Jean Paul Gaultier Puts on an Uproarious Final Show at Couture Week

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Jean Paul Gaultier Haute Couture Spring/Summer 2020
Jean Paul Gaultier Haute Couture Spring/Summer 2020Photography by Jason Lloyd-Evans, Courtesy of Swarovski

The designer’s final haute couture collection was presented in Paris last night, a fitting celebration of the one-of-a-kind French designer

Last night in Paris’ magnificent Théâtre du Châtelet, Jean-Paul Gaultier – who earlier this week announced this collection would be his last – held a dazzling fashion spectacle which encompassed over 200 looks and 70,000 Swarovski crystals, modelled by a glamorous coterie of his longtime muses, from Amanda Lear to Dita Von Teese: a fitting curtain call for fashion’s greatest showman.

Earlier this week he made the announcement that the haute couture show, which would also mark 50 years since he started in fashion working for Pierre Cardin aged just 18, would see him step down from showing each season as part of Paris’ haute couture week (though he did promise JPG couture would live on under a “new concept”). Hurtling through the designer’s many signatures, the vast collection was something of a greatest hits, from his legendary corsets (for women and men) to the Breton top, here transformed into a fan-like construction modeled by Gigi Hadid.

It showed Gaultier’s status as an innovator – from his predilection for underwear as outerwear to his disregard for gender boundaries, hallmarks which have since become the norm. At his namesake label, founded in 1976, he forever found inspiration and energy from the street – as well as models. He was one of the first to street-cast his shows, and would go on to champion plus-size models, trans models and models of colour on his runways. It was never political, though – these people, for the humanist Gaultier, were simply part of his everyday life.

But he was also fashion’s great provocateur, earning the nickname enfant terrible for his antics on and off the runway. Stories abound of his unique sense of humour, which even saw him host surreal Channel 4 show Eurotrash. He was not without controversies – one contentious collection drew on the dress codes Jewish rabbis, another conjured Amy Winehouse not long after her death – but his collections were nonetheless joyous expressions of the designer’s world view, which respectfully reinterpreted world cultures in his own inimitable style.

He was also a couturier in the orthodox sense: while his ideas might have been lifted from the street, they were manifested using traditional techniques in the designer’s atelier. It was a storied place, through which numerous designers passed, from Martin Margiela to Peter Dundas, and Nicolas Ghesquière, who attended the show yesterday evening. Other designers joined him: Christian Lacroix, Dries Van Noten and Julien Dossena paid tribute from the front row. Carla Bruni-Sarkozy and Simon LeBon also came to toast the designer’s career, while other longtime fans and customers watched on adoringly. 

Perhaps the only one missing was Madonna, the woman who made Gaultier’s name known the world over: he designed the conical bra and corset she wore for her 1990 Blond Ambition tour, one of the 20th century’s defining pop culture looks. But her spirit nonetheless remained on the runway in an evocation of the style, worn by Irina Shayk. 

“Jean Paul Gaultier stands as one of fashion’s greatest personalities as well as the shining jewel in Paris’ couture crown,” wrote Dazed Media co-founder Jefferson Hack in 2014. “Essentially, when it came to fashion in the late 20th century, he more or less invented the wheel.”