Jean-Paul Gaultier has bowed out of fashion
with all the cheek and showmanship with which he has lit it up over the last
The legendary French provocateur bid farewell Wednesday with an hour-long
feelgood musical spectacular with an orchestra and a cast of hundreds to
celebrate the friends and the often outrageous looks that helped make him a
With what seemed like the entire fashion world gathered to pay tribute,
mammoth production began with a black coffin with two conical breasts
out of it being carried down a set worthy of Cecil B DeMille.
It was Gaultier’s knowing joke that the conical bra he famously put on
Madonna will probably end up on his tombstone.
British singer Boy George closed the show, with fashionistas on their
as the designer emerged in the same blue work overalls as his studio staff
when the curtain lifted to reveal the backstage.
Raised onto the shoulders of some of the 220 models who had sashayed down
the runway, he threw kisses as the audience chanted his name to the strains
the Culture Club hit “Church of the Poison Mind”.
The ode to freaks and outsiders echoed the way the maverick designer
pioneered body positive thinking and gender fluidity long before they became
American singer Beth Ditto and the bearded Austrian drag queen Conchita
Wurst were among the atypical models he managed to charm onto the catwalk.
While Madonna herself did not make it to the show, the “French Madonna”
Mylene Farmer did, along with a galaxy of Gallic stars including “Betty
actress Beatrice Dalle.
In a touching message before the curtain lifted, Gaultier gave the world
lesson in sustainability and making do.
“There are too many clothes and too many that are never worn. Don’t throw
them away, recycle them,” he said, declaring his final collection was his
first “upcycled haute couture” one.
“When I was a child my mother told me how she would turn my father’s old
worn trousers into skirts. That marked me. You can love a garment again by
transforming it,” Gaultier said.
“I have been doing that since… In my first show and in this my last
are creations made with the jeans I’ve worn,” he said.
“It’s the most beautiful of materials. Like a lot of humans, it becomes
even more beautiful as it gets older.”
The flamboyant creator stunned fans on Friday by announcing that the
couture show in the French capital would be his last.
‘Laughing and crying’
Many believe the 67-year-old showman may now throw himself into showbiz.
His “Fashion Freak Show”, a cheeky cabaret revue based on his life has
a popular and critical hit.
With its catchphrase “Tout le monde est beau!” (“Everybody looks so
good!”), it was a feel-good smash when he premiered it at the Folies Bergere
in Paris in 2018.
It is now touring Russia after an acclaimed London run.
Gaultier’s perfume range and high-end haute couture business, Gaultier
Paris, will live on, the brand told AFP.
“For years now Jean Paul-Gaultier has been saying, ‘I am going to have to
make a decision (about the future)’,” said fashion historian Olivier
“I think the success of the show has shown him a way,” he added.
“It has been wonderful for him to see the public laughing and crying with
him,” the historian told AFP.
“It is so much more joyful than a fashion show, which lasts 11 minutes
where people are always on their phones taking photos.”
The impish creator had previously carved out a cult following as a
presenter of the late-night 1990s television show “Eurotrash”.
Gaultier stopped designing ready-to-wear clothes in 2015 to concentrate
haute couture — extravagant handmade clothes which only the world’s richest
women can afford.
Never less than flamboyant, Gaultier was a fashion prodigy.
From the start he challenged gender stereotypes and conventional ideas of
beauty, once placing an advert for “atypical” models.
“The facially disfigured should not refrain from applying,” he added.
Saillard said the couturier was “like a father” to many top designers he
had mentored over the years, but “he feels fashion has changed terribly”.
Nor was it a secret that Gaultier was unhappy with the Catalan luxury
conglomerate Puig, who bought his brand in 2011.
“He will be back, but in a different way,” said Saillard.(AFP)
Images: Jean Paul Gaultier SS20, via Catwalkpictures