Remembering Paris 1968: Fashion Theatre of Protest

Ele­na Siemens


Table of Con­tents | Arti­cle doi: 10.17742/IMAGE.OI.10.2.7 | PDF

The con­trib­u­tors to this cre­ative port­fo­lio com­ment in images and words on the high-fash­ion brands’ cam­paigns com­mem­o­rat­ing the 50th anniver­sary of the Paris 1968 stu­dent protests. Young schol­ars them­selves, many par­tic­i­pants charge Dior, Guc­ci, Sonia Rykiel, YSL, and oth­ers with pur­su­ing their cov­etous com­mer­cial inter­ests.

Ele­na Siemens, “Dior’s Win­dow” (Van­cou­ver 2018)

My col­lage is pri­mar­i­ly a response to the Guc­ci Dans Les Rues cam­paign that cel­e­brates the 50th anniver­sary of the Paris 1968 protests in a way that is glam­or­ized and hyp­o­crit­i­cal,” Sam Beethan states. Sim­i­lar­ly, Maria Andrade points out that “it is impor­tant to ques­tion Gucci’s motives.” She adds: “How­ev­er, the cam­paign takes direct inspi­ra­tion from a his­tor­i­cal event and it ref­er­ences the youth­ful ener­gy in a way that is not look­ing past the hor­rif­ic events, but com­mem­o­rat­ing them.” Gillian Herbert’s con­tri­bu­tion “brings across the mes­sage of com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion and com­mer­cial­iza­tion that appears to have tak­en place with­in the Dior cam­paign.”

Ele­na Siemens, “Street Ven­dors on Granville” (Van­cou­ver 2018)

Sev­er­al con­tri­bu­tions address the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of space in the 1968 inspired adver­tis­ing cam­paigns. Coris­sa Tymafichuk’s empha­sizes “an emo­tion­al dis­con­nect between the pro­tes­tors in the pho­tos of May ’68 and the actors used in Guc­ci Dans Les Rues.” She com­ments that the “real riots took place in the streets, with pro­tes­tors dig­ging up pavé to use as weapons and over­turn­ing cars to bar­ri­cade police.” Where­as Guc­ci, Tyma­fichuk con­tin­ues, choos­es to use “a mix of indoor and out­door spaces … in a com­plete­ly staged inter­pre­ta­tion of May ’68.” In Natalya Boiko’s col­lage, her hand-made card­board cob­ble­stones “point to the impor­tance of space in the over­all atmos­phere and mean­ing of the Youthquake.” In par­tic­u­lar, Boiko com­ments on Sonia Rykiel’s anniver­sary cam­paign that “turns the sym­bol of vio­lent rebel­lion” into a high-priced hand­bag, and how this alters the mean­ing of “the once rev­o­lu­tion­ary space of the street.”

Ele­na Siemens, “Street Ven­dors on Granville” (Van­cou­ver 2018)

Many con­trib­u­tors seek to con­nect the past and the present in a more mean­ing­ful way. Ali­da Radke’s col­lage “puts black-and-white pho­tographs of real ’68 pro­test­ers along­side colour pho­tographs of mod­els act­ing as pro­test­ers from Gucci’s Dans Les Rues cam­paign and Dior’s Fall 2018 col­lec­tion.” Rad­ke writes: “I made half of the back­ground in black and white and half in colour to bet­ter put the past in con­ver­sa­tion with the present.” In Parul Kanwar’s col­lage, “rugged­ly paint­ed words ‘Egal­ité! Lib­erté! Sex­u­al­ité!’ pay homage” to the 1968 riots, as well as “ref­er­enc­ing Gucci’s adver­tise­ment in which a girl can be seen writ­ing this slo­gan on a wash­room wall.” Designed “in the form of a protest sign,” Jil­lian Harbin’s con­tri­bu­tion com­bines per­son­al pho­tog­ra­phy and images “of the actu­al Youthquake move­ment.” Harbin places “the 1968 pho­tos on the edges of the col­lage, as a nod to how these stu­dents pushed the bound­aries and lim­i­ta­tions ini­tial­ly placed upon them.”

Stand­ing some­what apart, Thomas Wier’s con­tri­bu­tion fore­grounds the present. Wier focus­es on the young French design­er Marine Serre and her sus­tain­able fash­ion. He explains: “Serre chan­nels the mind­set of the ’68 pro­test­ers, but in a way that feels very con­tem­po­rary and aware of the issues that now impact young peo­ple in 2018.”

Ele­na Siemens, “Tiffany’s Win­dow” (Brus­sels 2018)

My set of images accom­pa­ny­ing this intro­duc­tion also sug­gests that some­times a loose asso­ci­a­tion makes a greater impact than a more lit­er­al one. A case in point is Tiffany's flam­boy­ant win­dow dis­play in Brus­sels. With its cutout of a hood­ed graf­fi­ti artist spray-paint­ing the brand's name over the store­front, Tiffany's com­mu­ni­cates more rev­o­lu­tion­ary ener­gy than the neat pile of red cob­ble­stones in Sonia Rykiel's thought­ful but over­stat­ed win­dow dis­play next door. Sim­i­lar­ly, the street ven­dors' takeover of Granville Street in Van­cou­ver evokes the spir­it of 1968 with a greater force than Dior's hybrid mise-en-scène of high fash­ion and graf­fi­ti on the neigh­bour­ing West Geor­gia Street.

Ele­na Siemens, “Har­vey Nichols Win­dow” (Lon­don 2018)

In Lon­don, the Har­vey Nichols depart­ment store dis­played heaps of news­pa­pers fea­tur­ing provoca­tive head­lines. Designed to pro­mote a new menu at the store’s restau­rant, the campaign’s tagline “Veg Out!” read like a Sit­u­a­tion­ist slo­gan (albeit re-com­mer­cial­ized and reab­sorbed for con­sumerist soci­ety). An inspi­ra­tion behind the 1968 protests, the Sit­u­a­tion­ist Inter­na­tion­al and its spir­i­tu­al leader Guy Debord encour­aged peo­ple to paint cities with state­ments such as “Nev­er Work” and “It’s For­bid­den To For­bid” (Lewisohn 75).

When asked about the famous Odessa step sequence in his film clas­sic Bat­tle­ship Potemkin (1925), Sergei Eisen­stein replied that it was the result of a pure­ly “spon­ta­neous encounter” (173). A fierce advo­cate of the “col­li­sion mon­tage,” he offered this expla­na­tion: “Chance brings a sharp­er, more pow­er­ful res­o­lu­tion” than any “pre­lim­i­nary out­line” (Eisen­stein qtd. in Siemens 24).

Ele­na Siemens, “Har­vey Nichols Win­dow” (Lon­don 2018)

Works Cited

Eisen­stein, Sergei. “A Mir­a­cle in the Bol­shoi The­atre.” Beyond the Stars: The Mem­oirs of Sergei Eisen­stein. Edit­ed by Richard Tay­lor, BFI Pub­lish­ing, 1995. Print.

Lewisohn, Cedar. Street Art: The Graf­fi­ti Rev­o­lu­tion, Abrams, 2008.

Siemens, Ele­na. The­atre in Pass­ing 2: Search­ing for New Ams­ter­dam. Intel­lect, 2015.


2018 marks five decades since the French Protests of May 1968. The events of '68 chal­lenged Con­ser­v­a­tive val­ues, both eco­nom­ic and social. The youth of France demon­strat­ed, riot­ed, and adopt­ed dress that sub­vert­ed the atti­tudes and appear­ance of those in pow­er. The influ­ence of the events of '68 can still be seen in con­tem­po­rary soci­ety today. Look­ing to Paris Fash­ion Week 2018, design­ers can be seen chanelling both the mind­set and the styles of the pro­test­ers. A rebel­lious yet func­tion­al styl­ish­ness can be observed in the work of the young design­er, Marine Serre. Serre’s style ref­er­ences issues with­in Fash­ion and the world at large. Her sus­tain­able approach to design also bat­tles issues asso­ci­at­ed with cli­mate change and fast fash­ion. Through­out her work, Serre chan­nels the mind­set of the '68 pro­test­ers, but in a way that feels very con­tem­po­rary and aware of the issues that now impact young peo­ple in 2018.
Thomas Wier

Using the Boule­vard Saint Ger­main (one of the sites of the 1968 riots) as a back­ground, my col­lage puts black-and-white pho­tographs of real ’68 pro­test­ers along­side colour pho­tographs of mod­els act­ing as pro­test­ers from Gucci’s Dans Les Rues cam­paign and Dior’s Fall 2018 col­lec­tion. In addi­tion, I made half of the back­ground in black and white and half in colour to bet­ter put the past in con­ver­sa­tion with the present. I paid spe­cial atten­tion to the facial expres­sions of both the riot­ers and the mod­els, as the group of six pro­test­ers in the mid­dle dis­play emo­tions of anger and pain appro­pri­ate to a riot, where­as the mod­els show lit­tle to no emo­tion­al invest­ment at all. The actu­al pro­test­ers in the low­er right cor­ner appear injured, as many were dur­ing the riots, some­thing often left out of nos­tal­gic por­tray­als, as images of bloody, injured riot­ers would not help sell a super­fi­cial image of ’68 to future gen­er­a­tions.
Ali­da Rad­ke

My col­lage is pri­mar­i­ly a response to the Guc­ci Dans Les Rues cam­paign that cel­e­brates the 50th anniver­sary of the Paris 1968 protests in a way that is glam­or­ized and hyp­o­crit­i­cal. In par­tic­u­lar, I saw a dis­so­nance between how Guc­ci posi­tions itself as an exclu­sive, high-priced design­er cloth­ing brand and the real­i­ty of the Paris 1968 events. My col­lage is com­posed of three pri­ma­ry sources designed to high­light the stark con­trast between Guc­ci and the protests: par­tial images of the pro­mo­tion­al mate­r­i­al for Guc­ci Dans Les Rues cam­paign, signs cre­at­ed by the pro­test­ers, and images of the actu­al protests that depict the vio­lence of the events. In so doing, I aim to empha­size exact­ly why I think Gucci’s use of this mon­u­men­tal event is disin­ge­nious. What struck me most about the Guc­ci cam­paign was how fun the scenes of protest seemed. I have crossed out “Egal­ité” in the store­front scene, plac­ing the price of the “Re(belle) leather back­pack” beside it, to high­light the dis­con­nect between the equal­i­ty the riot­ers fought for and the high-class dis­tinc­tions asso­ci­at­ed with the Guc­ci brand.
Sam Beethan

Soyez Réal­istes, Deman­dez l’Impossible!” (Be real­is­tic, demand the impos­si­ble!) is the title I chose for my cre­ative piece, draw­ing from a slo­gan used by Parisian youth pro­test­ers dur­ing the May ’68 riots in France. My col­lage tran­si­tions from the Paris riots on Rive Gauche, por­trayed in black and white, to the bright fash­ion trans­for­ma­tion of Youthquake in the 60s, fin­ish­ing with 2018 fash­ion cam­paigns that com­mem­o­rate the 50th anniver­sary of both rev­o­lu­tions. The per­for­mance space affects the pub­lic per­cep­tion of both May ’68 and Guc­ci Dans Les Rues. There is an emo­tion­al dis­con­nect between the pro­tes­tors in the pho­tos of May ’68 and the actors used in Guc­ci Dans Les Rues. May ’68 pho­tos show hurt, bleed­ing, and exhaust­ed peo­ple. The Guc­ci cam­paign shows a stu­dent protest that looks fun. The dif­fer­ence is due to the per­for­mance space of both events. The real riots took place on the streets, with pro­test­ers dig­ging up pavé to use as weapons and over­turn­ing cars to bar­ri­cade police. The Guc­ci cam­paign uses a mix of indoor and out­door spaces, such as a class­room or an alley­way, in a com­plete­ly staged inter­pre­ta­tion of May ’68. The inten­tion is dif­fer­ent, as Gucci’s cam­paign is designed to sell design­er prod­ucts.
Coris­sa Tyma­fichuk

#Guc­ci­DansLesRues com­mem­o­rates the peri­od marked by youth­ful dis­gust and revolt. The youth would not stop until “lib­er­ty, equal­i­ty, and sex­u­al­i­ty” were ful­ly embraced. This fash­ion cam­paign was shot by Glen Luchford and is filled with glam­orous, youth­ful, anar­chic rage inter­twined with lib­er­at­ing sex­u­al­i­ty. Guc­ci has been crit­i­cized for roman­ti­cis­ing the 1968 riots and using the youths’ anti-insti­tu­tion slo­gans to cre­ate prof­it. I believe it is impor­tant to ques­tion Gucci’s motives. How­ev­er, the cam­paign takes direct inspi­ra­tion from a his­tor­i­cal event and it ref­er­ences the youth­ful ener­gy in a way that is not look­ing past the hor­rif­ic events, but com­mem­o­rat­ing them. In my col­lage, I com­pare the #Guc­ci­DansLesRues cam­paign with the May 1968 protests by includ­ing images from Luchford’s short film on the left side and the archival images of the riots on the right side. I include as well the slo­gans that were put up by the French youth: “BE YOUNG AND SHUT UP” and “THE BEAUTY IN REVOLUTION.” In the cen­tre I have added a pic­ture of myself dressed in an all-red attire in a pant suit and sneak­ers with the words “Essen­tial Rev­o­lu­tion” embla­zoned across the page. I chose to include this image of myself because the every­day per­son holds pow­er to cre­ate change even when every­one is telling them that they can­not.
Maria Andrade

High fash­ion brands such as Dior and Guc­ci have ref­er­enced the Youthquake in their 2018 anniver­sary cam­paigns. I have record­ed this in my col­lage, which incor­po­rates, among oth­er things, ref­er­ences to Dior and its peace sym­bol. The col­lage also por­trays sev­er­al dis­tinct fash­ion styles, such as the shift dress asso­ci­at­ed with the rev­o­lu­tion­ary atti­tude of the times. In addi­tion, I includ­ed an image of the Eif­fel Tow­er col­laps­ing, sev­er­al archival images of the 1968 riots, and a pic­ture of a girl hold­ing a red ban­ner. The stu­dents took over the Bourse, the Paris Stock Exchange, and plas­tered land­marks with red rev­o­lu­tion­ary flags.
Dan Wais­si

My col­lage aims to emu­late the Dior Fall/Winter 2018 Fash­ion Week. For their back­drop, Dior incor­po­rat­ed many lay­ered words and mag­a­zine cov­ers. I took inspi­ra­tion from this. I cut out dif­fer­ent mag­a­zine and news­pa­per head­lines and adver­tise­ments to cre­ate a sim­i­lar look. My objec­tive was to bring across the mes­sage of com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion and com­mer­cial­iza­tion that appears to have tak­en place with the Dior cam­paign. I have added a hash­tag to Dior’s icon­ic NON brand­ing as a way to empha­size its moder­ni­ty and to make this move­ment “trendy.” The way this major brand enveloped a youth move­ment and turned it into some­thing com­mer­cial sug­gests that the famous sub­cul­ture the­o­rist Dick Heb­di­ge may have under­es­ti­mat­ed main­stream culture’s abil­i­ty to hybridize and com­mer­cial­ize sub­cul­tures and their style. The absorp­tion and adop­tion of this youth move­ment by Dior under­mines the strug­gle and actu­al expe­ri­ence of the stu­dents who were involved in the protest, by tak­ing the per­son­al and polit­i­cal issues which were impor­tant to them and then repack­ag­ing and mar­ket­ing them to Dior’s high-end clien­tele. This com­mer­cial­iza­tion of protest dis­tances what was intend­ed as an homage from the actu­al issues the Youthquake move­ment rep­re­sent­ed.
Gillian Her­bert

Paved streets of Paris, which once indi­cat­ed a pros­per­ous soci­ety, became a weapon dur­ing the 1968 revolts. My col­lage fur­ther inco­po­rates the revolt’s slo­gan “sous les paves, la plage” (“under the cob­ble­stones, the beach”). This Sit­u­a­tion­ist slo­gan refers to stu­dents’ desire to escape con­trol­ling insti­tu­tions. The cob­ble­stones in my col­lage point to the impor­tance of space in the over­all atmos­phere and mean­ing of the Youthquake. The fash­ion cam­paigns from 2018 also incor­po­rate ref­er­ences to cob­ble­stones, as in Sonia Rykiel’s totes. Rykiel turns the sym­bol of vio­lent rebel­lion into a harm­less hand­bag that costs over $900, alter­ing the over­all mean­ing of the once rev­o­lu­tion­ary space of the street.
Natalya Boiko

This col­lage is made up of sev­er­al com­po­nents. I have placed the out­line of France at the cen­tre of the col­lage and colour on the edges, mak­ing the entire page resem­ble the French flag. I also bring atten­tion to the con­nec­tion between the orig­i­nal 1968 Paris riots and the 2018 anniver­sary fash­ion cam­paigns. The riots result­ed from stu­dent and work­er dis­sat­is­fac­tion with cap­i­tal­ism and cap­i­tal­ist cul­ture. These fash­ion cam­paigns, how­ev­er, are inher­ent­ly part of the cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem, as they adver­tise prod­ucts for sale. In my col­lage, this con­tra­dic­tion is sym­bol­ized by the cracked and bro­ken bor­ders of the colours, and the jux­ta­po­si­tion of images from the riots and the 2018 fash­ion cam­paigns.
Hope Jubenvill

As Susan Son­tag once said, "the prob­lems of this world are only tru­ly solved in two ways: by extinc­tion or dupli­ca­tion". Gucci's Dans Les Rues cam­paign (2018) focus­es on the recre­ation of the prob­lems that con­tin­ue to plague the world in the present. My col­lage rep­re­sents the union of the two events, past and present, dif­fer­ent worlds apart brought togeth­er through their polit­i­cal sub­stance. The use of see-through film rep­re­sents the desire for trans­paren­cy, and the red and black cross-sec­tion sym­bol­is­es the con­straints placed on the youth whose pic­tures are sta­tioned behind the cage-like struc­ture. Last­ly, rugged­ly paint­ed words "Egal­ité! Lib­erté! Sex­u­al­ité!" pay homage to one of the most pop­u­lar slo­gans used dur­ing 1968 riots while also ref­er­enc­ing Gucci's adver­tise­ment in which a girl can be seen writ­ing this slo­gan on a pub­lic wash­room wall. My col­lage con­veys the con­ver­gence of Youthquake of 1968 and the present day as rep­re­sent­ed by Guc­ci. The youth of today play a crit­i­cal role in shap­ing the polit­i­cal dimen­sion, much as Youthquake did in the 60s. Hence, this is an oppor­tu­ni­ty for Guc­ci to not only ignite rebel­lious polit­i­cal strains, but also cap­i­talise on them. Parul Kan­war

In my col­lage, the black and white images rep­re­sent young col­lege pro­test­ers in 1968 Paris. Turtle­neck sweaters, den­im jack­ets and trench coats were pop­u­lar fash­ion items at the time. The colour pic­tures depict con­tem­po­rary run­way mod­els wear­ing Dior’s 2018 col­lec­tion inspired by the Youthquake. Dior’s turtle­neck sweater is inscribed with “NON, NON, NON”—a sen­ti­ment French stu­dents shared with regard to the injus­tice pre­vail­ing in the 1960s. Despite pur­su­ing com­mer­cial inter­ests and being staged in the­atri­cal set­tings, these fash­ion shows still suc­ceed in com­mem­o­rat­ing the impor­tant Youthquake anniver­sary.
Sam­pati Kohli

I designed my col­lage in the form of a protest sign, much like one that might have been in 1968 in Paris. The base lay­er of the col­lage is made of pic­tures I took of some of my own “street wear” cloth­ing. I took close-up, frag­men­tary shots to show the dis­tinct fab­rics, colours, and pat­terns of the items. As a uni­ver­si­ty stu­dent myself, these are items I’d wear on an every­day basis. The items them­selves aren’t any­thing elab­o­rate or spec­tac­u­lar. These items would nev­er be con­sid­ered high fash­ion or of any spe­cial design, and there­fore don’t assert them­selves as the impor­tant ele­ment of the col­lage. The key pic­tures are the ones of the actu­al Youthquake move­ment. I decid­ed to give each protest pic­ture a bor­der to make them stand out, thus play­ing on the idea that the mes­sage of the protest and the phys­i­cal act of march­ing down the street is the impor­tant over­all theme. As well, I placed the 1968 pho­tos on the edges of the col­lage, as a nod to how these stu­dents pushed the bound­aries and lim­i­ta­tions ini­tial­ly placed upon them.
Jill Harbin

The Youthquake of 1968 in Paris was ref­er­enced in 2018 fash­ion cam­paigns to com­mem­o­rate its 50th anniver­sary. Cam­paigns such as Guc­ci Dans les rues, YSL Rive Gauche, and DIOR 's 2018-2019 ready-to-wear col­lec­tion ref­er­enced this protest and used it as a means of sell­ing ide­o­log­i­cal­ly loaded gar­ments. The 1968 Youthquake is regard­ed as the most suc­cess­ful cul­tur­al rev­o­lu­tion in France’s recent his­to­ry. I believe the protests were a per­for­mance of resis­tance and an out­cry direct­ed at admin­is­tra­tive bod­ies to force them to acknowl­edge the dis­par­i­ty between the inter­ests of stu­dents and work­ers and the boss­es and the gov­ern­ment. Stu­dent protests against cap­i­tal­ism and con­sumerism in May of '68 result­ed in the shut down of Nan­terre cam­pus of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Paris. With­in days, 20,000 stu­dents, teach­ers, and sup­port­ers of the move­ment occu­pied the Sor­bonne cam­pus. The protests spread to the Left Bank (Rive Gauche) of la Seine and near­by fac­to­ries, which were also occu­pied. The occu­pa­tion of these spaces helped the protest­ing stu­dents and work­ers reclaim them as their own. In my col­lage, I attempt to demon­strate that the per­for­mance aspect of protest makes the prox­im­i­ty to issues being protest­ed impor­tant, espe­cial­ly in the case of move­ments that seek to occu­py and reclaim spaces.
Zeinab Abu­gr­ga

Guc­ci Dans Les Rues ads (Pre-Fall 2018) do not imme­di­ate­ly announce their con­nec­tion to the 1968 stu­dent protests in Paris. These crowd­ed images of young mod­els march­ing in the streets or pop­u­lat­ing cam­pus-like envi­ron­ments cel­e­brate cama­raderie and exu­ber­ant fash­ion. In one of the ads, the mod­els are gath­ered on a bal­cony, their atten­tion direct­ed at the street below them. The view­er can­not see what it is. My col­lage incor­po­rates sev­er­al cutouts from Gucci's ads, includ­ing the bal­cony one. In addi­tion to Guc­ci, I was inspired by William Klein's remark­able pho­tographs of Paris, his adopt­ed home. Klein's "Armistice Day, Paris, 1968" fore­grounds a young man and a woman, their faces express both dev­as­ta­tion and resolve. The protests are supressed; it is a day of mourn­ing. Designed ini­tial­ly for a pop-up exhib­it Hotel Metro­pole, (Inter­me­dia Research Stu­dio, Uni­ver­si­ty of Alber­ta, Fall 2018), my col­lage address­es the theme of today's con­gest­ed world, a world on the move, its cit­i­zens in pur­suit of places to dis­cov­er­er, and places to call their home. A world as a hotel.
Ele­na Siemens