It was an enormous thrill to see the work of some of Britain’s most talented upcoming designers included in the London 2012 Opening Ceremony on Friday night. Christopher Shannon for menswear, Michael van der Ham for womenswear and Nasir Mazhar for hats & headpieces were all chosen to contribute to the section representing the present and future of the extraordinary influence of British Creatives in world of youth culture and, fittingly, each of the designers’ studios is based in the East End, a stone’s throw from the Olympic Stadium.
But, astonishingly, there was a point in the planning a couple of years ago where it looked as though the British fashion industry was going to be overlooked in the planning of the London 2012 Opening Ceremony. Fortunately, all came right in the end and, with the help of three people: Suttirat Larlab, Creative Director for Danny Boyle, Sarah Mower, the BFC’s Ambassador for Emerging Talent, and Daniel Marks, Director of PR agency The Communications Store, three young emerging British designers were given the opportunity to have their work showcased during the spectacle, and several others to dress individual talents and performers.
With so many parts of the British Isles’ glorious heritage being celebrated, from music to the countryside, literature to the NHS, it was only right that the pageant in some way celebrated the not insignificant contribution of the fashion industry to Britain’s fortunes, in some way other than generally in the sweep of the Industrial Revolution and British manufacturing.
As Marks told me late on Friday: “I worked very closely with the British Fashion Council to ensure British Fashion was included in the Opening Ceremony. LOCOG has been unbelievably supportive and introduced us to Suttirat Larlab, Danny Boyle’s Creative and Costume Director who wanted to showcase the best emerging British Fashion Design talent based in the East End in the ceremony. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity to give the world a taste of British culture – and fashion absolutely had to be part of that.”
So, over the course of the last year Larlab, with the help of Sarah Mower, toured the studios of British-based new young designer talent selecting designers whose aesthetic fitted the narrative of the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony.
The segment that Nazir, Michael & Christopher contributed to had about 350 dancers wearing their pieces within a segment of about 1200 dancers – a quarter of the segment costumed purely by their work. That’s a fantastic amount of work from these designers, and a wonderful way to promote British design to, literally, the global audience.
(I was lucky enough to be able to be able to exclusively interview Nazir & Michael first thing on Saturday morning in Michael’s studio for a US news outlet, and I’ll report more of this later.)
The other designers whose work was included in the Opening Ceremony were Palmer//Harding who made the pleat back white shirts for Olympics flag bearers, the Brazilian environmentalist and politician Marina Silva and Shami Chakribarti of Liberty, whilst Richard James dressed Olympic flag bearer Haile Gebrselassie and Jonathan Saunders designed a ravishingly simple blue custom dress for Emile Sande to sing Abide With Me.
(Although unfortunately, due to a crass, ill-advised and tone-deaf decision by NBC in America, the entire memorial to victims of terrorism and those that were gone section of the Opening Ceremony, featuring the moving work of choreographer Akram Khan, set to Abide With Me, was cut because, they said, “Our programming is tailored for the U.S. audience”. Cretins. If you are in America, and didn’t get to see it, the cut section is up on Deadspin here, and you can see Emile Sande in Jonathan Sanders’ dress.)