When I was in Paris this past spring break, my mother and I went to the Yves Saint Laurent exhibition. The Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris Inaugural Display “exhibits the couturier’s body of work on the legendary premises of his former haute couture house.” It focuses on both Yves Saint Laurent’s creative genius and the process of designing a haute couture collection. The first room of the exhibition showed a short video of his life and the trajectory of his career. Surrounded by fashion, the last thing I expected was for soccer or the World Cup to be mentioned, but the video focused briefly on Yves Saint Laurent’s extraordinary show, preceding the 1998 World Cup. Because it was such a short clip, I knew I wanted to do more research when I got home to see why the World Cup, beyond its international stage, was the place where Yves Saint Laurent wanted to have a fashion show.
I came across a New York Times article from July 14, 1998 titled “YSL Propels French Fashion Into the TV Age,” which recapped this historical event and provided quotes from Saint Laurent, himself, as well as other important figures that planned the show. Unlike today, where everything is easily accessible through the web and social media is used to influence people, fashion previously did not want to embrace this multimedia age. Therefore, Yves Saint Laurent’s show before the World Cup final “not only made fashion history as an event watched by an estimated billion television spectators it marked a rite of passage for French fashion.” The article stated that this monumental fashion show symbolized that “Paris haute couture has finally embraced the small screen.” The following week, the article notes, would be the first time couture showings would get television treatment, and the American public could view countless runway shows on TV for the first time. However, no couture runways could be as spectacular as the vast soccer pitch, where models celebrated Saint Laurent’s 40 years in fashion. Fashion was integrated into the pitch, as “the massed yellow-and-green banners of Brazil and France’s blue, white, and red wire challenged by a display of placards bearing YSL’s shocking pink and orange house colors.” Fashion and fashion shows are often regarded as spectacles and within these shows, feminist scholars often argue that women also become spectacles, which can seen both objectifying and empowering. Nevertheless, I thought how this related to the first article we read in the beginning of the semester, “Football as World-View and as Ritual” by Christian Bromberger. He notes that not only is the action on the pitch a spectacle, but also the entire stadium can be seen as a spectacle, as Bromberger refers to the crowd and the fans that come to see their favorite teams. When I originally thought of fashion, specifically high fashion such as haute couture, I would have never really thought about its connection with soccer; however, both fields have this universality aspect and spectacle element, which is why I think the 1998 World Cup became a stage where haute couture was celebrated and promoted.