FRENCH FASHION CATCHES FOOTBALL FEVER

Byline: Katherine Weisman

PARIS — Yves Saint Laurent isn’t the only sports fan. Scads of other companies, from jock giants Nike and Adidas to fashion firms such as Sonia Rykiel and Lanvin have caught football fever.
Nike and Adidas have invested millions of dollars in the World Cup, not just to back teams, but to build huge soccer parks at two key Paris venues. Nike constructed Nike Park in Paris’s La Defense neighborhood, and with its usual aplomb, christened it the Republique Populaire du Football.
Not to be outdone, Adidas, in partnership with Footlocker, has set up its own soccer pavilion, Football Parc, at the dramatic Place de Trocadero. Adidas is also organizing grassroots soccer events around France with “four by four” games involving teams with four players each.
Reebok is taking a mellower route and signed a four-year partnership called “Foot/No Foot” with in-store events including women’s hip-hop demonstrations and fitness showcases.
On a more luxurious note, Louis Vuitton came out with a limited-edition soccer ball in its monogram canvas. Only 3,000 balls were made and retail for a sweet $466, and they have practically sold out, said LVMH chairman Bernard Arnault at the annual shareholders meeting Tuesday. “We really underestimated the demand,” Arnault said.
Sonia Rykiel has also gotten into the soccer spirit and designed a blue soccer jersey with red and white stripes, complete with a black sewn-in tie. The shirt retails for about $132 in the Rykiel women’s flagship and the men’s store on Boulevard St. Germain. Rykiel designed the shirt because she’s quite the soccer fan and plans to attend several matches.
Lanvin is using the World Cup to decorate the windows of its men’s flagship on Faubourg St. Honore with huge soccer paintings by French artist Nathalie Lemaitre.
Even couture customers are going for the goal. Betty Lagardere asked shoe designer Christian Louboutin to design a pair of shoes for her, celebrating the team from her home country, Brazil. Louboutin’s shoes come complete with a little flag in the heel.
And beauty companies, no slouches when it comes to riding a marketing wave, are getting in on the Coupe du Monde. L’Oreal introduced face-painting kits for $6 to the mass market this month. Each of the four kits has a different group of colors so that fans can re-create their country’s flag. The kits will be on sale in supermarkets and hypermarkets only through mid-July.
Men’s beauty companies are also getting in on the act. Movimento, an Italian skin care and fragrance brand, is sponsoring Inter, one of Milan’s teams. As part of the sponsorship, Inter is endorsing Movimento’s pre- and post-workout products, such as a Toning Gel and an After Action Massage Gel.
Polo Sport started a gift-with-purchase in May. With each purchase of a 125-ml. eau de toilette of Polo Sport and an item from the Water Basics line, the buyer received a logoed red, white and blue soccer ball.
Stores are also trying to capitalize on the event.
Printemps has created special services and exhibits to keep soccer widows entertained while their men take in the games.
Tabletop companies at the store will give lessons in how to serve wine and how to set tables according to different countries’ customs.
Beauty firms, including Christian Dior, Serge Luis Alvarez, Yves Saint Laurent, Poudre T. Leclerc and Gemey are offering makeup lessons by appointment, while Shiseido and Decleor give skin and body care treatments in their salons.
For its part, Galeries Lafayette did a poll about the World Cup with French marketing company Ipsos and discovered that 70 percent of women interviewed don’t care at all about the event. But in association with Saint Laurent, an Eiffel Tower with the colors of the perfume Paris d’Yves Saint Laurent will take up the space under the store’s famous stained-glass coupole.
And stores are reporting record sales in television sets. At Conforama, a home furnishings chain owned by Pinault Printemps Redoute, television sales were up 69 percent in May, compared with May 97. “Too bad it’s such a low margin business,” remarked PPR chairman Serge Weinberg.

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