All eyes are trained on Tokyo right now, where the controversial “Pandemic Olympics” are currently underway. But amid fears about the spread of the Delta variant among athletes, there are certainly some bright spots. One is the enviable threads worn by the Liberian team, designed by Brooklyn fashion wunderkind Telfar Clemens.
It’s pretty standard at this point for major fashion labels to design looks for various Olympic teams. Iconic American brand Ralph Lauren has been providing the U.S.’s own gear since 2008. But as the New York Times points out, smaller, poorer countries like Liberia don’t get the same star treatment from brands and sponsors. This year, however Liberian sprinter Emmanuel Matadi urged the team’s Olympic attaché to reach out to the Liberian-American designer best known for his coveted “Bushwick Birkin” bag. The result is an athletic wear collection like nothing you’ve ever seen before.
“It’s meaningful on a lot of different levels,” Clemens tells the Times. “It’s like I’m dressing the country that I’m from. Everybody in the world’s going to be watching and I’m going to be there to see it.”
As the paper reported back in June, the Olympics uniform mark Telfar’s entre into athletic wear. Since the collection was announced, the designer has also dropped a collaboration with Converse. The unisex Liberian team pieces—one shoulder tanks, gowns that resemble jerseys—will be available to the public via Telfar’s Instagram. And according to the designer, the Opening Ceremony is just the beginning: “These are clothes we want to sell for the rest of our lives.”