Summer Olympic team outfits seek inspiration in traditional folklore

Just month ahead of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, the Czech Olympic Committee unveiled its official collection for the opening ceremony. The outfit in national colours, with white and blue predominating, was inspired by the UNESCO-listed tradition of indigo dyeing with block printing, known as modrotisk.

The outfits for the opening ceremony at the Tokyo Olympics, due to take place on July 23, were created by designer Zuzana Osako in cooperation with the Czech firm Alpine Pro.

The aim of the designer, who has lived in Japan with her husband for several years, was to create a costume that would connect elements of both Czech and Japanese cultures.

She found that unifying theme in the traditional technique of indigo dyeing with block printing, which is said to have come here from Japan in the 18th century, as she explained to Czech Radio:

Zuzana Osako | Photo: Czech Olympic Committee

“In Japan, indigo dying has been a popular colouring technique, long before it started to be used here. It is still very popular there, although they use a different technology for colouring.

“In this country, it has been regarded as part of our history, but thanks to the UNESCO listing, it has been gaining popularity in recent years.”

When designing the Olympic outfits, Mrs Osako sought inspiration in the traditional Czech and Moravian national costumes. That’s why she created distinctly different models for men and women.

While the female athletes will be wearing white strapless dresses with blue jumpsuits, men will march under the Czech flag sporting white shirts and trousers and blue waistcoats.

For the first time in history, they won’t have to wear jackets, because of the hot weather and extreme humidity, expected in Tokyo at that time of year.

Another inspiration for the current outfits came from the Czechoslovak collection from the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, which also included a combination of the blue upper part of the clothing and the white lower part, says Zuzana Osako:

Photo: Czech Olympic Committee

“The third part of the assignment was to reflect the Czechoslovak representation at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, which was very successful. One of the athletes who became really popular at the games was the gymnast Věra Čáslavská. She fell in love with Japan and returned to the country several times.”

The new Czech Olympic collection is currently being completed, with all of the pieces hand-sewn and tailored to each individual.

The blue fabric with delicate patterns used for the men’s waistcoats and women’s jerseys are being dyed in the Danzinger family's workshop in Olešnice, which has been active in this art of printing since the early 19th century.

The outfit is completed by bright red leather shoes and includes two practical accessories, a bag and a fan. The bags are hand-knitted from straw while the fans are made from blueprints hand-set into bamboo frames.