by Sophia Chabbott
Senior online fashion editor, Alaïa enthusiast, collector of white button down shirts, shredded jean shorts, and huge fan of beach waves.
The Winter Olympics are almost upon us! The drama, the ambition, the…fashion? Well, yes! I recently had the chance to speak with Debra Criss, lead outerwear designer at Columbia Sportswear, a.k.a. the woman who is responsible for outfitting the U.S. Winter Olympics ski team in style and optimum function.
Here’s Deb with Dylan Ferguson (USA Aerials) and Heather McPhie (USA Moguls).
Take a look at Deb and the design team at Columbia’s handiwork for Team USA:
USA Moguls Uniform by Columbia Sportswear
USA Aerials Uniform by Columbia Sportswear
Some fun and fascinating facts about creating uniforms for the Winter Olympics:
Glamour: How does Columbia go about starting to create Olympics uniforms?
Debra Criss: Columbia’s design team engaged directly with the athletes on multiple occasions to gain insight into how the uniforms could enhance performance. Based on extensive athlete input, Columbia’s design team integrated a slew of innovative details such as a unique Snow Camo pattern to help mask body movement—a key-judging component—for moguls skiers.
Glamour: What are some details that make the suits unique and high-functioning?
DC: The uniforms feature a patent-pending Columbia-designed ultra-lightweight and low-profile LightRail Zipper, which is bonded directly onto laser-cut fabric, completely eliminating the need for zipper tape and resulting in the lightest-weight waterproof zipper in the world. And, of course, all uniforms include Columbia’s Omni-Heat Reflective technology, for more warmth with less bulk
Glamour: Can you describe a few different needs for athletes of different sports?
DC:When it comes to moguls, moguls skiers face the unenviable task of having to appear completely calm and smooth as they’re pummeled by the mountain’s most challenging terrain. To help mask body movement, we developed a custom snow camouflage that actually mimics the look of moguls themselves, using gray tones to break up white space.
For aerials, [we employed] elongated, tight stretchable uniforms are critical to ensure scoring is accurate. They are judged on keep their bodies straight and long, which is why the uniforms have bold lines and are extremely fitted, which the jackets attaching to the pants with an inner zipper at the waist.
Glamour: What is the most outlandish thing an athlete has asked you for?
DC:One of our athletes had used shoelaces to extend the suspenders of his previous uniform in order to keep his pants low according to the style on the half-pipe. We went to work to develop extra-long suspenders that adjust easily to accommodate the super-low look that a few of the athletes told us they preferred.
The athletes also told us that to differentiate between their jackets, they wrote their names directly on the fabric. Thus, we put a nameplate on each piece for their names or an inspirational message.
Glamour: Does Sochi present tough climatic challenges?
DC: The conditions in Sochi are quite variable and could be quite warm and raining to snowy and cold. Omni-Heat Thermal Reflective helps regulate body temperature with little silver dots that reflect and retain the warmth your body generates. The breathable material also dissipates moisture and excess heat. For freestyle skiers who compete in varying temperatures and weather, this versatility is critical to staying focused on their performance. This technology also means more warmth with less bulk, which is ideal for maintaining maximum athletic mobility.
Glamour: We hear the uniforms are somewhat customizable….
DC: If there’s one thing that our multiple focus groups with freestyle ski athletes taught us, it’s that they’re fiercely individual. Because of that, we built in opportunities for self-expression wherever we could. The interchangeable patches feature country-specific graphics that range from playful to traditional—they’re also great for trading with new international friends.
It’s something you wouldn’t normally see on an Olympic uniform but an important extra touch to offer the athletes.
In addition to Team USA, Columbia also designed the uniforms for Canada’s and Russia’s Olympic ski teams. Take a look:
Russia Aerials Uniform by Columbia Sportswear
Canada’s Ski Uniform by Columbia Sportswear
So, what do you think of Team USA’s uniforms? It’s getting me all kinds of excited for the Olympics next month. What about you?
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