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Vogue World puts on spectacle blending the Olympics with 100 years of French fashion

On International Olympic Day, Vogue World took over the last day of Paris Fashion Week’s menswear collections with a show-cum-spectacle themed around the Olympics to celebrate 100 years of French fashion.

Singer Aya Nakamura warbled. Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid rode horses along the catwalk. Sports stars Venus and Serena Williams modeled on the cobbles with added surprise appearances from pop singers Sabrina Carpenter and Katy Perry at Paris’ Place Vendome.

The rare event blended athleticism, French fashion, and pure, unadulterated razzmatazz from the past century — marking 100 years since the last Games in Paris in 1924.

The event also referred back to June 23, 1894, the day on which the founder of the modern Olympics, French nobleman Pierre de Coubertin, launched the International Olympic Committee.

More than 151 models and 188 athletes took part in the show. Matching different sports to different eras and styles, the high-octane collection extravaganza felt like a polished Broadway musical — with amazing clothes — as the sun set on Paris’ magnificent Place Vendome.

For the third Vogue World event, following a New York street fair in 2022 and a tribute to London’s theater scene in 2023, the show dovetailed with the Paris Games — celebrating all things French and runway. Fashion designs were showcased to a backdrop of tap dancing, pirouetting red-wine-holding waiters, and even models clutching baguettes.

Tracing a century, each decade was paired with a designer and style era. The ‘20s was cycling and featured white coats by designers such as Chanel and Schiaparelli. The ’30s was “track and field” by Balenciaga. The ‘40s, the era that gave the bikini to the world, featured “aquatics” by Jacquemus. The ’50s brought “equestrian” styles shown through the prism of the decade-defining New Look by Dior. The ‘60s was Courreges’ fencing looks.

By the time the ’70s came up with choreographed Givenchy-fueled “gymnastics,” some journalists had completely forgotten to keep taking notes, caught up in the intoxicating sight of the choreographed spectacle on the picturesque plaza, whose star-filled front row, including Pharrell Williams, rivaled even the stars that trod the boards (cobbles).

Venus Williams walks the runway during Vogue World: Paris

Venus Williams walks the runway during Vogue World: Paris (Getty Images for Vogue)

The ‘80s focused on martial arts and the ’90s on soccer, with a reinterpretation of late icon Azzedine Alaia’s tricolor dress. Cheers rose when the Williams sisters appeared for the “tennis” section, Venus in a bold figure-hugging mermaid dress and Serena warrior-like in a black, utilitarian split gown.

The finale featured breakdancing. The atmosphere was electric, serving as an unofficial kickoff for the Paris Games, which will run from July 26 to August 11.

Katy Perry walks the runway during Vogue World: Paris

Katy Perry walks the runway during Vogue World: Paris (Getty Images for Vogue)

Under the lofty ceiling of the historic La Poste du Louvre — Paris’ most emblematic Haussmannian post office that was recently renovated — Japanese it-brand Sacai held its latest collection. Designer Chitose Abe, renowned for her approach of “hybridization,” continued to merge disparate elements into singular, eye-catching pieces, making them look like one thing from the front and another from the back.

Twists were evident throughout the show. Pleats — as seen on white, red carpet tuxedo shirts — were creatively reimagined as billowing white floppy tubular skirts and white boho toggle tops. In darker colors, these off-kilter styles channeled a preppy look, complemented by sheeny leather loafers. Indeed, preppy and military details — Abe’s signatures — were on full display in the funky collection. White shirts, thick-rimmed spectacles, and pinstripes ticked the preppy box; while chunky round shoulders and thick layering ticked the military one.

Pharrell Williams attends Vogue World: Paris

Pharrell Williams attends Vogue World: Paris (Getty Images for Vogue)

The collection also highlighted Abe’s knack for blending the traditional with the modern. Denim, colorful patterns, and huggable knits provided a welcome touch of softness against the harder-lined silhouettes.

In an age dominated by email and heightened environmental awareness, the fashion industry’s antiquated system of invitations remains largely untouched.

Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid ride horses on the runway during Vogue World: Paris

Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid ride horses on the runway during Vogue World: Paris (Getty Images for Vogue)

Season after season, gasoline-guzzling couriers crisscross Paris, personally delivering elaborate, often handmade show invites. Top fashion houses compete for the most imaginative and wacky ideas, often hinting at the runway collection’s theme.

Pharrell Williams’ invitation for his UNESCO show was a Louis Vuitton embossed Apple AirTag, reminiscent of a royal mint memento.

Sabrina Carpenter walks the runway during Vogue World: Paris

Sabrina Carpenter walks the runway during Vogue World: Paris (Getty Images for Vogue)

Loewe’s invite came as a giant colored leather square pocket, too large for any conventional letterbox. Dior Men’s opted for a leather pencil case, topped with a sketch of the collection’s referenced artist and ceramicist, Hylton Nel. In contrast, Vogue World embraced eco-friendliness with a simple QR code sent via email.

Fans went wild on social media for pop star Sabrina Carpenter’s suprise performance in the fashion show. “Oh she’s gorgeous,” wrote one fan on X/Twitter, while another person added: “Our little 5’11 model.”

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