Vogue World celebrates French style, Olympics amid razzmatazz, as menswear season wraps up in Paris

PARIS (AP) — French singing star Aya Nakamura warbled. Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid rode horses. While Venus and Serena Williams and Katy Perry modeled on the cobbles. This was Paris' Place Vendome as never seen before.

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.

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.

Here are some highlights of collections Sunday:

Vogue World paints the town red (white and blue)

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).

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 Aug. 11.

Sacai's hybrid

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.

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.

The art of the invitation

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

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. 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.

Wooyoungmi's fusion of East and West

Madame Woo of Wooyoungmi is renowned for her fusion of Parisian — or European — elegance and Korean cultural heritage. The South Korean designer’s creations blend traditional elements from her homeland with a contemporary, open-minded view of culture. On Sunday, her show was a testament to this.

Leather Derby shoes were effortlessly paired with cropped Renaissance laced pants adorned with traditional decorative neck beading.

Other looks masterfully combined the rugged allure of the American Wild West with details like decorated belts and a perforated long coat, reminiscent of fashion-forward leather hide.

Madame Woo often transforms utilitarian basics into luxurious, tactile masterpieces, as seen in previous collections featuring lush blue velvet chore coats and fine brushed suede uniform jackets.

Cropped black leather biker pants and a Wooyoungmi logo-emblazoned baseball top on Sunday ensured that, despite the rich cultural references, eclecticism was the name of the game this spring.

Thomas Adamson, The Associated Press