France Just Dropped the Waviest Uniforms of the 2024 Olympics

Dressing the French Olympic team is a colossal undertaking—800 athletes requiring 120 items each, including those participating in both the Olympic and Paralympic games, plus the support staff of trainers and other minders—all of which translates into thousands of items across a slew of apparel and accessory categories. On top of that, a vast majority of the products are to be made domestically. The man entrusted with this formidable task is Stephane Ashpool, best known as the designer behind the popular streetwear brand Pigalle. And with four months to go, Ashpool is still wrapping his mind around the project.

“I’m more in the phase where nothing is done, quite yet,” he said recently, on a Zoom from his atelier. While the designs are all finalized—some of which GQ is exclusively revealing here—there’s still a flurry of activity to get all the uniforms ready for the official start date of the games, in late July. “I’m still in the middle of the game,” he adds, borrowing an athletic turn of phrase. “I know the people are going to wear it, and I think, halfway through the games, I’ll be able to breathe.”

Pigalle founder Stephane Ashpool sporting some of his Le Coq Sportif designs for the French Olympic team.

Ashpool may not be a household name, but he was an obvious choice for the gig. As a child, his mother was a dancer, and he recalls all her and her friends around the house while he grew up. Later, he developed a deep love of American basketball—his first Olympic memory is of America’s “Dream Team” from the 1992 Barcelona Games. His own brand is deeply rooted in sport: jerseys, basketball shorts, varsity jackets, and tracksuits are some of Pigalle’s signature items, though usually made with luxe fabrics in bright colors and filled with unexpected details. Perhaps his biggest calling card is the basketball court he painted in Mondrian color-block style back in 2015 (it has recently received a gradient treatment in cooler tones, but retains its oomph). Today he has working relations with both sportswear behemoth Nike and French luxury house Chanel.

Ashpool’s journey to the Paris Games started back in January 2021, when he first received a call from the French sportswear company Le Coq Sportif, who made France’s 2022 Winter Olympics uniforms. After an initial meeting, things progressed quickly, sealed by a call to his lawyer—time was of the essence. Not long afterwards, he headed to Le Coq Sportif headquarters in Romilly-sur-Seine, about an hour outside the capital city. “It’s there I saw people doing artisanship but linked with sport,” he says, referencing factories where the 2022 Beijing uniforms and this year’s uniforms were made. “It was genuine and real. And so I started to relax.”

It was there, too, that he met with a roster of around 30 athletes. He spent the day with them, listening to what they wanted from the uniforms. “They want to look luminous,” he said, “they want to look modern, they want to look pop, but they want to look French and have an element of heritage.

“And the one thing they all said was this,” he added. “That the road to the Olympics is like this,” he said, making an undulating gesture with his hand. He explained it this way: what we see on TV at the Games is just a few seconds, but it’s the culmination of years of ups and downs for the athletes. He wanted to subtly convey that winding journey, the one of joy and heartbreak, that spectators miss while watching the final push. “So some of the gear has these curvy yarns,” he said, pointing out the rippling stripe running down track pants or across the back of a jacket.

Past iterations included monochromatic ensembles or ones decorated with abstracted colors, designed by Lacoste or Nike (2022 was the first time Le Coq Sportif dressed the team in 50 years). At first, Ashpool toyed around with variations on the French flag’s tricolor motif, allowing himself an incubation period of experimentation. He tested the colors in various materials—feathers, embroidery, dye, silk printing. “I really freed myself,” he said. These trials ultimately led to the iteration that runs throughout the collection: a gradient blue-white-red color field that has been applied to everything from biking jerseys, gymnastic unitards, and swimming briefs. “The athletes were bored of the clean white, it was too obviously sporty,” he said, so in lieu of the crisp white of yore, he opted for a warmer tone of white. But best of all, Le Coq Sportif has been dedicated to producing domestically as part of a broader turn around plan for the company. As such a vast majority of the collection was made in France, something he’s particularly proud of.

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