Lots of Haider and not a huge quantity of Jean Paul at Jean Paul Gaultier haute couture By Haider Ackermann, the fourth edition of the ongoing project of inviting acclaimed designers to create one-off couture collections for the famed and now retired Gaultier.
Staged Wednesday evening amid a frenzy of expectations with scores of boldface names in attendance, this was a succinct, stylish, impeccably tailored and smartly draped collection. Yet one that lacked the fireworks of the great Gaultier shows when Jean Paul was in his pomp.
The audience size was about a third that of traditional Gaultier shows, another reason perhaps that the stars seemed so much in evidence. A wide-ranging crew, they included Kylie Jenner, Timothée Chalamet, Tilda Swinton, Baz Luhrmann, Carla Bruni, Catherine Deneuve, Anselm Kiefer, Lou Doillon and Alexi de la Falaise.
The whole of Gaultier’s main floor painted powder blue, just like the minimalist invitation. Though the opening looks were mainly black, rather brilliantly cut tuxes, jackets and bustiers made in grain de poudre, the French for lightweight wool. The two debut looks were truly splendid, hybrid redingotes with plissé breastplates, referencing the great Madame Grès.
In fact, Ackermann made so many references to Madame Grès that one wandered had he got the Gs mixed up, and that he was channeling Grès and not Gaultier. Plus, if one were looking for JPG signatures – sailors jerseys, cross-dressing, street chic and tartan – well, there were few of them. And where were the trenches or the kilts?
That said, it was also refreshing that Haider didn’t pay slavish homage to Gaultier’s canon. At least there was a conical bra or two, cut as petals in icy blue or turquoise faille. Plus, he tucked in a couple hints of corsetry, done in the most ladylike manner, barely apparent between classic tuxedo pants and the bras.
It almost felt as if Ackermann had been given the chemistry set of a proper Paris couture atelier and decided to prove that he could be a bona fide couturier, playing on classical techniques of plissé, draping and impeccable tailleurs. And that meant the clothes overemphasized classic couture shapes, and not the avant-garde draping for which he is renowned.
A co-ed couture show featuring some great menswear looks – from a divine mess jacket in a dandy turquoise finished with micro plissé trim to a dazzling metallic embroidered coat and jacket worn with white jeans. An ideal look for the red carpet for whenever Chalamet makes a musical biopic.
Which is of course the most famous thing Haider has done in the past several years – dressing Timothée in an experiential red satin look for the Venice Film Festival.
Couture is, of course, the laboratory of fashion and quite frankly several of his experiments bombed – notably several tops encrusted with spiky feathers, almost like duck eggs attacked by sea urchins. Others were brilliant – a zippered bomber in Pacific blue faille with a long crepe skirt that deserved a standing ovation in its own right. In an erratic show, there were some beautiful moments – an icy blue loose mannish matinee idol suit that really wowed.
An intriguing soundtrack, where Joana Preiss read words written by Sophie Fontanel on the current Iranian revolt against the theocratic government, followed by a rendition of Baraye by Shervin Hajipour, the song of that eruption. Before a sudden change to some weird mechanical hum, as if a submarine was breaking down and about to sink.
At the finale, Haider embraced Jean Paul and they marched together down the runway, Gaultier beaming. Then again, with his permanently amuse smile, Jean Paul has done that for all of the four guest designer shows in his house.
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