Jean-Paul Gaultier bids farewell with giant 50th anniversary show
Jan 23, 2020
Jean-Paul Gaultier bowed out of fashion on Wednesday, the last full day of the Paris haute couture season, with a gigantic show in a storied Paris theatre bringing down the curtains on a 50-year career in fashion.
Boy George opened the action, with a rousing version of Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black on a stage packed with a score of models in funky fetish looks.
When suddenly, six dancers in kilts, singlets and army boots marched out like pall bearers bearing an all black coffin with giant cone nipples – recalling the legendary conical bra and corset Jean-Paul dreamed up for Madonna for her 1990 'Blonde Ambition' tour. From which emerged, not the deceased, but a bride all in white, drawing an immediate roar of approval from the packed audience of 1,500 in the Théâtre du Châtelet.
Testifying to his importance in fashion, there was practically a designer in every aisle – Dries Van Noten, Nicolas Ghesquière, Kenzo Takada, Clare Waight Keller, Viktor & Rolf, Christian Louboutin, Ulyana Sergeenko and Ines de la Fressange, all joining in the standing ovation at the finale.
Featuring some 250 looks, the mammoth farewell included a selection of Gaultierʼs fetish catwalkers – Yasmin Le Bon, Rossy de Palma, Jade Parfitt and Erin O’Connor – along with today’s superstars – Bella and Gigi Hadid and Irina Shayk.
"For the 50th I wanted to be faithful to the themes that always obsessed me – jeans, corsets, sailors and androgyny," explained Gaultier, who despite this being his final runway show, debuted a new line, Haute Couture Upcycling. Seen in a taught jumpsuit made of scores of cut-up ties. While two lanky red-haired male twins dressed in flesh-clamored mini jackets, tights and not much else caused a sensation with their feline sashaying down the catwalk, built over the first eight rows of the theatre.
Also working the racy dressing angle, Karen Elson in a corset dress finished with scores of suspender straps, while Shayk worked the Madonna corset, though her version also had a tuxedo on one side.
Jean-Paul broke down the show into 16 themes – like his own signature marinière horizontal blue sweater and white sailor pants. Worn by Gigi, the top reimagined as a plissé fan, the pants as flared white cords. While Gaultierʼs love of surrealist embroidery was put to brilliant use in a clear white body stocking finished with Art Nouveau floral designs to keep things proper, and worn by Bella.
Plus, his sense of trompe l'œil was apparent in what looked like a beautiful white guipure lace column that was on closer inspection made of hundreds of small children’s gloves.
He played on multiple cinematic themes, like a punchy series of Clockwork Orange droog looks with white overalls, bowler hats and black leather cod pieces. Followed by references to Fassbinder’s Querelle, with one of Gaultierʼs most trusted male companions emoting as a naughty after-hours biker, whose leather jacket sported an enormous red rooster on one shoulder.
"I wanted very British and I think I achieved that, no?" said Gaultier, the first designer to ever achieve rock-star status, in part due to to his celebrated performances on the hit UK TV show, Eurotrash.
Jean-Paul shocked the fashion world a week ago by announcing his departure, but few people expect him to disappear. The designer was mum about future plans, though many expect him to delve further into theatre, following on the success of his own performance art-meets-variety show bio, Fashion Freak Show.
While the owners of his fashion house, the Puig family of Barcelona, were similarly discreet.
"Yes, we have plans for the brand. But tonight is all about Jean-Paul. It’s sad he is calling it a day, but it is also a great celebration of a remarkable career," said clan leader, Marc Puig.
Waves of applause and cheering greeted many performers, though the biggest roar was reserved for Béatrice Dalle, who smoked as she walked, and even threw the butt down on the catwalk. Earning a few loud claps from Carla Bruni, who joined fellow veteran Eva Herzigová sitting second row. While Karlie Kloss wowed in a screen goddess cutaway ball gown made of plastic padding. Upcycling to the max.
"When I was a child, my mother used to recount how she would take my father’s old worn pants and cut them in to skirts. That marked me. One could love a garment anew by transforming it. That’s what I have done from my first show, notably with jeans. My jeans! From my first show to my last," explained Jean-Paul, who ended this adieu held high in the air, as the entire cast and backstage crew joined him on stage.
"Everything inspires me. And that will continue with my new adventures, the best is ahead!" concluded this great 67-year-old couturier.
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