Jean Paul Gaultier’s collections are predictable in the sense that his references are usually the same and always familiar. He makes no secret of his love of the 80s, pop stars, and the glamorous party crowd that thronged to Paris’s underground theatre, Le Palace, back in the day. Occasionally, this has been a stumbling block to his creative output, where the clothes are so gaudy that they’re rendered costume-y, like caricatures of what couture should be. However, he hit his stride with his Spring 2016 Couture collection with a presentation so exhilarating, so fun, and so free that it felt like the best party in Paris – or anywhere else in the world for that matter.
Gaultier hit his stride with his Spring 2016 Couture collection with a presentation so exhilarating, so fun, and so free that it felt like the best party in Paris – or anywhere else in the world for that matter.
Sure, we spotted the usual suspects on the runway – his homages are hard to miss – but there was refreshing focus at the center of his work this season. His relaxed, masculine silhouette was perfectly tailored, his high-octane glitz was right on the money, and his penchant for overblown excess was kept in check. These are clothes that a fresh new generation of stars would love to wear. Can’t you just picture Janelle Monae in that bleach-spotted suit? Or Cara Delevingne in that boxy, cropped suit finished with a red glitter tie? Or Kylie Jenner in that white fur coat and fishnets? We sure could.
The show began with a luxe array of pajama suits, either decorated with contrast piping or fully fleshed out in sumptuous jewel-toned brocade. The fun continued with slouchy zoot suits trimmed with glittering stripes, clinging column gowns made from lacquered black lace and worn over button-up tees, tuxedo vests with floor-sweeping tails paired with sheer skirts, and dramatic printed maxi skirts topped with sequined blouses and maximal fur coats.
The core element of the collection was Gaultier’s hyper masculine 1980s tailoring which was effortlessly married to glamorous elements like crimson lips, pillbox hats, and sequined sparkle. One look at this collection and David Bowie’s lyrics start running through your head: “She’s so swishy in her satin and tat / In her frock coat and bipperty-bopperty hat.” Speaking of Bowie, it was hard to miss Gaultier’s references to Aladdin Sane, sported by models with choppy orange wigs and black-and-red striped dresses.
When you remember that Gaultier has been a fashion designer since 1976, and that his theatrical creations landed him gigs as Madonna’s wardrobe provider for her Blond Ambition tour and the costume designer for sci-fi favorite The Fifith Element, the canon of his work makes sense. He was there as the eras changed hands, as 1970s glam rock gave way to 1980s hyperbole gave way to 1990s grunge, and so on. He was front-and-center at the best parties, rubbing elbows with Mick and Grace and Edwige. Therefore, his collections shouldn’t be viewed as nostalgic throwbacks, but rather, the preservation and modernization of some of history’s most daring moments in fashion. For Spring 2016 Couture he fêtes with the best.