The Story Behind The 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games: The Fashion

The Story Behind The 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games: The Fashion

Meet the designers behind the games styling.

By Sarah Tayler | 20th February 2018

With only a few months to go until the start of the Commonwealth Games 2018, Brisbane is gearing up to watch Australia’s biggest sporting event in a decade. The games will see 70 nations taking part in 1,000 hours of sport over 11 days, with 1.5 million spectators expected. This Gold Coast event is exciting on many levels. Not only will the best athletes from around the world compete right here in Queensland, but it is an event of many firsts as well; from the Reconciliation Action Plan (which aims to make the event inclusive of all Australians) to being the first Commonwealth Games to have an equal number of male and female medal events.

Broadcast to countries all over the world and expected to reach 1.5 billion people, the team kit for athletes, volunteer uniforms, and spectator merchandise will be seen by millions of people and shape the visual impact of the games coverage. We chat to the people behind the designs to see where the inspiration came from.


Created by Australian brand Hard Yakka, the volunteer—or Games Shaper—uniforms were designed to withstand the Queensland heat. The 15,000 Games Shapers range from 16 years old to 92 years old and will be helping out at 24 venues between Cairns and Coolangatta, so the gear has to be hardwearing and SunSmart. The trousers zip off into shorts and are made of a light quick-drying fabric, while the polos have a loop for your sunglasses and a matching Panama style hat. Each of the 200,000 items contains a label of gratitude with a message from the Governor General. Altogether, the volunteer clothing would fill 12 shipping containers. With that in mind, some parts of the uniform have been made from recycled material. We caught up with Arthur Thomasse who heads up the creative design team at Hard Yakka to find out what went into creating the designs.

GC2018 VOLS UNF Mat Rogers Donelle Coulter_1

What was the inspiration for the uniforms?
Bringing the Gold Coast lifestyle, culture and heritage through with a touch of modernism and also being fit, functional and durable in line with the Hard Yakka brand were our objectives when creating the look.

Which is your favourite item in the uniform collection?
It would have to be the polo as it will definitely be the standout piece. It features a lot of detail and we are very proud of the 50+ UPF Rating.

Hard Yakka was founded in Victoria, are all the items made here in Australia?
Most items have been sourced from Commonwealth countries in the spirit of the games. Australia, India, Bangladesh and Fiji to name a few.

From the design concept to the end product how long did it take to create the 200,000 items that will help the Games Shapers look fabulous during the games?
It was a 12-month development phase which included a lot of wearer trials, testing and focus groups.

Do you play any sports yourself?
I believe that work-life balance is crucial to building a great work environment. Most of our design team here at Hard Yakka are track and field runners.

If you had to take part in a Commonwealth Games sport which would it be?
It would have to be the Marathon.


The Australian athletes will be rocking lots of different looks during the games. From the team kit they will wear to perform their various sports designed by Diadora; to the more formal wear for the opening and closing ceremony designed by Australian clothing brand R.M. Williams. Brisbane based Graphic Designer Jenna Lee, from creative agency Giimbaa, designed the print which can be seen across the uniform for the opening and closing ceremony. The opening ceremony garments use her design on the tie, scarf, belts and the interior of the blazer. While the closing ceremony outfits feature her work on the polo shirt and the cuff of the pants. Hailing from the Larrakia People in the Northern Territory Jenna has been Brisbane based since going to university at the Queensland College of Art in 2011.

Can you tell us a little about the Larrakia people?
We are Salt Water People whose traditional lands are the earth and sea of the Darwin region.

How does the history of your family influence your work?
I was raised very proud and strong in all of my cultural heritages: my Dad is Larrakia, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino and my Mum is Australian. Each one of these parts of me has influenced the way I look at and create art. My family has a rich history of art making with many of my aunties and uncles being successful artists and both my parents being very creative. This was always an aspect of myself that my parents encouraged. My Mum even used to get up with me at 4am to do art and craft. I’m not sure if she knew then that one day it would be my career.

How did you get started as a designer?
When I finished high school, I attended the Queensland College of Art where I completed a Bachelor of Visual Communication Design. After a few work placements, I landed an internship at Gilimbaa during my final year. They took me on full time as soon as I graduated and I have been with them ever since. I’m very fortunate to work at an agency where I get to design and create artwork that is so firmly proud of my culture. My work these days is really about using the power of art, design and culture to tell important stories and ensuring that Aboriginal art is meaningfully represented in the visual narrative of the nation.

How did you get involved with the Commonwealth Games?
The Commonwealth Games contacted Gilimbaa in 2017 to create an artwork that told the story of their Reconciliation Action Plan. This involved many sessions with internal stakeholders and community reference groups. What was created is a work that tells the story of their collective Vision, Unity, Energy and Legacy (these formed the layers of the artwork).

Where did the inspiration for your unity symbol design that has been used on the games’ clothing come from?
The unity symbol was created to represent many coming together to make something strong. The central element is based on woven strands; a single strand becoming strong when woven together, making something new and beautiful. This was to not only represent commonwealth athletes coming together to compete here on Aboriginal land, but all Australians coming together to work towards a reconciled and equal nation.


Which is your favourite piece?
I really love the belt. I didn’t notice the artwork used on it at first. I picked up on it later in photographs. It's very subtle, but it's those small touches that make the inclusion of the artwork meaningful. It wasn’t just used once as a token, the designers at R.M.Williams did a fantastic job of truly incorporating the element.

Photo credit David Williams of Gilimbaa

Photo credit David Williams of Gilimbaa

Do you play any sports yourself?
Not unless walking my toy poodle, Korra, is a sport.

If you had to compete in one event at the games what would it be?
Sadly, poodle walking is not yet recognised, but gymnastics is always my favourite to watch.

What does the rest of 2018 have in store for you?
There are a few big artwork projects at Gilimbaa close to launching or in the pipeline so watch this space.


A huge part of any large sporting event, the merchandise at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games will be no different, with four huge dedicated retail outlets and an online store already set up.We caught up with the Manager of Licensing and Merchandising, Pierre Leclerc, to see what they have in store for spectators over the games.

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We noticed online that some items are already sold out, how many items of merchandise do you expect to sell during the games? 

Many items have been produced as ‘limited edition’ and some of these product lines have already sold out. The collectable items have proven particularly popular.

How many items have you sold so far?
Sales have exceeded all expectations so far and about 80% of our total sales will happen within the 11 days of the event.

Which item do you think will be the best seller during the Games?
Without a doubt, the Borobi mascot soft plush toy will be the best seller.

Which is your favourite item of merchandise and why?
The Team Australia products, as they are a great souvenir and supporter item.

What would your advice be to spectators coming to the games wanting to buy merchandise?
Visit the Broadbeach Superstore in Victoria Park on the highway to see the entire range, and get there early as the products will fly off the shelves.

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Article by Sarah Tayler

Sarah Tayler is the Sub Editor at Style Magazines. With a penchant for parmies, pinot gris and all things outdoors, Sarah can often be found hiking, biking or frolicking in the ocean. She loves exploring and has a terrible habit of booking international flights after a few too many vinos, much to her husband's despair.


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