At P.S.G., a Style Few Clubs Can Match


PARIS — A few days before Paris St.-Germain traveled to Liverpool in September to begin its latest quest to win the Champions League, Dani Alves and Kylian Mbappé stood on a stage in a starkly lit room in the basement of the Parc des Princes.

In front of them, a crowd of dozens of journalists, social-media influencers and fashion bloggers milled around, watching freestyle soccer players run through their dazzling array of tricks. The décor was industrial chic. Exposed pipes ran along the ceiling. Goal posts and basketball hoops had been arranged to create a replica of an urban ball court.

Alves and Mbappé — alongside Wang Shuang and Marie-Antoinette Katoto, members of P.S.G.’s women’s team — were not there to play, though. They were there to stand, to pose, to model. For once, inside their home stadium, they were not the star attractions. All anyone cared about, really, was what they were wearing.

The team is wearing the new kit in the Champions League this season — a uniform for the conquest of Europe — but it exists because P.S.G.’s horizons have shifted far from the old world, onto soccer’s emerging markets of Asia and North America, and the wealth that awaits within them.

“We go,” the P.S.G. merchandising executive Fabien Allègre said, “where other clubs don’t.”

The connection between P.S.G. — the French capital’s only top-flight soccer team — and the city’s fashion houses is a longstanding one. The designer Daniel Hechter served as the club’s president for five years in the 1970s, and is regarded as one of the driving forces behind the team’s foundation.

It was Hechter who designed P.S.G.’s traditional look — a red vertical stripe, bordered with white, on a blue background — during his reign. The story goes that he based his creation on the red-and-white jersey worn by Ajax, the Dutch champion dominating European competition at the time.

Increasingly, though, P.S.G. is using both that bond and Paris’s reputation as a global fashion hub to forge its 21st-century identity.

That reputation has been created, in part, by the frequent sightings of famous faces like Naomi Campbell, Leonardo DiCaprio, Rihanna and the Kardashians — in the V.I.P. boxes at the Parc des Princes. Virgil Abloh, Louis Vuitton’s artistic director, is a regular at matches.

Taking in a P.S.G. game has become fashionable, it seems, for any Hollywood star or prominent athlete visiting Paris. But the club’s jersey and crest have become something of a fashion statement for the A-list, too: Beyoncé and the British singer Rita Ora have worn pieces by Koché. Justin Timberlake wore a jacket emblazoned with the then-unreleased Jumpman logo at a concert in Paris in July, and LeBron James turned up for a Los Angeles Lakers game in a P.S.G. shirt last month.

P.S.G. insists all of that interest is entirely organic. “Some stars want to come,” Allègre said. “Others are invited.”

To the deeply cynical soccer world, though, there is a fine line between Hollywood sheen and public-relations artifice. P.S.G.’s celebrity following has served simply to accentuate its reputation as somehow inauthentic, a plaything for the rich and famous, a passionately supported team turned into a high-end tourist destination.

For all that fans of the team worry that its soul has been lost, there is a sporting purpose behind the club owner’s approach. The fashion collaborations and the celebrity appearances, the club believes, can have a genuine impact on its fortunes.

“Since we bought the club, we have tried to be even more different, more unique, more creative,” Khelaifi said in an interview at the launch of the Air Jordan event. “This partnership is going to bring us more fans around the world: fans who love basketball and soccer, who love fashion, who love Michael Jordan and who love Paris.”

It is an approach that Kocher, at least, contends is working. Her collection, she said, helped the club “raise the prestige of the brand” and would convince those inclined to be scornful of soccer that the worlds could commingle. “I have had fashion fans who have told me that they would never have worn a soccer outfit, but this is kind of hip and almost desirable,” she said. When she visited a luxury boutique P.S.G. opened in Tokyo this fall, she said, she noted that many of the lifestyle items had sold out.



Source link Nytimes.com

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