The 2022 Winter Olympics is officially underway, and will run until February 20th in Beijing, China. While we enjoy watching all of the premier athletes compete in their respective events every four years, we enjoy seeing the custom uniforms even more. Big brands like Nike, Ralph Lauren, and Adidas are known to always be amongst the pool of chosen brands to design for the respective teams, but this year, the black-owned activewear brand, Actively Black, joined the roster for the first time to outfit Team Nigeria.
Just 15 months ago, Lanny Smith founded Actively Black in his apartment. Fast forward to running the brand for a little over a year and Smith has positioned his company to join the Olympics stage next to billion-dollar brands.
Smith tells Essence, “It is huge first and foremost for any brand to have the opportunity to have its product displayed on the Global stage that is the Olympics — especially a startup brand that just made one year old. But, specifically for a Black-owned brand to have that stage, and be the only Black-owned brand on that stage is significant. He continued stating, “It goes to show that there are no limits to our dreams, and regardless of the giants in the game, we can compete at the highest levels.”
Team Nigeria’s uniforms were a perfect blend of cultural nods and progressive athletic wear. Members of the team sported white performance parkas that were complimented with green tie-dyed fabric that draped around the shoulders, and paired divinely with matching traditional head wraps.
“We wanted the designs to embody the pride of not just Nigeria, but Africa and the entire Diaspora,” Smith explained. “The mix of modern and traditional is where we feel like we were able to truly create something special that stood out.”
And the beauty of this moment goes beyond the final product. Actively Black prides themselves on building their own table, which the brand completely embodied with this opportunity to design for the Winter Olympics.
“When I got this deal with the Nigerian Federation, I hired a Black design team that consists of a Black husband and wife [Jordan and Danielle Jackson] who design together under their design firm called Amen, Amen,” Smith shared. “It is important for me to highlight Black talent and give them their props because other companies don’t do that. They [Jordan and Danielle] did thorough research and we collectively incorporated the modern, sleek style of Actively Black with traditional pieces that we actually had made in Lagos, Nigeria to pay homage.”