Looking to all types of athleticism, from Stella McCartney’s Olympic uniforms to Paralympic wheelchairs, Bradley Wiggins' bike, Team GB's two-man bobsleigh and the latest racing cars, Dazed Digital spoke to the exhibition's curator, Alex Newson, to find out more.
DD: Can you tell us about the exhibition's overall message?
Alex Newson: The exhibition demonstrates the importance and wide-ranging impact of design within sport. We've looked at a broad variety of sports to show that there is virtually no area that is untouched by design, this includes the way that sports are played, the way that they are watched, and the way that they are governed. The exhibition also explores the constant tension between design, technology and sport.
DD: It seems to be a trend to have a fashion designer, like Chalayan or McCartney, working with a sportswear brand - has this changed the way sportswear is perceived?
Alex Newson: The relationship between sport and fashion remained largely unexplored until the 1990s when sportswear was integrated into fashion and a generational shift towards the casual and the functional became apparent. Since then sport has been one of the greatest influences on everyday clothing. Nowadays we are seeing an inversion of this relationship with designers commissioned to incorporate elements of their trademark aesthetic within sportswear ranges – both at the elite performance level and for the more commercial and leisure markets. This is perfectly illustrated in the performance sportswear used by many teams during the London Olympics, with contributing designers that include Stella McCartney, Ralph Lauren, Giorgio Armani, Cedella Marley, Prada and Hermès.