I suspected there were bats in the belfry chez Jean Paul Gaultier when I was handed a seat assignment for a section called “Chroniques des Vampires.” Gaultier has a wicked sense of humor; it’s an integral part of his talent. Christened fashion’s ‘enfant terrible’ at his start in the 80s, he is now a diabolical sage wielding his mastery of couture craft with a sizzling streak of Parisian irony that can be charming, unsettling, and is usually a bit of both.
The witchery was nonstop. The show opened with Edwardian mille feuille pleat organza sleeves on a black crepe turtleneck tunic over pants; it was a perfect balance of ornate detail and clean shape with gothic undertones. The ethereal senior model à la Carmen Dell’Orefice was genius JPG, even though her balancing act on sky high heels sent shivers down the spine.
Gaultier played the twilight zone style classics for all the fun and couture finesse he could extract from them. Those mille feuille pleats turned up everywhere. A cape collar formalized a blouson in gleaming calfskin, a jogging jumpsuit was covered in jet beading, and a dominatrix leather skirt was paired with an organza lace cloud twisted into a blouse. One mink bustier dress showed just a hint of the ghostly white lace slip and ballerina tutu petticoat lurking underneath, and silver, skeletal embroidered chain “pinstripes” ended up fringing the hem of a suit. Fur was lethal. Partially shaved musk rat made for a great Cruella Deville skirt worn with a reversible brown to white leather wrap-around jacket. Mid-way through the show I thought I’d seen a ghost. Turned out it was Anna, the daughter of legendary 80s model Pat Cleveland who vamped down the runway just like her mother used to in a transparent silk stole striped with bands of mink. One regrets the lack of theatrical characters like Cleveland on the runway these days.
Throughout this macabre tongue-in-cheek drama, Gaultier developed the collection’s real story, a blend of haute and casual that brings couture forward. There’s nothing spooky about a hoodie in grey guipure lace, silk velvet jogging pants, Harris tweed warm-up suit, or a sport jumpsuit in mini pleat silk jersey. These were the real winners in this collection.
With Marilyn Manson blaring nonstop, the mood became a bit black sabbath for the show’s finale with one erotic mousseline baby doll tent making the sign of the cross with a sparkly red Swarovski thong that barely covered a girl’s essentials. And Gaultier couldn’t resist casting Vienna’s bearded cross dresser Conchita Wurst, this year’s Eurovision Song Contest winner, as “Zizi Imperatrice,” his naughty French word play for Empress Sissi, Europe’s ultimate fairytale princess. After that bearded beauty’s passage, the show’s bride, a vision in a skinny white sock knit sheath with a pair of mille feuille organza angel wings, floated in like a heavenly breeze. RV