Few designers can stage a show like Jean Paul Gaultier. His sense of grandiose and excess is unmatched, and his knack for theatrics is what has made him one of the reigning kings of Haute Couture. Season after season, the designer’s use of crazy characters and a hugely codified sense of glamour and mischief create a grand spectacle on the Parisian runways. Yet, for the past few seasons I’ve been somewhat bored… but no more! His Fall 2016 Haute Couture show provided a remedy, serving up perfect amounts of glamour and extravagance- just what you want from JPG.
I’m in love!
Inspired by a stroll through a forest in Japan, Monsieur Gaultier took us to the woods with a luxurious Fall 2016 collection that echoed the beauty of deep natural woodland. He adapted his theme in a most literal way, and looking through the show you can almost smell, feel and hear the sounds of the woods in cool autumn air. “It’s all about Zen and nature and the environment…It really was like a revelation. I saw magnificent woods, so I made wood prints and worked them in planks, like marquetry,” Mr. Gaultier remarked.
Tranquility and harmony might have been on his mind, but the designer tackled his inspirational source with signature gusto, making the collection far more dramatic than his words would lead you believe. True, Fall 2016 was far more restrained than usual, with rustic wooden floorboards lining the runway and meditative “nature sounds” playing over the sound system, but all this tranquility faded once the designer unleashed the full arsenal of his atelier’s work.
Models appeared swathed in swirls of hand- painted chiffon or sparkling sequin- encrusted silk. Large, ostentatious fur stoles draped over their shoulders and faces were framed by snug, wide- brimmed caps trimmed with iridescent feathers or more richly- coloured fur. This was everything you could ever wish for in a JPG show and more: silk catsuits patterned like wooden planks, slinky gowns covered in elaborate ornamentation, outsized knits, lush fur- trimmed cashmere cardigans worn belted over leather pencil skirts and dramatic fur- lined cape- coats in silk brocade and velvet. There were some glamourous pieces made entirely of silver lamé jacquard and covered with extensive crystal and sequin appliqués, and more dreamy fur coats constructed from patchwork pelts of fox, astrakhan, beaver, coyote and lambskin.
Evening gowns were layers of simple sheaf dresses worn under heavily- adorned bustier tops with trailing attached panels. Plain satin minidresses worn over fussy skirts of organza, tulle, fur or feather- embellished net, and figure- hugging column gowns constructed from silk, velvet and net wowed the press. An ode to JPG’s trademark ‘hybrid’ gowns (half dress, half suit) were ultra- glamourous, and an unmitigated improvement to the original look.
However, this being a JPG show, there had to be a little contrast to all the luxury. Since the glamourous fare referenced an untamed forest, lumberjacks provided his opposition. Rugged windbreakers, deconstructed knitwear and even a large fur- topped backpack, appeared draped over gowns and embellished seperates. There were leather gloves, hardy-looking leather leggings and even some tartan in the mix! Mr. Gaultier’s ode to the “chemise Canadienne”(lumberjack shirt)- made into evening gowns and long robes of silk, wool, velvet and fur were notable. Extravagant and over- the- top, these pieces added a little jaunty grit to an already- fabulous lineup.
With all that said, this was one of the most restrained JPG collections in years- and in many ways it was one of his best, since Mr. Gaultier’s toned- down dramatics allowed the audience to really see and appreciate the extraordinary creativity and workmanship that goes into his garments. A lustrous palette in multiple shades of greens and browns really allowed Mr. Gaultier’s unexpected shapes, sculptural cuts and dramatic silhouettes to shine, while providing a neutral base for all the elaborate surface treatments that were on display.
This was a collection that was incredibly focused on textural contrast and seductive imagery, with beaded embroideries, feather embellishments and trompe-l’œil appliqués mimicking the textures of lichen, bark and moss, while prints on metallic satin and floaty chiffon depicted a moody forest landscape with a brooding, dreamlike effect. “The workmanship is very, very, very couture,” Mr. Gaultier emphasized. “It can’t be copied.”
And it really can’t be copied! Jean Paul Gaultier’s Fall 2016 Couture show was an inimitable mix of seductive, luxurious glamour with an incredibly creative and deeply imaginative central vision. It was a great collection with a craft level of striking heights, and a dramatic factor that was even more so.
This was true Haute Couture, and proof that Jean Paul Gaultier can even do woodsy- chic.
Xx – Ana