Our time with Wyomia Tyus began over a morning cup of coffee at HQ’s neighborhood coffee shop. Wyomia likes to keep things simple: black coffee and a blueberry scone to begin the day. She shared her excitement over the collection as we talked, all the while reflecting on her childhood that led to the beginning of her running career.

When we headed around the corner and upstairs into our office, her collection greeted her, displayed in full at the entryway. I wish we’d thought to capture this moment. The look on her face, the way she came to an about-face halt, and the sound of her voice as she said: “Oh my, oh wow. This is exactly what I had imagined. It’s what I had hoped. It is beautiful.” It was a deeply precious moment we will always treasure. As a team, we got a bit teary and emotional as we saw and heard her reaction. Well done, Kami, well done.

You’ve read about how this product collection, and new friendship came to be here. Now let’s hear from Kami and Wyomia as they talk about how this collection came to be.

The Inspiration Behind the Collection

Early on in the design process, Wyomia described the attributes of a collection that would capture her essence by describing what in life has been most important to her and who she is: her love of sport and competition, her love of nature as a place for peace and grounding, the importance of having an education and being able to inspire young adults for their future, and finally, her preference to always be comfortable, no matter the situation. Working with Wyomia, we’ve been able to create a collection with colors and silhouettes that speak to each of these desires, individually or pieced together. From cardigans to track pants and tank tops, Wyomia’s collection will meet you wherever you’re at and keep you comfortable wherever you go next. The final result was beyond her imagination. (And yes, she did wear her collection for her flight home to California.)

The Story Behind the "Wyomia Shorts"

However, one item in the collection – the Wyomia Shorts – captures a specific moment in her personal history. A moment that would also make history.

While chatting with Wyomia, she radiated such positivity and enthusiasm that it was hard to imagine her as a reserved college athlete. However, she told us this was in fact the case, and also something Ed Temple encouraged her to work on:

“He would say to me, ‘you have to talk more. You don't talk enough, you know, you have to let people know what you want and need. And you have to say it a little bit more forceful than you do.’”

But, even without words, Wyomia found her own way to make a statement in the 1968 Olympic games. Hence, the “Wyomia Shorts”. In Oiselle style, we love to design apparel fit for competition, and for expression, especially when apparel expresses an important value and message.

Before the games even started, the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR) advised a boycott due to a series of preceding events, including the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and the mass murder of a large group of student protestors in Mexico City less than two weeks before the Olympics. The OPHR’s plans never made it off the ground, so athletes had to find ways to support the cause they believed in as individuals.

Wyomia chose to show her support through her wardrobe. Instead of the official team USA white shorts, Wyomia wore a dark navy pair. She also told a reporter that she dedicated her 100 meter 4x100 relay win to Smith and Carlos, in support of their protest–for which they were expelled from the games. However, her activism was not recognized or acknowledged at the time.

“[Women] want to be first. We want to be the ones that make changes in life. And we can all do that if we all work together, I think.” Wyomia told us during her interview at Oiselle HQ.

It wasn’t really until 2018, the year she published her book Tigerbelle: The Wyomia Tyus Story and the year marking the 50th anniversary of her feat, that the public rediscovered her as a prominent activist. Then again, in 2021, with the Olympic Games return to Tokyo, where she won her first 100-meter gold medal. WSAV3 featured her contribution to the sport in celebration, and anchor Tina Tyus-Shaw (none other than Wyomia Tyus’ niece!) hosted the segment.

A Collection with Meaning + Memories

Clothes, especially when they carry sentimental value, become memorable pieces that represent a story and experience that you hold dearly and want to share. Wyomia’s collection, for many of us, falls squarely in that category. Here’s looking at you, Wyomia. Until the next time we get to design together, we’ll keep on fighting, and staying true. Thank you for inspiring us and trusting us to bring your vision to life. We are humbled and proud to call you friend.

Forever your fans and your friends,

The Oiselle Team

Beth, Amber, Camille, Maggie, Wyomia, Mariama, Michelle, Laila

Atsuko Tamura
Tagged: Style