It’s been a long time coming but at last, the South African Olympic and Paralympic athletes will be kitted out in locally developed athletic apparel at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
During the opening ceremony, throughout the various sporting events, and taking to the podium, our athletes will be representing South Africa at the Olympics and Paralympics in more ways than one: in athleticism and in apparel.
The proudly South African kit was unveiled at a fashion show event held at the ICC in Durban on Thursday in collaboration with Mr Price Sport, The City of Durban and the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC).
The Olympic Games is the world’s biggest most internationally represented multi-sport event, with 35 sport types and over 200 nations taking part. The Paralympic Games are the largest multi-coded event for athletes with disabilities covering 22 sport types and over 96 nations taking part. For two weeks, over July and August this year, billions of eyes will be on Team South Africa who will be kitted out to conquer.
Our athletes’ kit will comprise the opening ceremony ensemble: a proudly South African look envisioned by four young Durban designers, paired with vellies (leather field shoes) provided by Durban-based brand, VeldskoenTM, the official off-field shoe of Team South Africa.
In 2020, four up-and-coming Durban designers were selected to style the athletes representing South Africa at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics’ opening ceremonies. Their brief: to create a first look that’s so memorable, so outstanding, that all eyes would be on our athletes; to create an authentic South African kit that fellow competing countries would want to wear themselves.
Meet the up-and-coming Durban designers behind the opening ceremony ensemble:
Durban Institute of Technology graduate and founder of clothing label, ZuluM, Mbali Zulu’s mission is to be at the forefront of the South African fashion industry by offering exclusive and original designs for today’s fashion-conscious African customers. Mbali shares her experience as one of the opening ceremony ensemble designers. ‘I have always loved to watch the Olympics so getting this amazing opportunity to design the opening outfit was a dream come true.’
Self-taught sewist, Nompumelelo Mjadu earned her Fashion Diploma after graduating from the Lindiwe Fashion Skills Academy in 2019. She has been the director of her own label Jado Mjadu since 2015, a brand that focuses on quality, relatable and timeless African-inspired style. How did it feel seeing her creations come to life? ‘I knew our combined skills would result in remarkable work. This has motivated me to work even harder – being part of such a big project shows I’m going in the right direction.’
Multimedia Fine Arts graduate, Sandile Sikhakhane is a young Durban artist who is well-versed in an array of disciplines. He is the director of his own brand, sAnd!Le_da_creActive, the mission of which is to turn art into wearable fashion, ultimately creating walking artworks through their hand-crafted prints and designs. Sandile shares his thoughts on the process. “At school, I was constantly drawing – I’ve always been a creative person. Or a cre-active person – always actively creating. My first thought when I found out, ‘It’s my time to showcase my creations.’ Knowing that I’ll be part of the Olympics in my own way… yes. It feels good.’
Sipho Lushaba graduated from the Lindiwe Fashion Skills Academy in 2019 with a Diploma Fashion Design and is now the director his own label, SVL Designs – a label made for dreamers, comprising uniquely-designed, timeless garments. His first reaction when he was selected to design the opening ceremony kit? ‘I thought that maybe it’s a prank, so I was in disbelief. When it was confirmed, I was overjoyed to have the opportunity to work with the team, and to tick one item off my bucket dream list.’
SASCOC president, Mr Barry Hendricks, congratulated the four designers. ‘It’s wonderful for Team SA to be able to showcase the incredible talent of these four young designers on the biggest sports stage of all. We are thankful for the opportunity to put their work on the global map. Our Team SA athletes will wear the kit with pride and the way they look and dress will be eye-catching to the rest of the competing nations.’
SASCOC Acting CEO, Mr Ravi Govender commented that this is truly a proudly South African moment. ‘The combination of home grown brand Mr Price Sport and Veldskoen with our young and upcoming designers dressing Team SA tells our story like it should be told and that is we are equipped, resourced and ready to take our nation to any global stage.’
Mr Govender also emphasised that the sponsorship contributed hugely to the financial needs to deliver Team SA to Tokyo.
EThekwini Mayor Councillor Mxolisi Kaunda congratulated four local young designers who worked with Mr Price Sport to design the official kit for South Africa’s Olympic and Paralympic team for the Tokyo Olympic Games.
The designers are a product of the Durban Fashion Fair development programme which provides skills development and mentorship.
‘It is not every day that emerging designers get an opportunity to be featured in designing clothes that will enjoy international appeal,’ said Mayor Kaunda.
This is the first-time that the South African Olympic and Paralympic team apparel is designed locally. ‘This is a progressive stride for local fashion and the textile industry, and it is in line with our Buy and Invest Local campaign.’
Mayor Kaunda added: ‘It is encouraging to see our programme being recognised. This is proof that we are headed in the right direction in terms of Durban becoming Africa’s fashion capital.’
To complete the awe-inspiring opening ceremony ensembles designed by the four young designers, local brand VeldskoenTM will have the athletes entering the arena in their shoes: genuine leather, authentically South African vellies. It was the opening ceremony kit worn by South Africa at the 2016 Summer Olympics and Paralympics that inspired the development of the brand. Founder Nick and Ross were unimpressed by the kit worn at the time, and so they set out to revamp our ‘national shoe’, ultimately creating the colourfully soled vellies the brand is renowned for today.
‘This is a special moment for our brand and business. A full circle. We are so proud to be a part of the South African Olympic effort,’ CEO and Co-founder of Veldskoen, Nick Dreyer added.
For the Games themselves – as the official technical apparel sponsor of Team South Africa – Mr Price Sport will be supplying both the technical apparel required for the multiple sporting events, as well as the tracksuits worn on the podium after each event. From first-class rugby apparel to premium track and field kit, with many more to name, the Maxed Elite range of sportswear developed by Mr Price Sport for the international, 16-day event is nothing short of world-class.
The Mr Price Sport team shared their experience developing the athletic apparel for the event. ‘It has been an exciting journey for us as a team, and as a brand, supporting our top athletes as they represent our country in the ultimate competition.’
The Mr Price Sport team were driven to use their design talent to create an iconic team kit graphic in the form of the new, large protea icon. Mr Price Sport’s Head of Marketing, Dylan Cherry elaborates, ‘We agreed with SASCOC that our team needed a strong graphic icon visible on camera. As our athletes are captured on various media platforms, our proudly South African protea will be recognised across the world.’
Beyond our heroic athletes representing our country and making us proud, what home-grown excellence can we expect to see this July and August at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics. Prepare to be overcome with pride as our athletes step onto the world-stage in iconic and authentically African prints and apparel – all inspired by our land and its people; all designed on South African shores, by South African creative heroes, for South African sporting heroes.