With Paris gearing up to host the 2024 Olympics — and with 150 million euros worth of sponsorship by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton — it is little wonder that some of the museums in the French capital are exploring the growing intersection of fashion and sports.
“La Mode En Mouvement,” or ”Fashion and Movement,” which opened at the Palais Galliera in June, is scheduled until Sept. 7, 2025. And “Mode et Sport: D’un Podium à L’Autre,” or “Fashion and Sports: From One Podium to Another,” was unveiled last week at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs and runs through April 7.
“Fashion and sports are linked because both can play a huge role in shaping our sense of self,” said Sophie Lemahieu, head of the fashion and textiles collections at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs and curator of the “Fashion and Sports” show. “Both worlds also have a particular focus on the shaping and honing of the body, as well as a mutual infatuation with physical perfection.”
The show is chronological, with an initial portion examining how athletes at the first Olympics in ancient Greece participated in the nude and the way in which competitors and spectators already were preoccupied with ideals of the (male) human form. Another area looks at the evolution of sporting attire in the 19th century, when garments dedicated to certain pursuits became more commonplace for both individual and team sports — and for men and women, although without ignoring fashion trends of the time like corsets and bustles.
But the exhibition’s primary focus is on the way that sporty garments became a mainstay of wardrobes in the 20th century and what that reflects about changing lifestyles and people’s aspirations for healthy, luxurious living. In recent years, the convergence of fashion and sport has created a powerful new contemporary consumer culture, from the booming sneaker and athleisure wear markets to high-performance clothes on the runways of fashion week, team uniforms designed by luxury labels and the use of sports stars and athletes as brand ambassadors.
Fashion pioneers between the two world wars such as Jean Patou, Jeanne Lanvin, Gabrielle Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli all found inspiration in sports for their women’s collections, with looks largely designed for lithe and youthful bodies. And accomplished athletes turned fashion entrepreneurs like René Lacoste (tennis), Emilio Pucci (skiing) and Ottavio Missoni (track and field) used their sporting experience to shape the aesthetics and materials of the products they sold and to work the designs of team uniform staples into their fashions. By the 1980s, tracksuits, Lycra looks and sneakers all became cornerstones for millions of contemporary wardrobes, as the cult of the gym-toned body reached new heights thanks to the popularity of aerobics and bodybuilding as well as the growing influence of street culture.
Today, the appetite for active wear is stronger than ever, particularly in the wake of the pandemic, where attitudes toward dress were reshaped for millions around the world.
“Comfort is now something that most consumers expect from their clothing and refuse to compromise on,” Ms. Lemahieu said (despite some lingering exceptions like stiletto heels). “That is a huge change from most clothes throughout history, especially for women, and much of that has been driven by the way in which sports and sporting culture have influenced modern fashion design.”
At the center of the exhibition space is a running track turned runway, with golden rings hanging above in homage to the Olympics. Photographs nearby show some of the sports stars who have been particularly inspirational for fashion designers, including the French soccer coach and former midfielder Zinedine Zidane for Dior and the Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka for Louis Vuitton, and the track is dotted with mannequins displaying notable sports-inspired catwalk looks from designers including Maria Grazia Chiuri and John Galliano for Dior, Issey Miyake and Alexander McQueen.
Ms. Lemahieu said fashion and sports today have a shared global language that can be communicated in an instant, and are major vehicles of live entertainment as well as strong shapers of self identity that anyone can adopt. And as the two worlds continue to collaborate and collide, she added, we should expect their joint power to grow.
“People find so much inspiration and a sense of community from sports heroes and fashion brands — more so than most other industries,” she said. “This exhibition shows that they are two worlds that have far more in common than many might think.”