Nathan Chen recently set foot on the ice to train for the Olympics in a Nike sweatshirt. Vera Wang, the designer of his figure skating costume, paid attention.
“I told him,’Can you even wear what we’re making for you? It’s much more restrictive than Nike sweatshirts,” Wang joked. .. “He laughed a little and said,’Yes, I’m okay.'”
Chen was fine with a record-breaking routine in the men’s short program at the 2022 Winter Olympics on Tuesday. While wearing an elegant, minimalist black-and-white suit-like costume designed by the King, it offered the same comfort as Chen’s Nike sweatshirt.
Combining elegance and functionality is a challenge triple Axel for figure skating costume designers. Even for the king, the former competitive figure skater has become a fashion icon.
Mr. Wang said Mr. Chen was deeply involved in the entire design process and wanted the gold medal to prefer theater and costumes that were not overly decorative.
He wanted a costume that looked like a suit but felt like a Nike sweatshirt.
“And that’s really difficult for designers,” said the king with a laugh. “That is, tailoring is tailoring. T-shirts are T-shirts. But straddling the division was the most difficult part.”
Especially when dressing up 22-year-old Chen, who opened up a new era of figure skating by demonstrating unprecedented athleticism, which the King described as “basically inhuman to me.”
Wang said he spent two weeks envisioning sketches and exploring the right materials to be telegenic while providing enough stretch and movement for Chen.
“I was really really nervous because he was a new kind of skater and the fact that he was able to jump four times was unheard of in a completely consistent way before him.” Wang said. “I knew what it took to do a triple, so I was very worried about having the right fabric.”
The king began dressing Chen prior to the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, joining Nancy Kerrigan, Michelle Kwan and Evan Lysacek to become the fourth Olympic athlete she designed. Chen pushed the boundaries on the ice, but Wang did it with his design, and in 2019 introduced competitive skating into his neon yellow costume.
Wang studied space exploration and rocket launches on Chen’s galaxy print, which he wore when he appeared in Elton John’s “Rocketman” at the 2022 US Figure Skating Championships in January.
“I had to open my mind in the other direction for’Rocket Man’, and it wasn’t meant to be so literal,” said the king. “It meant pointing to the fire and power to drive a person out of the atmosphere … I wanted this outfit to look like he was in the fire.”
Whether it’s fireworks, minimalism or a Nike sweatshirt, Chen’s costume could soon be adorned with the gold medal of his first career.
For the 72-year-old King, who almost participated in the 1968 Olympics, there is nothing more honorable than designing for an Olympic athlete who has confidence, trust, and some hope of a gold medal.
“It’s a great privilege when you look at a skater and know what’s in it, and you’re still being asked,” Wang said. “I always say I’ll never do this again. I said after Nancy. I said after Michelle. I said it after Evan. I said after Nathan. I said, “That’s it! Hanging sewing machines and needles.” But the truth is that it also affects my work. When I work on a project like this, it’s out of the realm of what we usually do, so I think I’m being driven into the lack of that comfort zone, outside of my comfort zone. Still, it always brings me something, something other than participation. I feel that I can expand my creativity in another way. It’s also very rewarding. ”