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Will the French Olympic Team Be Best Dressed at the Opening Ceremony?

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Will the French Olympic Team Be Best Dressed at the Opening Ceremony?

In the sprawling fashion show that will be the 2024 Summer Olympics — the various ceremonial fits, the performance uniforms, the podium kit, the merch — there is perhaps no more freighted look than what the French delegation will wear to the opening ceremony.

Not only is France the host country, but it has enlisted LVMH, the world’s largest luxury conglomerate, as a lead sponsor, meaning that fashion and all other forms of sumptuously chic craft have become part of the story of the event — beginning with the OC outfit. Which means it has to represent not just France, not just French athletes, but Frenchness itself, that je ne sais quoi of Gallic style. And it has to look good on approximately 1,400 members of the Olympic and Paralympic delegation as they march down the side of the Seine in the heat of the European summer.

No pressure. On Tuesday, a hundred days out from the Games, as the Olympic torch begins to make its way from Athens to Paris, the looks were finally revealed.

Tapped to fulfill the job was Berluti, a surprising choice by LVMH given that it is one of the group’s smaller houses, a men’s wear brand and doesn’t even have an official designer — and other potential candidates included Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Givenchy and Kenzo. It is exactly because of all that, however, that Berluti stands to benefit the most from the gig. Also, Antoine Arnault, the LVMH Olympics czar, said, “Berluti is the temple of bespoke and thus capable of outfitting a swimmer, a basketball player or a gymnast.” If the brand gets it right, it’s a win even without a medal.

So did they?

Designed in collaboration with Carine Roitfeld, the former editor of French Vogue, current editor of CR Fashion Book, and an all-around famous Frenchwoman, the looks are a valiant attempt to rewrite the rules of athlete outfits that somehow also call to mind Alain Delon and Catherine Deneuve playing Pan Am flight attendants on the lam at Le Palace.

“We started with the idea of a suit,” Ms. Roitfeld said on a call from Paris. “Which is a bit new for sport, because usually they go more for the jogging or the shorts.” When Ms. Roitfeld said “jogging,” she gave a small sniff, as if she had just smelled some congealed salmon mousse.

But, she went on, not just any suit. “We wanted something more classic, chic, for special moments. So I thought of Le Smoking.”

Otherwise known as a tuxedo, the smoking is a quintessentially French garment, though, because the Berluti Olympic smoking is in blue, to match the French flag, it also looks less like a tuxedo and more like a normal suit. The shawl collar lapels, with their glossy dégradé version of the French tricolor (dégradé being a fashion term for colors that seem to fade gradually into one another), also refers to a Berluti loafer treatment, in addition to nodding to the official French team uniforms, designed by Stéphane Ashpool of Pigalle (while providing a contrast to the Pigalle streetwear edge).

Ms. Roitfeld said she was surprised when she was asked to work with Berluti on the OC looks, since “usually my style is more sleek, is long, is black.” Also, she said, she had never actually been to an Olympics and generally did not “do sport.” But she liked the idea of a challenge, and she really liked the idea of celebrating French taste.

Along with Le Smoking, this idea is represented by a matching silk scarf, which can be tucked into a pocket like a hankie or tied around the neck like a foulard. The jacket also comes in a sleeveless style and with matching slim pants or a straight skirt cut to the knee. The athletes will be able to adjust the length as they wish, so, Ms. Roitfeld said, “maybe she can feel a bit the wind under the skirt.”

Worn with the jacket is a tailored white shirt — the kind, Ms. Roitfeld said, that made her think of a young man dancing at a nightclub after a black tie event, when he had taken off his tie and loosed the buttons at the neck. (This idea may be somewhat lost in the sunshine of the opening.) Accessories include a logo belt, black sneakers with a dégradé sole and slim-line leather loafers.

Of course, it is possible that, in the parade of nations, such looks will seem less reminiscent of air travel and more surprising than they do in a photo shoot framed by the ornate environs of a classic hôtel particulier in Place Vendôme. In the context of the other Olympic opening fits, which include Ralph Lauren’s designs for the United States, Lululemon’s for Canada and Armani’s for Italy, they may stand out for offering luxe, calme et volupté, the lite version.

They already have one fan, in any case. Ms. Roitfeld said she would happily wear the skirt. She added, though, that she would probably make it “a little tighter.”

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