When Polo Ralph Lauren revealed the 2018 USA Olympic opening ceremony uniforms two weeks ago, the usual mix of haters and appreciators came out in full force to break down every aspect of the winter outfits. The jackets have high-tech heating systems, the vintage sweaters run upwards of $600, and the eye-catching gloves, which are leather with fringe and embroidered Olympic rings, were called everything from "Peak Americana" to dishwashing apparel.
The Olympic gloves immediately caught the eye of Charlie Brown and Bradford Peterson, founders and owners of Astis, a Colorado-based brand known for making hand-beaded, embroidered leather mittens and gloves.
“Our phones were spinning with people congratulating us because they thought they were our gloves,” says Peterson. The Team USA Opening Ceremony Uniform release happened the same week as the Outdoor Retailer Convention—North America’s largest outdoor industry trade show—where Peterson says several people came up to him, telling him they saw the resemblance in the Olympic gloves and Astis products. “And then we were just heartbroken."
As it turns out, Peterson says a few different Polo Ralph Lauren employees had been in touch with Astis for nearly two years, showing interest in a potential partnership and learning about Astis mitten and glove designs. And, according to Brown and Peterson, there had even been mention of Astis providing the gloves for the opening ceremony.
A spokesperson from Polo Ralph Lauren says their designers wanted to create a glove characterized by “western inspiration.”
“The Ralph Lauren design team had always conceived of creating a western-inspired glove for Team USA’s Opening Ceremony uniform and explored manufacturing relationships with a number of different vendors. The American west has been a well-established source of inspiration for us, and the gloves were inspired by vintage ranch gloves and rugged western style.” - Ralph Lauren company statement.
As a background on their product development, Ralph Lauren’s design process often includes working with outside vendors across the country and having “exploratory conversations” in the early stages of a project.
Peterson, however, is not naïve. He realizes Astis did not invent vintage fringed leather gauntlets. In fact, Peterson drew inspiration from a Cree woman’s artistry when he first began making mittens and gloves himself. While Peterson and Brown are disappointed that Ralph Lauren went ahead without them, they plan to look on the bright side of more people being interested in leather gloves and mittens.
“We have Polartec-lined mittens and gloves that are made in the U.S. with durable leather and fully functional for skiing, and so we know we have something unique,” says Peterson.
As of Tuesday, February 6, the website where consumers can buy Polo Ralph Lauren Olympic merchandise, the “Opening Ceremony Glove” is currently listed as “Sold Out,” after being listed for $995 through this last weekend.
Peterson says he’s just focused on living out Astis’ motto: “Stay warm. Stay positive.”