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PARIS — Many Parisians say they’re dreading the 2024 Olympics. Indeed, “cauchemar” is the word most frequently used to describe the prospect of accommodating 15 million visitors in what is already Europe’s most densely populated city. (The forecast is more than double the number of tourists who visited the Paris region in July and August last year).

But separating French fatalism from real concerns over how the games will impact life in Paris for locals and visitors alike, from road closures and security checkpoints to price gouging by airlines and hotels, has been challenging.

For fashion brands, getting to grips with the situation is critical: The upcoming menswear and haute couture seasons — scheduled for June 18 to 25 — will take place just as preparations for the games, which open July 25, kick into overdrive.

For the past year, Paris authorities have communicated proactively on the perimetres of various “yellow” and “red zones” — areas that will find themselves enclosed by security checkpoints — as well as various changes to public transit during the games.

Still, the infrastructure for the Games won’t pop up overnight, and information on how the lead up to the event will impact Paris Fashion Week has only gradually come into focus, making it difficult for brands to plan.

‘This Won’t be a Tiny Fashion Week’

The FHCM (Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode), Paris Fashion Week’s organising body, has sought to reassure participants that with enough advance planning, the challenges for fashion week can be overcome.

“Security, deliveries, casting, production — pulling all of this off will depend on dialogue with the brands, with the authorities,” FHCM president Pascal Morand said. “But so far, the general feeling is that everyone, including the City, wants this fashion week to be a success.”

For over a year, the Federation has been working with authorities including the police prefecture, City of Paris, Olympic Committee and French Ministry of Culture, maintaining a running list of 260 venues that are often used for fashion week and keeping track of how they’ll be impacted.

This won’t be a tiny fashion week. 2024 will be a great year for Paris — including Paris fashion.

The group reinforced its partnership with the Palais de Tokyo, a contemporary art museum in the 16th arrondissement that already hosts many shows, in the hopes that more emerging brands can take advantage of the sprawling venue, which already has contracts in place for production, lighting and security.

While the official calendar isn’t expected before late April, the Federation says around 90 percent of brands have confirmed their slots for both the menswear and couture season. Valentino is among the handful of absences, though the brand cancelled its next two shows due to the arrival of a new designer rather than the Olympics.

“This won’t be a tiny fashion week. 2024 will be a great year for Paris — including Paris fashion,” Morand said.

City Centre Hold-Ups

In February, Condé Nast and FHCM announced they had partnered to bring Anna Wintour’s “Vogue World” extravaganza to Paris for the first time this June, during haute couture. The move sent a signal that this year’s fashion weeks would be unmissable as ever despite the disruptions.

Of course, in order for Vogue to have secured the complete shutdown of Place Vendôme for the event, it can’t have hurt that most traffic in the neighbourhood will already be cut off.

The city recently confirmed that nearby Place de la Concorde would be closed down completely in June as it is transformed into an “urban sports” venue for events including skateboarding and BMX. Concorde, the former site of the guillotine, is now a sprawling traffic square that connects key Paris arteries like the Champs-Elysées, Rue de Rivoli and streets running along the River Seine. The Concorde and Tuileries metro stations will also be closed.

For participants who plan on staying in or doing business in the neighbourhood’s hotels like the Crillon, Meurice, Westin or even the Paris Ritz, comfortable footwear and a manageable schedule are likely in order.

A rendering of the skate and BMX park that will shut down Paris' Place de la Concorde square.
A rendering of the skate and BMX park that will shut down Paris’ Place de la Concorde square.

Pont Alexandre III (the bridge connecting venues like the Petit Palais or nearby Avenue Montaigne with the Left Bank) will also be closed in preparation for July 25′s Opening Ceremony on the River Seine. Only the lower quais are set to be closed during June, but the flurry of set-up along the riverbanks will make for tight passage all around.

Production Challenge

Those blocked thoroughfares come on top of other challenges: dozens of venues that might otherwise host fashion shows have been requisitioned for the games.

“The biggest complexity is about the venues — many of the usual and iconic places are being used for the Olympics. The same goes for the construction companies and other suppliers… Then the police prefecture has wanted to examine requests at least two months in advance — and they are being much more strict,” said Emmanuel Heimann, global managing director at production company La Mode En Images.

“The solution has been to work a long time in advance: for the biggest brands we encouraged them to decide things much earlier than they usually would,” Heimann added. Smaller brands who tend to operate at the last minute may struggle: “Literally everything is booked up,” he said.

Security, Travel Costs

With municipal and national police forces slated to be fully mobilised during the Olympics, fashion brands are being asked to hire private security to assist with arrivals traffic and other safety issues. While most big brands already use private security, smaller labels often request city approval at the last minute and still count on police to lend a hand with security.

Travel costs have been another concern, but while Paris airfares had initially spiked for the whole summer, prices on many routes have come back down to relatively normal levels until the games begin in earnest.

The price of full-service hotels continues to climb, however, with Olympics price gouging speeding up a phenomenon that has already strained budgets for fashion and design weeks in Paris and Milan in recent years. Some businessy addresses like the 4-star Westin Paris Vendôme remain within reach (remaining rooms during mens week start at €400/night), but palaces like the Hôtel Georges V are priced from an eye-popping €2,980.

For fashion week visitors toying with the idea of switching to a rental apartment, this could be the season to take the plunge: many Parisians have converted their homes to vacation rentals this summer in the hopes of cashing in on the Olympics boom, meaning trendy accommodations in neighbourhoods less impacted by the games are currently on offer.

Worth the Hassle?

While the season may pose more logistical challenges than usual, the increased international spotlight on Paris could also make the season an important moment for brands to reaffirm their French identity — as well as a chance to accelerate their efforts on forging closer ties to sport.

From an Opening Ceremony that will involve 160 boats parading down the Seine River, to fencing in the Grand Palais to horse jumping in the gardens of Versailles, the Paris 2024 Olympics are sure to count among the most telegenic sporting events in history.

But athletes’ big tie-ups with sportswear brands, the Olympic Committee’s long-standing sponsorship deals with the likes of Omega and LVMH’s “premier” partnership with the Paris Games could all make it tricky for other designer brands to steal the spotlight, so fashion week remains their best bet.

“So far, it doesn’t feel like a drama,” fashion publicist Lucien Pagès said. “Brands who want to show are going to show.”

“Just because there is the Olympics doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to do something spectacular,” Heimann said. “Fashion doesn’t stop.”



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