Saturday evening at Paris’ Le Grand Rex cinema, Jean-Paul Gaultier, pulled out all the stops with a show beyond “anything anyone had seen during Paris Fashion Week”. Although no one would actually expected him to have less than a full-out spectacular finale’, as he’d recently reported he would retire from ready-to-wear to concentrate solely on Haute Couture, which given his eccentricities, is where he really belongs. Not many women are going to rock a pointy bra “Pret-a-Porter”.
Gaultier’s final collection played out as a beauty pageant, with models “competing” to win the “Election de Miss Jean Paul Gaultier 2015”.
There were dancers complete with calf-high “Sixties” white boots, a la Peggy Lipton and the Mod Squad style seen all fashion week. I only wish he’d had Coco Rocha River Dance:
It didn’t all make sense but remember, this is the man who created the famous bra for Madonna:
Gaultier has had his own clothing label since 1976, even though he never received any formal training as a designer. He sent his drawings to famous couture stylists from an early age, as his own publicist of sorts, and finally Pierre Cardin saw his talent and hired him as an assistant in 1970.
34 hard working years later, he is considered one of fashion’s most influential and inventive designers. He is the antitheses of the common French blasé portraiture, many saying he is extremely enthusiastic and this show clearly embodies that showmanship. Like Miss HauteAngel, Gaultier’s common “mode of speech” is irreverant and full of creative explicatives (but then again my sassy mom cursed like a sailor and I adore her so get over it). Favoring the unusual, Gaultier also famously said once that he loves red-heads, commenting, ““I feel like, red hair, it’s a surprise! A good surprise! It’s super-beautiful!” and who can’t agree with a fellow Ginger lover? HauteAngel is of Irish decent so…go Gaultier!
There was a serious NACHO LIBRE theme, which was interesting but I’m not really seeing many women wearing these clothes Pret-a-Porter? Although you have to admit, per usual, Gaultier has his finger on the pulse of all the Aztec, Mexican, tribal sweaters we are already seeing on all the racks for fall.
Gaultier used the occasion to most notably pay tribute to five fashion editors who routinely had championed his work: U.S. Vogue ‘s Grace Coddington, French Vogue ‘s Emmanuelle Alt, Italian Vogue ‘s Franca Sozzani, former French Vogue’s editor-in-chief Carine Roitfeld and the prolific British fashion journalist, Suzy Menkes.
The designer once recounted once he’d marched at the front of a parade, people begging him to wait for a moment so they could have their “selfie” taken with him. He was flanked by a group of stern security guards, pretty ladies dressed as fairies, some of his longtime models, wherein he was heralded “like” the captain of a team that had won the World Cup. This kind of passionate public embrace is rare for a designer and the end of the festivities culminated down Sainte Catherine Street with a giant balloon in the shape of one of Gaultier’s favorite things: his famed, structured brazierre. Except for its scale and its buoyancy, the enlarged undergarment was a lot like the one he had made for his Teddy bear, he said, when he was a boy, and like the one that had made him a household name worldwide. He designed it in black satin, bejeweled for Madonna’s legendary Blond Ambition tour in 1990. When asked if he had ever imagined anything quite like this level of fame, at the parade —the exhibition, the cheering citizens, the giant floating cone bra, he laughed and replied, “It is so fantastic…it is Ooh là là!”
For more than thirty years, the unorthodox Gaultier has held his own in arguably the most cutthroat and fickle business known to man. The “L’enfant terrible” of a simple accountant and shop clerk, Jean-Paul had no siblings and this may be the root of his great imagination. He was raised in a suburb of Paris with relatives nearby. The tyke spent as much time as he could with his grandmother Marie, his mother’s mother and a widow who ran a home business that predated what we now call “wellness counselling”. Marie gave massages, facials, was skilled in the laying on of hands, and even offered marriage advice to locale female clients. She doted on her grand baby, allowing him to watch television whenever he visited, so he soaked up hours of movies and shows, including a broadcast of performances at the Folies Bergère, which a less permissive adult might have considered too adult for a young boy.
His grandmother also allowed Gaultier to sit in on her consultations with clients. To women who confided that their husbands seemed to be losing interest in them, possibly sexually, she recommended that they “jazz up” their wardrobes. The idea that fashion was powerful enough to perhaps save a relationship fascinated Gaultier, he recounted in later interviews. Sometimes, as he listened to the therapy sessions, he even sketched the women.
T-H-E A-R-T O-F P-A-G-E-A-N-T-R-Y
From the time he was a boy, Gaultier also experimented with appearances, and Marie was a more or less willing accomplice. According to Gaultier’s cousin Évelyne, one of those experiments resulted in dying his grandma’s hair blue. My Nana has always been my fashion inspiration and this reminds me of the time I drove up and her hair was violet..true story! Was she way ahead of her time or what? In the catalogue of the Montreal exhibition, there is a hilarious photograph of a teen-age Jean Paul working on Marie’s hair. He looks pleased; she looks as if she were being held for ransom. Gaultier talks about his grandmother frequently. He appreciates the fact that she spoiled him, and he found her eccentricity inspiring. Possibly as a last homage to his beloved Grandmother, Gaultier decidedly featured models past 20 and damn, if they didn’t rock the stage:
Like many artistically inclined and non-athletic children, Gaultier didn’t fare well at sports and felt rejected by his peers. Then he got caught drawing in class. After smacking him with a ruler (for the younger reader, google “corporal punishment”, it was common “then” or the olden days as my kids like to call it), he said his teacher pinned the drawing to the back of his shirt hoping to shame him by making him walk through all the classrooms but the sketch was of women in bras and fish-net stockings. And what boy or group of boys isn’t dying for a glimpse of his first girlie magazine. Jean-Paul had T&A in his brain and could map a slew of them out with just a piece of paper and a pencil, anywhere, anytime. Screw soccer!
He said he quickly became the object of great admiration among the boys. “It was like a passport and I realized if I sketched, people would smile”. Ahhh boobs, the greats denominator bringing men to their knees since, well…Eden.
R-O-C-K A-N-D R-O-L-L
Beauty School Dropout?
His headquarters is not located in the “golden triangle” off the Champs-Elysées where most of the couture houses reside. It is in a former trade-union building and bears the inscription “FUTURE OF THE PROLETARIAT,” on the ragtag Rue Saint-Martin, in the Marais. In his past collections, Gaultier has taken inspiration from many sources: Frida Kahlo, James Bond, and even religious iconography. He is said to have loved the movie “Black Swan” and also a flamenco show that he’d seen in which one of the male dancers sprouted wings and basically turned into a rooster, so he decided that, for one collection, he would design around the twinned themes of dance and feathers.
THE MAN, THE REALITY, THE LEGEND: GAULTIER:
Farewell for now dear Jean-Paul…we will never say Goodbye! On to Haute Couture in January…Love, HauteAngel