Jean Paul Gaultier by Olivier Rousteing @yannisvlamos
In 2020, the flamboyant Fashion Freak Show set the Folies Bergère on fire to celebrate Jean Paul Gaultier’s retirement from the fashion spotlight. Although the iconic designer took a step back, the house he founded years ago keeps his legacy alive by inviting each season new designers to rewrite the archives and identity of his house. After Chitose Abe with the label Sacai, then followed by Y/Project and Diesel artistic director Glenn Martens, it is now the turn of Balmain artistic director Olivier Rousteing to unveil his very first haute couture collection for Jean Paul Gaultier. This Wednesday, July 6th , in the heart of the house of Gaultier, Rue Saint- Martin, the show opened with sound archives by the designer before the silhouettes took off to the sound of Mylène Farmer’s hit “Sans Contrefaçon” [“Without Forgery”].
The show in 5 references to Jean Paul Gaultier’s iconic wardrobe.
1 – A nod to “Les Tatouages” collection of Spring 1994
For the first silhouettes, Olivier Rousteing was inspired by the iconic collection “Les Tatouages”, which he regards as a celebration of diversity. For his Spring/Summer 1994 ready-to-wear collection, the irreverent Jean Paul Gaultier, whose influence stems from tattoo parlors and body artists’ performances such as Ron Athey, had indeed borrowed from cultures using body modification as an aesthetic tool. From that original fashion show, Olivier Rousteing reworked the Indian nath (the nose jewel), the layering of necklaces, as well as the fleshy and earthy color palette playing with transparency. In a rich patchwork, the colorful tribal patterns blend and contrast with Gaultier’s emblematic ones, from sailor stripes to denim.
2 – The conical bra, again and again
From sailor stripes to men’s skirts, many pieces are inherent to the house of Jean Paul Gaultier. Among them, the iconic conical bra designed for Gaultier’s collection “Le Dadaïsme” (1983) and popularized by Madonna on her Blond Ambition Tour in 1990, naturally finds its place. Here, this emblematic piece is declined in jumpsuits, suits, and dresses, whose cut remind us of the armored silhouettes of the Balmain Fall/Winter 2022-2023 collection. With the same mischievous and rebellious spirit we know from Jean Paul Gaultier, Olivier Rousteing offers an interpretation that exposes breasts in a trompe l’oeil style – Kim Kardashian wore a version of it in the front row. The designer also played with lacing, another of Jean Paul Gaultier’s signature traits, such as on this pink satin jumpsuit entirely made of braids and laces, or on these sailor striped tops turned into bandages.
3 – Playing with volumes and destructuring suits
“This is not a suit”. For this collection, Balmain’s artistic director takes up Jean Paul Gaultier’s offbeat tailoring. He plays with shapes, leaves structures visible, turns an evening jacket into a formal skirt, introduces zips on jackets, merges an oversized suit with a sculpted bust or mixes it with denim... Experimenting at times with classic codes and sometimes with Gaultier’s transgressive idiom, Oliver Rousteing reinvents the suit jacket with an inspired irreverence and modernity of his own
4 – “Le mâle” fragrance inspires Olivier Rousteing
The man, especially the sailor, is an emblematic theme and an object of desire. It occupies a prevailing position in Jean Paul Gaultier’s universe. Over the course of the designer’s collections, the muscular hottie wearing the sailor stripes became a mythical symbol since the first fashion show in 1983. Today it has become a cult piece for Balmain artistic director himself, who gladly wears it. It evokes the 1982 homoerotic film Querelle by Fassbinder, whose protagonist is a sensual sailor, who will later inspire the character of “Le Mâle”, a tremendous success for Gaultier’s perfumes. Olivier Rousteing captures the myth and works on his memory of the emblematic fragrance in its vintage can-shaped box in order to offer a sumptuous collection of heels made from the sailor’s glass body. The final tribute to the iconic fragrance, which came to life thanks to Jean Paul Gaultier’s vision, is a silhouette inspired by the design of the bottle featuring the emblematic shades that forms the stripes of the sailor.
5 – An inclusive cast
The silhouettes are based on the inclusivity that has always characterized the approach of the two designers, both in terms of cast and inspiration. While Jean Paul Gaultier made the mix of genres, as well as diversity, the core elements of his universe, an enjoyed breaking down the limits between genders, communities, and social classes, Olivier Rousteing carries with him a resolute vision for a new form of inclusiveness in fashion. The designer told Numéro: “I have been called ‘vulgar’ for some of my casting choices, while someone who would only show skinny blondes with blue eyes would be called modern. If that’s the Holy Grail of fashion, I’d rather not be a part of it.” By presenting models from all walks of life, this show is thus the bearer of the fraternal link that unites the two designers in their mutual desire to celebrate the diversity of identities.